A Salesforce Customer’s Guide to Dreamforce

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If you’re a Salesforce customer, you know Dreamforce is just around the corner.  Afterall, it seems impossible to escape the ever-flowing stream of Dreamforce promotional emails, Twitter chatter, and news articles leading up to the massive event or even mentions during recent earnings call.   Salesforce may be champions at drumming up excitement and putting on a good event with great speakers, but they haven’t done the best job ensuring attendees have what they need to ensure the most productive use of their time while in San Francisco.

There are thousands of sessions and hundreds of parties to choose from, all in different buildings spread out throughout the city.  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 add-ons they should consider adding to further complete the Customer 360 journey.  If you searched for it, there is very little advice for customers who want to ensure they and their company gets tangible value from attending.

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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 by helping you lay 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 Before Dreamforce

  1. 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 massive and often overwhelming event.  What products are you using now, including those that may still be on separate paperwork or owned by a different group or business within your company (like Tableau, MuleSoft and/or Slack) and what additional products and/or editions 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.  Have your team attend sessions that demonstrate how other companies have used products and features to their fullest potential.  Make sure your account executive or point of contact at Salesforce knows that this is your focus and not just what value your company may get from adding something new. Push for recommendations.

If there are products that you or your team are interested in adopting in your upcoming renewal, consider whether there is a real need for those products or if they are just what your Salesforce 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, adoption and 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.  Assuming your account executive has likely already pushed you and other attendees to sessions and meetings where these new products and editions will be featured, it would be important to make sure that the appropriate agenda is in place.  Provide your account executive a list of insights you are expecting to obtain by attending.

  1. Understand Who is Attending from Your Company

This may seem obvious, but far too often I come across situations where it was not known that a particular individual at the company was actually attending Dreamforce.  The larger the company, the more likely this is going to happen, but it is also a function and result of Salesforce’s ability to build relationships with many people within companies.  Reach out to all people that may be tied to any of the Salesforce products in use and inquire on whether or not they are attending, planning to attend or even being asked to attend.

Once you have the group pulled together, and before you work to build internal alignment, it would be good to understand what sessions have been signed up for, what meetings or dinners are people planning to attend and, if speaking, what is the topic and who is also joining them on stage or in the room from Salesforce.

  1. Build Internal Alignment

All employees attending Dreamforce should be aligned on your company’s goals, not just for Dreamforce, but for your overall Salesforce relationship.  It is important to have a unified plan and shared understanding of your Salesforce relationship.  Inconsistent messaging can diminish your leverage and negatively impact credibility.  Salesforce, like all large IT vendors, is very good at capitalizing on any inconsistencies.

  1. 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. Either way, it should include specific reasoning of why their recommendations are worth your time.

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 an opportunity to execute to their land-and-expand strategy.  In that case, you’ll have to redirect their focus to your actual needs and goals for Dreamforce – even if it means helping you and your company 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 an account executive and/or renewal team members. To strengthen your relationship, you should ask your account executive to connect you with more senior-level sales executives and senior individuals on the product 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 with more senior sales executives and product owners during any upcoming and future renewal negotiations.

  1. Set Expectations

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 and in forming your renewal strategy.

What to Do During Dreamforce

  1. 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.

  1. Learn from Similar Companies

Pay attention to and ask questions of speakers and attendees from companies like 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.

  1. Notice Common Challenges

While at the conference, you and your team should be talking to users at all levels 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 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.

  1. Question New Products

When learning about new products or editions under consideration, 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 very nicely sets the stage for current or upcoming 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 as part of your renewal.  You gave them the opportunity; they just were unable to deliver.

What to Do After Dreamforce

  1. 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 meet internally with your team to discuss what was learned.

  1. Apply What You Learned

Dreamforce is the perfect opportunity to learn how you may be able to utilize your products more effectively, what products may be worth adding, 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.

Learn about our Salesforce advisory services or contact us to discuss how to create leverage in your unique situation.