Chances are that if you’re a Salesforce customer, you are well aware that Dreamforce is just around the corner. After all, it seems impossible to escape the ever-flowing stream of Dreamforce promotional emails, Twitter chatter, and even news articles leading up to the massive event. Salesforce may be champions at drumming up excitement, but they haven’t exactly made it easy to plan your time in San Francisco.
There are over 2,700 sessions and 150 parties to choose from, all in different buildings spread out throughout the city. While the names of sessions have been posted, when and where they will take place has not. The conference is next month but registration for sessions hasn’t opened yet and when it does, you’ll have to be quicker than the other 170,000+ attendees rushing to snag a seat at the best sessions.
Despite how overwhelming the event can be, most Salesforce customers haven’t received much guidance on where to focus their time besides hearing about which new products or app add-ons they should buy. If you searched for it, you would find a lot on how to have fun at Dreamforce, but very little advice for executives who want to ensure their company gets tangible value from attending.
The Purpose of This Guide
If you own and are responsible for your company’s Salesforce relationship, make purchasing decisions, negotiate with Salesforce come renewal time, or manage a team of Salesforce users, this is the Dreamforce guide for you. These tips will help you make the most of Dreamforce in the sense that you are laying a path for a stronger, more appropriate and beneficial relationship with Salesforce that can also result in successful renewal negotiations and more competitive pricing and commercial terms.
What to Do Now (Before Dreamforce)
Understand What You Want to Accomplish
Determine what your company’s immediate and go-forward requirements are to help you build a plan for the event. What products are your company using now and what additional products may meet a need later? Are all the current product features being used, and if not, why?
After close inspection, many companies realize their employees are not utilizing all the features available to them. This is often the case when a company decided to move forward with the more robust (and costly) Unlimited Edition, whether it be Sales Cloud or Service Cloud, when maybe they should have gone with the Enterprise Edition; but that is a story for another day. Have your team attend sessions that demonstrate how other companies have used products and features to their fullest potential.
Are there products your team is interested in adopting and/or including in your upcoming renewal? Consider whether there is a real need for those products or if they are just what your Salesforce’s account executive has been aggressively pushing. If there is a potential need, it would be a good idea to have your team attend sessions featuring those products, but also make sure they use all other opportunities available at the conference to gain perspectives on ease of use and adoption as well as value received. Have them ask questions during networking events or while meeting people in line to get a drink. Getting a candid perspective is always valuable.
Build Internal Alignment
All employees attending Dreamforce should be aligned on your company’s goals not — just for Dreamforce but for your Salesforce relationship as a whole. It is important to have a unified plan and a shared understanding of your Salesforce relationship. Inconsistent messaging can diminish your leverage and negatively impact credibility. Salesforce, like all large IT vendors, is also very good at capitalizing on any inconsistencies.
Ask Your Salesforce Point of Contact to:
- Provide a recommended approach to Dreamforce. This could be a custom agenda or a list of recommended sessions, but either way, it should include specific reasoning of why their recommendations are worth your time. A high-level “let’s meet” is not enough.
You can learn a lot about how well they understand your challenges from what they suggest and how it compares to the needs your team identified. You may find that, based on the agenda proposed, they are planning to use Dreamforce as simply an opportunity to upsell you. In that case, you’ll have to redirect their focus to your actual needs and goals for Dreamforce – even if it means helping you get more value from the products you already pay for.
- Introduce you to more senior-level members of Salesforce. Most companies only have contact with a sales representative and/or renewal team members. But to strengthen your relationship, you should ask your account executive to connect you with more senior-level sales executives (i.e., a Regional VP) or even senior individuals on the production side of Salesforce.
Brokering relationships will be critical if you are looking to evolve and elevate the go-forward relationship into a more strategic partnership. You can also call upon the conversations you have and the newly formed relationships during any upcoming and future renewal negotiations.
Once you’ve established your goals and plan of action, clearly define and set the expectations for when your team returns. Put time on the calendar after the event for everyone to share what they learned. You can take those learnings into account when planning for any upcoming interactions with Salesforce (i.e., product demos) and in forming your renewal strategy.
What to Do During Dreamforce
Divide and Conquer
To get the most out of Dreamforce, everyone should try to attend different sessions. Assign attendance based on which challenges the team member is faced with or the goals set for them.
Learn from Similar Companies
Pay attention to and ask questions of speakers and attendees from companies similar to yours or companies that use similar Salesforce products. Ask questions such as:
- What is your day-to-day relationship with Salesforce like?
- Do you face similar challenges?
- What type of value are you getting compared to what you were promised when you signed up?
- Is Salesforce proactive and making tangible investments in your company’s relationship and go-forward success?
- Is Salesforce demonstrating behavior consistent with a company that is truly interested in customer success?
If you determine that there are many companies that seem to have a better relationship in place or are getting more value from Salesforce than your company, you can go back to your account executive, or even the Area Vice President that you just formed a relationship with. Let them know that you are aware that those types of relationships exist and want to know what it would take to get your company there.
Notice Common Challenges
While at the conference, you and your team should be talking to users at all levels (from analysts to the head of sales) and paying attention to common challenges other customers are expressing. Speakers may be biased but talking to other users in attendance while walking the floor can show that a challenge of yours is actually a broader problem for the Salesforce customer base, which could possibly be leveraged during your next renewal negotiation or value discussions with your account executive.
Question New Products
When learning about new products, don’t be afraid to ask questions like, “What happens if the product doesn’t deliver on the expected benefits?” Asking tough, out in the open, questions now sets the stage for renewal discussions. It also shows that you may be reluctant to add certain products to your portfolio if Salesforce can’t give you the level of reassurance you need to adopt the product and include it in your renewal contract. You gave them the opportunity, they just were unable to deliver.
What to Do After Dreamforce
Follow Up with Your Salesforce Contact
After the event, reach out to your Salesforce account executive to get clarification on anything you or your team were unclear on. Perhaps there was something you learned that you had a follow-up question on or you need further explanation on something you heard. You should also ask them to send you a summary of the biggest takeaways and announcements that are impactful specifically to you and your company. It may be worth having them come in and present to you after you met internally with your team to discuss what was learned.
Apply What You Learned
Dreamforce is the perfect opportunity to learn how you may be able to utilize your products more effectively, build deeper relationships, and gain valuable insight into where Salesforce is now and where they are going. It is also a great time to assess and understand your leverage as part of your overall renewal preparation. There will be many distractions and things to attend while at Dreamforce but having the proper plan in place will help you stay focused to ensure you and your team get the most out of Dreamforce rather than letting Salesforce get the most out of you.
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