The Salesforce Question

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.

5 Tips for a Divine Dreamforce

San Francisco Super ColorThis will be my 9th Dreamforce. There are a lot of tip lists across the internet– but you should trust mine.

1. Make all plans in advance.

It is rare that meetings planned during a chance meeting on the show floor actually happen: there are just too many distractions. When people say they want to plan a meeting once we see each other in San Francisco, I politely reply, “Once Dreamforce starts, there is too much chaos and I find it is difficult to arrange meetings. I’m filling up my schedule now and would love to include you, otherwise let’s block time after the conference.”

2. Meet new people.

I’m still in touch with people I met at Dreamforce years ago and they continue to be great clients, connections and resources. Connect with people on Chatter and Twitter, attend meet-ups at Dreamforce, and introduce yourself to people on the show floor.

3. Take breaks.

There are DJs, food stands, and bars everywhere. If you are getting grouchy or overwhelmed, find a place you can go for a few minutes to recharge, and then return to the fun! (Related: Hydrate. Eat.)

4. Carry as little as possible.

It is easier to focus on the conference if you don’t have your laptop in front of you. Your back will thank you and it is easier to maneuver in crowds. I know it is hard to avoid bringing your laptop if you want to get some work done during the day, but it’s worth it to plan a few hours of your day in your hotel room working and a few hours solely devoted to the show.

5. Wear comfortable shoes.

Now that Dreamforce has gotten so big, the distances between venues are significant. Make sure the shoes you choose are ones you can walk at least a mile in and are comfortable standing in on concrete.

Origin Story: How Inqune Got Its Name


The first question many people ask when they first learn about Inqune is “How did you come up with the name?” We love this question, because we know that the story behind a name can say lot about a company, their philosophy and early history.

So, what does Inqune mean?

Inqune (n̩ ˌkuːn) combines the attitudes of being in tune and inquisitive. We work with our clients to get their teams in tune – with one another and with the company’s message and process, setting team members up to grow and lead. We do this by asking deep questions about what the company values and what it does – this can be an uncomfortable process, but the rich understanding that we gain from it lets us produce optimal results.

To successfully work with a company we must first tune in: we must understand the company’s culture, their values, and their assumptions. We must talk about how they want to be seen in the world, and how they currently are seen, and whether those things align. We need to understand their marketing and branding along with their priorities and choices, so that we can incorporate all of that into the future of their employee development programs and tools.

How did we come up with Inqune?

Tactical Considerations

1) Short. We didn’t want to spell or @mention something that was very long.

2) Domain & Twitter handle should be free. You can pay a lot for a domain name, but here at Inqune, we value being lean and scrappy. We didn’t think shelling out for a domain was a good use of our resources.

3) Look. We wanted to use our name in a logo celebrating another Inqune value: clean, clear, simple design.

Strategic Considerations

1) We wanted it to reflect our philosophy that employee development, learning, and growth is directly influenced by everything else going on at a business.

2) We wanted it to convey our best selves. We are: lean & scrappy, clean & simple, exploratory & inquisitive, and creative.


1) We brainstormed words that represented our values & philosophy. There was a lot of scratch paper. Think of the Julie & Julia movie scene when they are naming The Joy of Cooking – lots of post-its on the wall.

2) We asked a lot of people.  We had an epic family brainstorming session in Palo Alto and another one in New York with people from different industries and backgrounds: Doctors! Journalists! Wine sellers! Coffee roasters! Ops managers! A huge thank you to Josh Shapiro, Becca Shapiro, Shira Ballon, Tyson Evans, and Jacob Ballon for their ideas & input.

3) We asked our designer, Matthew Strong from He drew on our desire for simplicity and played with the Q a bit – which reminds us of a magnifying glass. A great tool for business explorers!

4) We tested out our story.  We told people about how we arrived at the name Inqune and got positive responses from the clients we wanted to work with.

And that is the story of how Inqune got its name.

Ignoring Corporate Culture? It is Costing You.


1. You haven’t identified the values that drive your culture

We know, you’re building a start-up and corporate values sound, well, corporate. Many companies incorporate their values into strategic planning: Salesforce has V2MOM, Symantec has Victory Plan, and Dov Seidman wrote recently in Time Magazine about National Instruments’ corporate values: respect, integrity and dedication. (

At Inqune, we’ve designed an interview, shadowing and survey methodology to help start-ups and mid-sized companies pin down the core values of their businesses and understand how those values are enacted in their corporate culture. You can’t curate and cultivate your culture until you know what you stand for.

