The Salesforce Question

Posted by Alana Kadden Ballon on Jan 30, 2014

178737057 In our first year, we have gotten to work with over a dozen companies. All of our clients have connected with us through personal relationships or referrals and we’re honored to have built such a great client base. When we sit down with a client to discuss their needs, they often ask me The Salesforce Question. I say, “How would you like to do x project?” And they reply, “Well, I don’t know. What did you do for x at Salesforce?”

Having worked at Salesforce for over 7 years, I could certainly answer: “Well, Salesforce did it this way.” But don’t be fooled, there is not just one answer to this question. The truth is, over the years, Salesforce has done many different things to contribute to their success. And the key elements of Salesforce’s approach is less about what they did, but how they did it.

There is one thing they have done consistently: they establish and maintain a disciplined workforce. Most firms don’t want to hear that: they call me hoping that I can give a quick 3-day training and inject whatever magic potion Salesforce is using. The truth– that the teams are incredibly agile and able to adjust to new messaging and process, which managers consistently reinforce all the way to the top– is hard.

Outside of discipline, what you choose to do to train your team is built on three things:

1) Stage of development

What you coach your team to do will depend on where you are as a firm. The messaging and strategy for a firm whose reps are building awareness is different from a firm whose product is mature and well known in the market.

2) Resources

Companies have varying levels of resources to invest. Either they can invest more time and money or scale back their goals. Sometimes, we have to get creative and leverage their internal team to lead things we might outsource if there was no limit to money. Other times, we create tools to help that are cheaper than what we might build or buy without limits.

3) Culture

Every company has a different culture, with different values and ways that work gets done. Individual company culture must be core to training, or the lessons you are trying to convey won’t work. Some clients want to be “just like Salesforce,” while many others say “we don’t want to be like Salesforce at all.” Whatever your company culture, it is important to make that part of your learning style.

I read a lot of blog posts where people write that certain approaches don’t work. That always makes me shake my head: if something categorically didn’t work, ever, under any circumstances, you wouldn’t have to write about it in a post. Individuals have different styles in how they sell, market, consult and learn. So, when designing a learning program, we try to create resources that meet individual needs and are as personalized as possible.

The answer “it depends,” isn’t popular or easy, but it is right.