Adam Smith

First Reactions from Salesforce Expo

November, 2008

I felt like I was entering another world today when I walked into the Expo floor at the Salesforce “Dreamforce” conference.

The expo is a room full of vendors that are trying to sell their solutions to Salesforce users. I was certainly the most underdressed person in the room. Everyone was in suits, and I was reminded of the cultural rift between sales and tech people.

You can tell how alienated these two groups of people are by listening to how they talk about one another. One person giving me a demo of their solution said “Then we let Todd loose on the problem!” If one group has some amount of disrespect for the other, it’s probably the developers with regards to the sales guys. Sales people certainly respect programmers, even though they don’t understand what they do.

But the Salesforce conference is the land of the sales guy. I find it both intimidating and exciting. They have energy and enthusiasm.

Unfortunately they seem to be hurting when it comes to innovation. I twittered that ninety percent of the solutions venders were either very labor intensive businesses (consulting) or were selling software that ended up creating more work for the user.

For example, there was a software company that helps you bring your email conversations with customers into the salesforce database. This is a hole in the salesforce workflow, for sure, but their solution was a little convoluted.

Each user had to forward incoming email to this system, and BCC the system on all outgoing emails. They have an Outlook addin that will automatically BCC the system on your outgoing emails.

Then there’s a tab in the Salesforce UI they add for you to create contacts around new, unknown email addresses.

It’s all very convoluted. It doesn’t “just work,” yet most of the offerings of 3rd parties had this flavor. I think that’s why there’s a long tail of vendors; nobody dominates because nobody is adding value in a systematic, high quality way.

I can also understand why. Most products for sales people are driven by sales people to begin with, and most sales people don’t have good product and technical instincts. Most people who have those instincts don’t understand sales people, and they especially don’t understand sales managers. It’s all very depressing, but exciting at the same time. There’s a lot to be done.

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