Dreamforce is a conference put on by Salesforce. With sales in their name, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that everyone’s focus is on selling. What I learnt this time around wasn’t what I expected. In the 10 years I have been attending the conference as a journalist or blogger, I have never experienced a reaction quite like this one.
Is the New Breed of Salesmen the Ultimate Utilitarian?
It took only a few stops around the show floor to understand that everyone was working off a formula or flowchart, delivering responses to common problems facing Salesmen. Not a Salesmen or competitor? Uh Oh! You’re in the danger zone.
I was met with blank stares. After the 3rd or 4th booth I half-expected their arms to start moving up and down screaming “can’t compute, not logical”.
Geeks Make Terrible Salesmen
This is a verbatim conversation that I had a Dreamforce:
20-something dude stops me as I’m walking past his booth: “Hi, Are you in Sales?”
Me: “No I’m a Journalist.”
20-something dude: “Oh, then there must be nothing for you at this conference.”
Me: “Do you know what a Journalist does?”
20-something dude: “Yeah, they write stories.”
Even after this, the connection wasn’t made that I could potentially write about them and that exposure may, in fact, turn into lead generation. I kept my badge covered, I could have been from anywhere. I even resorted to saying “that’s ok, you can pretend that I’m in Sales and still tell me about what you do anyways”.
One girl even responded, “ok, but what’s the point?” If you weren’t a lead that they could translate into a sale, they didn’t know what to do with you.
Is Marc Benioff the Don Draper of Sales?
I know that Advertising isn’t Sales, but I can’t help but yearn for the days of Mad Men where sales guys would keep clients based on how much whiskey they could drink. Actually, let me take that back – though I love the fashion of Mad Men as a woman I’m glad the old boys club is gone, but do ache for some fashion and finesse. This is exactly where Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff comes in.
He’s not going to sell you the shirt off your own back, but he’s just going to invite his personal friends Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, Eckhart Tolle, Will.i.am, Niel Young and Hilary Clinton to speak at his conference. He’s that guy.
When you walk into Dreamforce you can smell the money in the air, everyone is there for it. Everyone is going to walk away with some. But when you settle in you realize that you’re surrounded by nerds with flow charts and algorithms. They may not be able to have a conversation, but they will enable your sales team.
These sweet 20-somethings with fresh startups and more faith in math, CRM and API management than the value of a firm handshake have shed the serpentine salesmen cliche. Salesforce knows this, and that’s why they have worked so hard to construct a narrative for them.
What could an Unofficial Presidential Hopeful Have to Say to a Bunch of Salesmen?
When I saw that Hilary was speaking, a few things went through my mind. Salesforce has a lot of money, cuz that lady ain’t cheap. Not to mention, she’s on the campaign trail, and only leaders of industry attend Dreamforce.
I didn’t give her enough credit.
She walked the line between the story Salesforce was telling, which has been big on philanthropy and giving (they even have a platform for this). They are opening a children’s hospital in Oakland, CA, as well as the “Too Small to Fail” campaign for singing and reading to children. All of these are amazing programs, are all key to the narrative that is being constructed, that Salesforce is about community building on all levels.
Hilary reminded us that business, like politics, is all about relationships. Something easy to forget with the multitude of impersonal ways we can now connect to do business. If we let the Geeks take over, which is what Salesforce is in fact enabling, we would be relegated to a rating and analysis spreadsheet for communicating with our partners.
Hilary reminded everyone that it is important to be present, she brought up some criticism she recently faced about flying a million miles last year. She could have reduced her carbon footprint, saved herself time and hassle, if she just used video chat. Her response is simple and at the core of any relationship.
Technology has created a higher premium on face to face meetings.
~ Hillary Clinton
And she’s right. That is why 140,000 people attend Dreamforce, to be partners in arms and have one drink too many after Bruno Mars.
This past week at Dreamforce has been more about emotion than it has been about anything else. Reinforcing the bonds of the community they are trying to build around their platforms and reminding Geeks everywhere of the value a firm handshake adds to their equation.