7 Business Tips From Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff

By Kevin on January 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

Behind the Cloud is Marc Benioff’s account of how he started and grew Salesforce.com into an industry giant. A few of my take-aways:

1) Be visionary. Customers and the press love visionaries, and the bigger, more audacious your vision, the more attention you will get. Salesforce.com was known for years by their “No Software” logo. Even if it technically wasn’t accurate, this became a rallying cry for the nascent SaaS movement, which of course is now the preferred way to run IT around the world. What is your company’s vision for the future?

2) Provoke the industry goliath. Startups have only a limited amount of time to be noticed and taken seriously in any industry. Benioff targeted then CRM giant, Siebel Systems, to play Goliath to his David. Benioff would send fake protesters to march outside of Siebel events, and would contrast his company to Siebel every chance he got. Once Siebel started fighting back, they were suddenly seen as a legitimate alternative to the industry standard. How can you pick a fight with the leader in your industry?

3) Reporters love “leaked” internal memos. Benioff was able to use this clever tactic to gain massive amount of free press. Whenever there was industry news, Benioff would write an internal memo just for the purpose of sending it to reporters. Often the journalists would quote huge chunks directly from the memo, or even use the memo headline as their own. Are you ready to quickly write an internal email that can be given to journalists on breaking news?

4) Half of all employees should be sales people. This one really surprised me. Part of Salesforce.com’s success was just a huge investment in sales and marketing. Benioff states that half of a company’s employees should be in sales. Do you need to hire more sales people?

5) Build an eco-system. Eventually the Salesforce.com system developed a platform that enabled third parties to develop applications that tied into the core SF.com system. The next step was to then create the online App Exchange, which is the iTunes of CRM software. While Salesforce.com provides the service for free, they benefit as it facilitates more and more companies using their own system. I’ve written about this before, Be the Jungle, Not the Lion or Lamb.

6) Drive innovation quarterly. Salesforce.com releases a new upgrade every 90 days. These releases are labeled with the seasons just like the fashion industry. Want to drive innovation in your company? Commit to quarterly launches.

7) Use the V2MOM business plan. I’m partial to my own one-page strategic plan but Benioff’s system is to have a one-page plan that covers: Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, Measurements (V2MOM). You can read the details of his system on his own blog here.

Check out Kevin Kruse’s new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, and discover how leaders turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.

Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. For insider tips and exclusive content, join his newsletter at kevinkruse.com.

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