All Markets Are Conversations. Unless You Are My Salesforce Account Manager.

Look I don’t mean to write ‘I don’t know how you can’ because I know how you can.


I don’t know how you can hope to gain anything by acting like this with people.

Before I got to our company, someone who has now left signed us up for six seats on Salesforce, the popular CRM started by Marc Benioff in 1999.

I inherited Salesforce and I now feel like Dr Dre when he wanted to leave Death Row records and could not. 

Half our company ended up using HubSpot which everyone quickly got to grips with. And we’re left with this commitment to Salesforce.

I’ve known Salesforce a long time, I nearly worked for them back in 2010. 

Back then I was very excited to be part of that gang. The amazing JP Rangaswami had become Chief Scientist there, my neighbour had got a job there after her A-Levels and loved it.

My interview at Cloud Force London

I had a breakfast interview at the Royal Festival Hall while Cloud Force was on. The interview went well, but in the end, I had to admit I did not have the ‘enterprise’ level marketing experience needed for the role. 

Later in 2012 I connected with fellow podcaster Mike Gerholdt and his ‘Button Click Admin’ show with Jared, I was a guest.
The show was community building, geeky and fun, I LOVED the segment of ‘A dramatic reading of a Steve Mo answer’.

Steve is a selfless question answerer in the Salesforce Admin forum, here

The last time I checked he’d answered thousands and thousands of questions.

Salesforce made the ultimate cool move in 2014 and brought Mike’s podcast show, hiring him as Admin Evangelist. 

Both the podcast and Mike are doing better than ever in 2020 with over a million downloads. 

So when I inherited six Salesforce Licences I was stoked at the thought of this product – even with its steep learning curve. 

You can listen to Mike here on Spotify.

I can’t wait for Salesforce.

But, it was all downhill from here. 

Me We don’t need six seats. We only need two in my department, can we still commit to the money we said but change things up?

SF — No.

Me — Why not?

SF — We can’t change licencing agreements. You are committed to pay this much a month and have to keep to it. 

Me — I’m fine with committing to the agreed amount, but we can’t afford that now AND don’t need that many seats.

Plus I’ve inherited this set up and I have no idea what I’m doing, I need to hire a developer.

SF — No. You can’t change things up.

Me — Why is that?

SF — We are a public company and have a responsibility to our shareholders to keep revenue where we said it would be.

So up until now, that all sounds fair.

I’m in business and I get it, you have to bring home the bacon and keep the lights on. 

2020 Tough times for everyone?

What a naive dickhead I am for thinking that in a time of a global pandemic, a struggling economy and uncertainty all around I have the right to ask for help.

Who the fuck am I to ask for £400 (ish) break a month and look at how we can spend our budget better?

I mean, usually I’d love to pay you for stuff we are not using.

And I’m sorry to take the piss and ask to give you money for things we will use rather than things we won’t use.

  • Side note — I actually have been paying other companies for stuff I have not used in COVID-19 because I want to support them and have got so much value over time. 

The $5.24 billion revenue rises

Then I read this article from the NYC Times:

“Salesforce stock has climbed nearly 40 percent in 2020, valuing the company at $220 billion.

On Tuesday, it said its revenue rose 20 percent to $5.24 billion in the three months ending with October 2020.”

So I double-checked with our Salesforce account manager, to see if I’d missed something.

They replied.

“Unfortunately there are no alternate billing options Salesforce can provide at this time.
As mentioned before I can offer you 30 days access to premier success.
This will give your developer additional support while completing the setup.”

FFS – We don’t have ‘a developer’ to set up yet, their salary is kinda tied up in the four seats we’re paying for but are not using.

I’m tempted to go on with a long-drawn-out story, but I’ll stop there.

The main takeaway

But the thing I really want you to take away is how amazingly blunt and unhelpful Salesforce is. 

And they don’t need to be.

They do amazing things like take social justice stands in ‘less forward thinking states’ in the USA, donate to plant trees, education and so much more.

