With Dreamforce 2019 just days away, you hopefully already have a plan in place for maximizing your time in San Francisco. But even if you think you are fully prepared for the event itself, all that planning could go to waste if you fail to put it to use when you return to the office. The following are a few things you should consider doing, not before or during Dreamforce, but after Dreamforce ends, in order to turn your experience into tangible value for yourself and your company.
First, it’s important to note that both pre- and post-preparation and planning are important. Dreamforce is a massive event with a lot happening and it’s in your interest to divide and conquer while you’re there. If you’re like most of our clients, you may be part of a team of employees sent to Dreamforce. This might include Salesforce admins, sales representatives, and marketers who can learn from the sessions and be exposed to the latest enhancements and product releases. Some people might focus on learning about new products while others are meeting with Salesforce partners.
To ensure you and your team get the most out of your time, everyone attending should know their goals for the event, or at least before you make your way from your hotel (if you were able to get one) and over to your first session or the opening keynote. It helps to have a standard and agreed-upon process for recording individual activities and learnings while at Dreamforce, so a report can be provided and shared when everyone gets back. You may even want to create a worksheet or checklist beforehand that they can use as guidance. You could ask your team to write down things such as:
- Who they met with from Salesforce and what was discussed
- Who they met with from peer Salesforce customers
- Which products interested them and why
- Biggest questions they still have regarding possible mapping to known requirements
- Pending and/or possible already understood concerns
- Overall impressions
Setting expectations beforehand in a well-organized manner will make the following tasks easier and more effective.
1. Hold an Internal Dreamforce Debrief Meeting
Once everyone is back in the office, I recommend holding a town hall-style meeting for everyone to share their experiences and impressions of the event. The sooner, the better. I know that this might be tricky to do since it’s so close to Thanksgiving week and the holiday season is shortly thereafter, but you’ll get a lot more value from holding the meeting as close to your return and prior to the thick of the holiday season when everyone can forget little details and put the event behind them. Those little details could potentially be used now and during your renewal to drive meaningful conversations and even create leverage you didn’t previously realize you had.
The goal of this meeting is to achieve internal alignment with your team, not just those who attended Dreamforce, but also anyone who interacts with Salesforce representatives (such as the CMO, VP of Sales, procurement, etc.) and who can influence your relationship and renewal. That might even include your CIO or Chief Digital Officer.
In addition to covering the topics listed in your worksheet mentioned above, use this meeting to ask things like:
- What questions do you still have regarding unlocking more value from current products?
- What questions do you still have about new products?
- Which products should the company be considering?
- Which products did Salesforce seem to be pushing the most?
Anything that happened that could potentially impact your go-forward relationship with Salesforce and the inevitable renewal (such as a one-on-one meeting with your Salesforce contact about your company’s biggest pain points) should be discussed even if you are not sure of the impact. Ideally, the meeting would end with everyone being on the same page and having a holistic understanding of where your Salesforce relationship stands and where you want it to go. Unity is always important and not often the norm, but when it comes to this, it is very important.
2. Follow up with Your Salesforce Contacts
Once you’ve achieved internal alignment and gathered your talking points, you can reach out to your Salesforce contacts. This is a good time to use what your company collectively learned during your time at Dreamforce or didn’t learn (as you covered in your team meeting) to ask very specific questions and request additional demos, meetings, reference calls, etc. The more specific you can be with Salesforce, the better. In some ways, Salesforce will also appreciate the specificity in your asks. It is, of course, up to them how specific their answers are in return.
Did a Salesforce representative introduce you to another Salesforce customer right before a session or during an afterparty? While that may be encouraging, ask for one or two more reference calls after Dreamforce. You could even seek out your own additional possible references while there through your peer network or through Salesforce advisors who help customers with their Salesforce relationships. You might hear a different story without a Salesforce salesperson present. Were you unable to see or fully understand what kind of value you would get from diving deeper into Salesforce’s heavily-pushed Customer 360? Raise the issue.
Once again, specificity is key here – the more granular the better. Rather than asking, “Can I have more information on the Marketing Cloud and Einstein Analytics?,” ask questions like:
- How does Marketing Cloud compare to competitors?
- What improvements are expected to be made over time and how will those meet my needs?
- What value should I really expect from Einstein?
With the first question, you’ll get a standard piece of marketing content that is handed out to everyone. With the other questions, you’re starting to restructure your Salesforce relationship in terms of the type and level of transparency you are now requiring from Salesforce. This type of level-setting helps in the pursuit of turning a transactional relationship to one that is more strategic, a true strategic partnership. Every interaction counts.
3. Meet with Your Vendor Management Teams
This is also a good time to discuss the results of your internal meeting and your specific follow up requests with your procurement or vendor management team so you can start to build your potential roadmap and renewal preparation plan. Build your concerns with products or your overall relationship with Salesforce into the plan.
Regardless of when your renewal is, the information gained from Dreamforce absolutely can and should be used in your renewal negotiation strategy. You can bet that every little interaction Salesforce had with you is being shared with their broader team and worked into their own strategy (they have a playbook). It will pay off to understand how your company appears from Salesforce’s point of view and most importantly, to have one unified message you share with them. Too often, I see companies losing leverage because they’re sending mixed messages while Salesforce is operating to a well-oiled plan and unified talk track.
In my experience, the most organized and methodical companies have the highest likelihood of successfully restructuring and optimizing their Salesforce relationship as part of a renewal. Preparing a thorough Dreamforce plan and executing your plan before, during, and after the event is the key to making the most of Dreamforce. Remember that each individual’s interactions will (not might) impact the downstream negotiation that again will (not might) happen.
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