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Explaining Salesforce.com to the CEO

Explaining Salesforce.com to the CEO

When you're ready to revamp CRM and need to explain "why Salesforce.com" to the CEO, you must be aware of myths and preconceived notions already in place. Watch out for these big 5 items that could trip you up.

At your executive staff meeting, the sales and marketing VPs have been squabbling about the need for a real CRM system, and the discussion turns to Salesforce.com. The CEO asks for a briefing on the alternatives tomorrow, and he's looking to you for objective but convincing guidance-in terms he can understand.

At your executive staff meeting, the sales and marketing VPs have been squabbling about the need for a real CRM system, and the discussion turns to Salesforce.com. The CEO asks for a briefing on the alternatives tomorrow, and he's looking to you for objective but convincing guidance -- in terms he can understand.

Like any hot product category, CRM systems vendors have developed a lot of hype, leading to misconceptions that can lead to bad customer decisions. This two-part article will focus on Salesforce.com, but most of the lessons learned apply to any modern SaaS SFA or CRM system.

The CEO's most dangerous misconceptions (which may be shared by the sales and marketing VPs) won't be about Salesforce.com itself, but about how it should be deployed and used. Because an SFA or CRM system without relevant, up-to-date information is just an empty shell, the value of the system comes from the customer data it holds. And that comes from active, happy users. So we have to start there.

Misconception 1: Buy the software, and sales results improve in a few weeks.

Every misconception has some kernels of truth. Salesforce.com is a very well executed SaaS application, so it is "instant on." A good system implementer can get the system configured for initial usage in 6 weeks. But if turning on the system is all you do, users will not just jump into it. Your SFA system will likely be a barren wasteland of data.

Instead, the executives need to work on a campaign of change management, promoting the benefits of system usage to the users. Your key users are sales guys: sell them on how it's going to make them more money, prevent wild goose chases and time wasters. As an executive, you must consistently show you've drunk the kool-aid-using the system to communicate to reps (instead of firing off e-mails directly to them) and understand account situations (before picking up the phone).

Misconception 2: Salesforce.com usage can be simply mandated.

Any CRM system needs to have executive championship from day one. The whole organization must believe that the success of the CRM system is important to the executives, and is a key success factor in the company achieving its goals. But championship is not the same thing as a top-down mandate, which will generate user skepticism or even outright resistance.

Instead, get grassroots support. Make the system inherently valuable to the users: save them five minutes a day, or let them out of a chore, or prevent a hot lead from falling through the cracks.

Since CRM usage means behavioral change, every time you're asking the sales reps to do something new, give them some new benefit. It doesn't have to be much-sometimes just eye-candy or a clever button to save a few keystrokes-but there has to be some advantage for them. Otherwise, the system will represent a tax on the user-and will be about as popular as a tax increase.

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