2. Values are being enacted… but maybe not the ones you want

Even if they are not stated, values are still being communicated. The layout of your offices, the way meetings are run, and who has control over resources all define and convey your culture.  Leadership, along with others with longer tenure and seniority, have already established a culture that is passing from group to group, whether you like it or not. Even you “like things the way they are,” undefined values are hard to protect or use in decision making. If you choose to lead, you can define the culture that you want.

3. You aren’t measuring the impact of your culture

What metrics are you tracking? Revenue? Pipeline? Opportunity to close? Customer satisfaction? Renewal and churn rates? Attrition? Business researchers have written about the impact of employee attitudes on job satisfaction and, ultimately, job performance. One of the gaps they have identified is how satisfaction and performance are measured: the metrics used often fail to actually correlate to satisfaction or performance. Oops! (Saari, L. M. & Judge, T. A., 2004).

Go beyond employee surveys; encourage employees who uphold corporate values by tracking and rewarding actions taken with customers and colleagues that reinforce the best aspects of your culture.

4. You aren’t hiring for cultural fit

If you are able to hire employees who are a good fit with your corporate culture, you can increase employee retention – increasing the ROI of each of your hires.  Employees who are a good cultural fit are 2x more likely to stay with a company compared to those who are not, according to RoundPegg, a SaaS culture management platform. (

5. You aren’t marketing your culture

What are your company’s competitive differentiators? We all enjoy working with those we like and trust. If you have great teams who prioritize customer success, you should be yelling that from the rooftops. If you have a service-oriented mission that can be seen from your CEO’s time in the soup kitchen to your support team’s dedication to going the extra mile, that should be front-and-center on your webpage. It is easier to relate to people who have a clear and confident sense of self. The same is true of companies. Know who you are, and don’t be shy about telling the world.

Fujitsu Consulting is just one example of a company trumpeting their people as a leading differentiator:

6 Things Students Can Do To Get A Job After Graduation

Study: By Jeff SmithLast week, I responded to a NYT piece about the employment prospects for new college grads– and how companies choosing to invest in their employees through training are the ones, ultimately, getting more bang for their workforce buck.

But just because there are great employers out there who want to hire great-but-green recent college graduates, doesn’t mean students themselves shouldn’t be working to develop themselves to be ready for the job market when they get there.

Here are six things do do while you are still in college, to help you hit the ground running:

1. Identify target employers

What companies do you think are cool and interesting? What is interesting about them? Set-up Google alerts ( to follow their strategy, their partners and their work. Reach out to them when they recruit on campus. Seek friend-of-a-friend introductions to people who work there.

2. Build a network

Create a profile on LinkedIn ( and start connecting to anyone: classmates, professors, your parents’ friends.  Reach out to interesting alumni, most schools have online directories where you can search by industry, title and location. I attended a focus group in college for Seattle’s Best Coffee and the leader helped open internship doors for me, just because I asked about their summer internship program.

3. Take Classes

Even Liberal Arts colleges offer great classes in writing, economics, statistics, and communications that can be marketed to future employers; if your university has a Business School, consider taking some classes there to show off your smarts! Take courses you care about, but consider adding some “marketable” selections as well: who knows, you might love them!

4. Get an internship or a job at a company you might want to work for

Use the resources your school provides to find interesting opportunities.  Most schools offer online internship listings & it is never too early to start reaching out and asking hiring managers what they look for in future interns. Is there a class you should take now if you are going to apply next semester?

5. Get another internship/job

If you are still interested in your first firm and had a good experience, try returning for another semester or summer. I got my first full-time offer after a paid summer internship. If your first position taught you that that kind of work is not a good fit, use what you’ve learned and try something new.

6. Pivot

If you realized that your internship won’t turn into your dream job, write down what you liked about it, what you didn’t like about it and think about what other jobs include the skills you were leveraging.  What made you unhappy: the job or that firm’s culture?

