Another year, another Rainmaker in the books. Last week we at SalesLoft had the pleasure of hosting over 750 customers, industry experts, future customers, and proud members of the Sales community at this year’s Rainmaker conference.

There were parts of the conference that were familiar from past years and parts that were brand new. There were powerhouse speakers, a few entertainment surprises, and the most passionate and engaged sales audience around. But this year there were also new tracks, new topics, new faces, and new ideas.

While all the sessions and slides will be available later this week, we wanted to kick of the week with a look at the 5 biggest surprises from this year’s Rainmaker.

Massive Product Innovation

The second day keynote of SalesLoft’s CEO and Founder, Kyle Porter, is traditionally the time for us to show off new innovations and features, and this year did not disappoint. Kyle and other top executives spent much of the morning covering a multitude of exciting features including beautiful new account-based dashboards, the next generation of SalesLoft analytics, and much more.

The biggest crowd pleasers were the updates to our longstanding SalesLoft Connect feature, that puts SalesLoft functionality right inside Salesforce and Gmail, and the unveiling of our brand new Live Call Studio engagement platform. From the productivity gains and time saved with SalesLoft Connect to the powerful new coaching capabilities possible with Live Call Studio, 2017 already promises to be a tremendous year of evolution for SalesLoft users and the sales industry.

The Emergence of Sales Organizations

Over a year ago, SalesLoft’s CEO stood on stage at last year’s Rainmaker and talked about the need for companies to evolve beyond merely having a sales team. They needed to become a sales organization, with every discipline focused on sales and the customer. At the time, it was a bold vision for the future, but this year’s conference proved that visions can become realities faster than you ever thought possible.

While last year’s conference had one track focused exclusively on sales, this year we added two additional tracks focused on sales operations and account-based selling. As we kicked off these separate tracks on Thursday afternoon, we were blown away by the attendance and enthusiasm for the sales operations and account-based tracks. There was a hunger for knowledge and advancement of these large scope sales functions that we were thrilled to see. The sales profession is clearly evolving at a tremendous pace and we can only wonder what tracks will be in demand for next year’s conference.

Rapid Ecosystem Growth

One of the first things attendees saw when they entered the conference last week were the large number of event sponsors proudly on display. Each sponsor was there for an important reason, in addition to supporting the event. They were there as key partners in the rapidly growing ecosystem around the SalesLoft platform.

At SalesLoft we’ve always believe that in order for sales organizations to be truly happy and productive, they need to be able to work when, where, and how they want. That meant integrating additional sales tools seamlessly with the SalesLoft product. Since the ecosystem first coalesced, we’ve added a staggering number of strategic partners and were thrilled to announce even more at this year’s conference, including major new functionality with Zoominfo, TalkIQ, and Vidyard.

The Continued Rise of Data-Driven Sales

In his closing session, Jacco van der Kooij imagined a not too distant future where the desk of a sales rep would look a lot more like the desk of a developer. He imagined multiple screens and monitors displaying valuable data and insights, constantly updating in real time to help the rep deliver the best possible customer experience in every sales engagement.

As attendees engaged in conversations, attended sessions, and listened to expert panels, this future does not seem too far off. Data took a central role in many of the sessions across the account-based, sales operations, and sales tracks. The influence and impact of sales operations teams are growing, and data is the tide raising that boat. Account-based teams are using strategies and playbooks developed with and honed by performance and effectiveness metrics. And the core sales functions are using insights and feedback to deliver a better experience to the customer every time.

Unwavering Focus on the Customer

For many outside the sales industry, the thought of a sales conference likely stirs up the old sales stereotypes and they picture three days focus on sales tactics and the almighty dollar. But the reality of for conference attendees was quite different. From Kyle Porter’s opening keynote to Jacco van der Kooij closing session “the art of making love,” and virtually every session in between, the focus was on the customer.

While customer love was once a conceptual platitude, it has become a very real focus for modern sales teams. Dishonest, commoditizing, and selfish selling practices are no longer effective, and in a world full of more and more competition, they can be career ending. Personalized, value-based selling reigned supreme last week and will continue to shine even brighter over the coming weeks and months.

The whole SalesLoft team is incredibly grateful to our community, customers, and partners for another tremendous Rainmaker conference. We couldn’t have done any of it without you.