2020 is a unique year for business.

In 2020 every company I deal with personally and professionally has cut me some slack or worked something out.

It is a unique year because of COVID-19, and those that can’t have said “we’d love to help but here is how it is for us.”

And I’ve been able to see how they can’t help me, I’m in business and know either financially or emotionally what the price is for changing how it works.

But Salesforce has had the best three months of their life.

No wait! They have just brought Slack for $27 Billion, so I can see how they need to batten down the hatches.

Computer says no

I feel like I am putting my account manager out every time I call, even though they are specifically for ‘start up’s.

I get that yucky, wanky feeling that if I turned up spending £100k a month I’d be flown to the Eiffel Tower for breakfast to have our meetings and Norah Jones would be hired to sing in the corner.  

But because we’re only spending £600 at the moment I have to wait in line and get fobbed off with a minefield of training videos. 

Why would you want to screw a start up?

I have no idea why you’d want to deliberately screw a start up in their early days when you can change the deal AND still get paid?

Are you really that greedy? 

Or maybe you are too lazy to try harder?

HubSpot and the light side of the force.

HubSpot has its shortcomings too, as outlined in Dan Lyon’s hilarious book Disrupted

But HubSpot co-founder Brian also wrote Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead — so there is still life in there.

I’ve known many people, particularly Marcus Sheridan who have championed HubSpot, so I feel like I’m on the light side of the force.

Of course, I hit up my mates inside Salesforce, and they were all super clear about not getting out the contract, it just does not happen.

I’m OK with not getting out the contract, but it is the incredible lack of imagination around renegotiation I’m frustrated with.

But right now HubSpot is coming out way better on product, service and all round attitude to life. 

All markets are conversations

All markets are conversations — is one of the best lines from the 1999 book The Cluetrian Manifesto — “it’s the original handbook for the modern web.”

And JP Rangaswami ended up writing in the 10 anniversary edition here, when he worked for Salesforce. 

And part of me does feel I’m being too cuddly but at the same time I’m always believing in these words.

The same way I believe in the Agile manifesto written around the same time, stuff like Customer Collaboration over contract negotiations etc. 

Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber want people to connect and be open when working and dig down to thrive together.

There is a part in the Scrum book where Jeff tells the story of making a company print out everything they’ve written for a project.

There were stacks and stacks of paper of reports and other bollocks.
The 40 or so people working on the project admitted they’d read very little of it.

They then cut everything up and posted the bits they needed for the project on the wall and binned everything else.

See the project and real humans

Then they could see the project, it was given the space to breath and became something.

In the Cluetrain book ‘markets are conversations’ means people go and talk to each other and build relationships and this is how business is done.

One of the biggest things about our PayPugs account is that you talk to a real human on a call, and they help you work things out.

We don’t give you a stack of paper to fill in, tell you to piss off and come back when it is done.

Be the guide.

One of the core things about StoryBrand that made me commit to the methodology is the concept of ‘being the guide’ not the transaction.

And what gets left on the table when you see everything as a short term transaction is so much possibility and energy.

I was talking with my mate Navarro about marketing and business and community this week, he pointed out a Spanish phrase that translates as ‘you might get the sale now, but in the long run you won’t get the business’ — or said another way people won’t come back.

I love to look people dead in the eye

So I hate to sound surprised, and I am under no illusions about Salesforce even noticing us.

Something I’ve been saying to people for years when I love a person or product is ‘I love it if you buy it and think it is shit I’ll give you your money back, even if they won’t’, 

No one has come back — yet.

But that is not the point, it is the gift of being able to look someone dead in the eye and say ’I believe in this, it’s a good thing’ is super important to me.

And I can’t do that with Salesforce.

Maybe I’ll send my Salesforce account manager a copy of the late Tony Hsieh book Delivering Happiness, he sold a lot of shoes and did not crap on people over at their most critical time.

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