Remember, you are interning so that you can one day have your boss’ or boss’ boss’ job. Do you like what they do? You can pivot at any point in your career, and explain how you determined what things you liked about your past experience which will make the next one an even better fit. This is also a great time to debrief with your college’s office of career services: the counselors there can help you make sense of what worked, what didn’t, and what lessons that gives you about the jobs where you will thrive. 

#Vulnerability is Trending

Maybe not THIS vulnerable...
Maybe not THIS vulnerable…

Last week, three people told me that the key to success in the current workplace is vulnerability.  These people were unconnected to each other: a client, a partner, and a university professor.  By the third mention, I couldn’t ignore it: vulnerability is trending in the workplace.  Why do we need to learn to be vulnerable to succeed? I have three ideas.

1) Balance. Work life balance is dead, now there is just balance. You are friends with your CEO on Facebook, you participate in office fitness challenges, your family joins you on business trips. Increasingly, companies are looking at people comprehensively. This change is often for for the better, but it limits the information that is considered private: people are more vulnerable at work because they share more personal details with the people in their professional lives.

2) Leaning in is vulnerable.  Sheryl Sandberg’s campaign of books and clubs has created a space for dialogue about what it means to be a woman at work: the struggles, the victories, and the complex considerations. This space is open to all: everyone has struggles, victories and trade-offs, and, as she point out, no one “has it all.” The changing cultural dialogue, spearheaded by Sandberg, is making it okay to talk about those challenges in new, personal ways.

3) It’s a differentiator. Vulnerability in the workplace is in the early adopter phase.  Storytelling is incredibly popular in sales right now: that strategy is successful because stories give people the opportunity to engage emotionally.  Making a true connection involves more than finding out that you went to the same school, it’s sharing that you were passionate about a specific cause there, met your partner there, or experienced a major life change there. Companies that embrace this, from sales to the C-suite, feel different from those doing business-as-usual.

Vulnerability is a double-edged sword and must be wielded carefully.  Beware the desire to bare all or bullshit.  Being vulnerable in the workplace doesn’t mean divulging your deepest darkest secrets: you must avoid making your customer or partner uncomfortable with the dreaded TMI. It also doesn’t mean fabricating a story about your life in an effort to gain respect or trust. It means finding the courage to share your authentic self, even when it would be easier to say ‘the right thing,’ or tell someone what you think they want to hear.

Business is about relationships, and we are sharing more than ever before. Finding the balance between being vulnerable and professional takes skill and practice, and you might make some embarrassing mistakes along the way. But richer relationships at work can lead to better collaborations, surprising insights, improved brand differentiation, and increased customer loyalty. The best part? Feeling that you can be yourself at work might make you happier, too.

Have you found success in exposing your softer side at work? Tell us about it in the comments!


10 Things Sales Team Leaders MUST Do in July

It’s July: hot, sticky, and slow. What’s a sales team leader to do?


By July, your team has forgotten the glory of 2013’s start: the goals, the message, the game plan. But they still need to gear up for the crush of Q3 and Q4, or your targets are going to be burned like last weekend’s burgers.

Here are some great tips on how to make the most of your second half and not get caught flat-footed in 2014.

10. Gather your management team for a 1st half evaluation
Xactly did a great write-up last year about reflecting on Q1 & Q2 to planning for the second half, putting SPIFs in place based on those results to drive additional Q3 & 4 revenue.

9. Recognize your 1st half top performers
Surprise first half leaders with recognition & host a Q & A panel for other reps to ask them for tips and tricks.

8. Highlight top 1st half deal strategies
Which unique deals did you do? Can you do more like them in the second half?

7. Create a sales playbook for your team they can use in the second half
Document what you did in #8 and make sure everyone on your team has it in their hands!

6. Pump your team up for the second half of the year
Will you dye your hair, dress up like your General Counsel, or donate to charity if they hit 200%? Remind them why they are the best team in the industry, that they have the best tools and are unstoppable.

5. Identify the top deals you need to close between now and year end
Where should VPs of sales & sales managers be spending their time? Pick out the deals and hold everyone, including yourself, accountable, by going back to the hit list weekly.

4. Plan your closing events (off-sites, customer visits, conferences)
Make sure you know what needs to happen when to close key deals & get customers to agree to the plan. Dreamforce ( is a huge closing event, if you plan with customers accordingly.

