I’ve always wanted to admire salesforce.com crm. Yet I remain unconvinced that their flagship product helps salespeople in my b2b solution arena in the ways they suggest. My experience needs context. This is that traditional sales automation software is even worse. And that I firmly believe support of this ilk can and actually must work.
The wonder of salesforce.com is their championing of what they now call Cloud Computing. This has been through several evolutions (such as on-demand and ‘SaaS’ – software-as-a-service) yet the eulogy glows for having nothing on your workscreen other than a browser which accesses all your programs and data around the web. It is compelling and has continued to grow for me since I myself bought into it in the late 90s.
Spurred on by the chance to hear insight from their top man (a decent speaker) I attended their latest pitching roadshow in London on 7 April. I can start to sense the warmth of the company’s pitch. Two years ago they began talking about creating their ‘operating system for the web’ with the introduction of “Application Exchange” and the ability for anyone to write a clip-on app that integrated with their kit. The idea to develop an eco-system around salesforce quickly gathered pace, and now the array of extra modules and functionality is, leaving to one side the true applicability and benefit to a salesperson for the moment, dazzling.
The Cloud is the only place to be. So I salute their opening statement that their “mission is to be a cloud computing driver, catalyst and evangelist”.
The continuing results from their corporate social responsibility programme (aka; the 1/1/1 scheme) are also admirable. They are justifiably proud of their 6-days a year community service per employee (4hrs per month).
As for the sales pitch, CEO Marc Benioff built it around three layers. Each Cloud had new developments to trumpet.
The first, the Salesforce Cloud, trail-blazed an automated piece of sales knowledge management in ‘genius’, pitched as akin to Amazon’s book recommendations and itunes music suggester Genius. It identifies similar deals (‘sales opportunities’) to that on which you’re working and lets you drill into their activity logs, a neat thing (when filled out!) called Campaign Influences, and a Content Library of all submitted documents, which can be cloned and customised. It’s slick, particularly the automatic private website for prospect eyes, but has obvious flaws. Principally, knowledge management fails when driven solely by technology. The integration that successfully adopting Genius will require with your non-reporting processes will lamentably all too frequently signal its failure. As a standalone feature, it demos well, but getting genuine skill improvement leading to extra sales appears, in its present form, highly unlikely.
Their Service Cloud had more bells and whistles, with detail shown of Orange’s UK mobile network giving a glimpse as to how you could keep track of everything said about you online. This intrigued me, as it was remarkably similar in origin to the “sales agent” vision that I saw Tom Siebel talk about in 98.
And finally, the (infrastructure) Cloud featured a division of Agresso that took only 18 months to create a new set of ERP Financials based on and integrated with salesforce. One key benefit of being in the Cloud was summed up succinctly by media group The Telegraph’s CIO, Peter Cheesebrough, “cloud computing has freed up 25% of IT people’s time”
The final insight came from a techie. Always a winner to have non-salespeople pitching, co-founder and EVP Technology Parker Harris delivered two intriguing quote-worthy thoughts.
“focus 100% on innovation”, and
“choosing the right algorithm is not a little bit better, it’s orders of magnitude better”
The latter especially grabbed me, as synonyms for the concept of ‘algorithm’ in a selling context suggest that identifying one game-changing addition or switch within your current repeatable sales strategies could work wonders.