Marc Benioff, president and CEO of Salesforce.com, not only defined a new paradigm in selling Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) when he founded his company in 1999, but also established a new vision for companies after the dot-com debacle of 2001. In his book “Behind the Cloud”, Benioff tells us about how he and his team started their business through the best kind of start-up, in an empty house with tables and fold-up chairs. The book is not only enjoyable and inspiring, but also easy to follow: similar to how Salesforce has taken shape, the content was divided into 111 easy-to-implement “plays”, in which he explains how they developed innovative and award-winning products, shot down much larger competitors, and landed clients of all sizes, all the while maintaining an efficient philanthropic model. To view a small sample of this visionary’s ideas, let’s take a look at some of his plays in the following four key areas: start-up, marketing, technology, and leadership.
- Always give yourself time to recharge when you leave your job and look to start a business of your own.
- Have a really big dream and believe you can pull it off.
- Tell a select few what you’re planning on doing and then listen carefully to the advice they give you.
- Hire the absolute top talent in your field.
- Be fully equipped and willing to sell your idea to skeptics anywhere anytime and respond calmly to your critics.
- Work on what is most important only.
- Define the values and the culture you want to establish in clear cut terms right up front.
- Listen intensively to prospective customers.
- Have one trusted mentor and listen to what he or she says.
- Position your company as either the leader in your industry or going up against the leader with something better.
- Make each and every employee a key player in your marketing team by ensuring everyone understands and uses the same message.
- Always position yourself as David against some Goliath.
- Let your marketing tactics dictate your strategy, not the other way around.
- Engage the market leader and force them to acknowledge you.
- Never forget reporters are writers so give them a juicy story they will really get into. Cultivate strong relationships with select journalists who will be most influential.
- Develop your own metaphors to explain what you’re doing.
- Have the confidence and the courage to develop innovations before the need becomes obvious to your customers. Do things that are worthwhile before the demand eventuates.
- Follow the lead of successful companies and involve customers in your development processes. Don’t develop things in isolation from their preferences and concerns.
- Find ways to reuse existing building blocks rather than doing everything from scratch.
- Embrace transparency and make it work to your advantage – or else it will automatically work against you.
- Make it possible for customers to customize features to suit their needs. Do this and you will move users from adoption to addiction.
- Provide a marketplace where customers can sell their solutions to other customers with comparable issues.
- Listen to customer discussions and become part of the ongoing dialogue.
- Grow and evolve by intelligently reacting to what customers suggest you should do. Engage end users as active participants in the development process.
- Focus your goals and align your organization by using the V2MOM system:
- Vision – what exactly do you want to achieve?
- Values – why is your vision important to your organization?
- Methods – how will you get what you want?
- Obstacles – what might stand in your way?
- Measures – how will you know when you’ve arrived?
- Build a culture that welcomes recruiting and is good at it. Take hiring as seriously as you do generating revenue, and hire people who are better than you at all times.
- Build a spirit of gratitude into your corporate DNA. Treat people well and they will want to stay forever.
- Always do the right thing by your people.
- Ask for employee feedback and then do what is suggested.
- Make everyone in your organization successful. Extend that also to partners, vendors and all others with vested interests in what you’re doing.
Author: Conciliac Team
Marc Benioff, “Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-And Revolutionized an Industry”, 2009, Jossey-Bass Books.
Marc Benioff, “Behind the Cloud”, summaries.com