3. Determine which team members are positioned for promotions in early 2014
We often leave career planning to the last minute and it is a huge motivator. Make sure your team knows they should be thinking about their next step and what they need to do to get there.

2. Put incentives in place for pipeline building, you’ll thank yourself in 2014
S-P-I-F! Make sure your reps are incented to build the pipeline. Don’t forget, you are laying the foundation for 2014 & who knows, you might find a deal you can pull into 2013.

1. Start planning your 2014 sales kick-off
Hotel meeting space is being booked now – make sure you don’t miss out! Create a leadership committee to execute on the four buckets of any kick-off: performance recognition, future motivation, team building, and skill & execution training

Need help strategizing your messaging or planning your big sales events? Contact us with the form below or at, and find out how we can help your team sizzle this summer!

How Selling the Cloud is Different

Last Friday, I attended Salesforce’s Company Customer Tour in New York City. Several of our clients had booths, and Silverline was featured on the main stage! It was great to watch them shine.

Salesforce pairs these customer and partner events with recruiting events, so I met several of their candidates throughout the day. I was discussing selling enterprise cloud applications with one confident candidate who remarked, “Cloud? On-premise? I can sell anything, it’s all the same.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Here are four things that you should do differently when selling software for the cloud.

1) Inspire Evangelical Passion

When Marc Benioff founded in 1999 he declared it “The End of Software.” 14 years later, he has over 100,000 customers and 2 million subscribers. While technological change has played a part in enabling that success, the more crucial changes have been cultural: how customers and employees feel about the companies they work with.

Years ago, a close friend in the industry told me, “Something about Salesforce makes you not just want to use it, but to convince others to use it as well.” Successful cloud companies imbue their teams with an evangelical spirit. In their message to customers and in their training of new recruits, they charge people to take to social media and share amazing stories of customer success, product innovation, and job opportunities.

If you can bottle your founders’ passion, vision and spirit, and share that with your growing team, you will be unstoppable.

2) Prioritize Customer Success

The success and growth of cloud companies relies on high customer renewal rates. While on-premise software companies make most of their money upfront, cloud companies’ subscription pricing model spreads the cost of the platform out over the course of the contract. Over time, most of a cloud company’s monthly revenue comes from existing customers; only their marginal growth comes from new subscribers.

In a customer’s first year, as they are getting set up on the tool, customer support and services must be more involved to ensure that customers (and their revenue) renew with the product, providing the fiscal base for company growth. This provides great alignment for customers who don’t want to be forgotten after they sign the contract: they know their satisfaction with the product is key to their vendor because the company needs renewals to drive their business.

Most cloud companies strive for a 90%+ renewal rate. This drives the behavior and compensation of sales and support teams and has driven the creation of strategic customer success teams at most cloud firms.

In the cloud, more than in on-premise software, customer success is required.

3) Embrace Constant Change

In traditional software, releases happen about every eighteen months, with some customers choosing to remain on the legacy platform and others going through months of painful upgrade to the entirely new system. In the cloud, customers are upgraded overnight or in a few minutes, by simply provisioning new features to their existing system. Because of this relative ease, new releases are deployed to customers several times a year.

This constant change means that your sales and services teams must learn to discuss, demonstrate and differentiate both on the release cycle and new platform components. The messaging a cloud software team delivers when speaking to a customer will evolve much more quickly than traditional software because the product will always be changing.

Rapid product change means constant messaging evolution.

4) Play Competitive Wack-a-Mole

The cloud software market and competitive landscape changes constantly. Often, the most crucial part of an enterprise software sale is garnering executive buy-in; in that sphere, the battle against traditional software solutions is especially challenging. Traditional software companies are either poo-pooing the cloud in specific spaces or adopting a “me too” hybrid strategy of cloud and on-premise. To succeed, reps must make sure that executives understand and define ‘cloud’ solutions the way they do.

Differentiating your value proposition from the competitive field, which can be crowded with companies popping up and disappearing quickly, is key to continuing to grow your customer base and feeding your success engine. Cloud competitors can quickly build a user interface and marketing machine, creating a lot of noise, but backing it up with true client success will set you apart from the pack.

In the cloud, focusing on the core value proposition will allow you to shine among constant competitive change.

What else makes the cloud different? Share with us what you think!