I admit I was struggling to find a topic for this blog post. I sat at my computer with writer’s block which is uncommon for me. So, what did I do? I left. I left, read, and went to a meditation class. Ironic, then that my head wanted to race during meditation. After this, I realized that meditation is a great subject to share with entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs. 
I’ve been attending group meditation classes for a couple years now, and I admit that I don’t always get to that meditative state. I probably only get there 20% of the time. (Okay – 10%.) Like today, I struggle to be mindful, stay focused on my breath, and meditate.
What I’ve realized and was appreciative of was the effort to sit there for an hour and try. I also appreciated the effort to sit there and think. I didn’t meditate, but I did hop on that mind-train and rode that for a good bit. That, in itself, can be a wonderful thing because I don’t take enough time to sit in peace and think.
Meditation is supposed to provide all sorts of benefits to which I can summarize: lower stress/ cortisol levels, practice mindfulness, develop patience, etc. Many entrepreneurs have practiced meditation to help cope with the stress and go-go-go life including Jeff Weiner (CEO, LinkedIn), Marc Benioff (CEO, Salesforce.com), Oprah Winfrey (a media mogul), etc.
The gist is to make time and effort for the things that matter. The benefits can be realized with diligent practice. Realize, too, the use of the word “practice” because that’s important. “Anything worth having never comes easy,” as Bob Kelso from Scrubs once said. Meditation is a constant practice. Though one practice (or many) may not achieve the goal, there’s the next practice.
Just checking out what’s under the hood (image source: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/gedney/med/KY0344.jpg)
So I’ve mentioned powerful systems like Salesforce in the past many times, but truth be told, I had never actually stepped foot in the Salesforce platform. However, when it comes to a CRM, it’s the go-to system. Heck, many of the DC Companies (David Cummings’/ David Cummings-backed) are built with Salesforce in mind – Rivalry for leaderboards and sales coaching [of record], SalesLoft for prospecting, etc.
When I speak to startups these days about Biz Dev roles, curiously, many tout the need for Salesforce experience. This has always been a… well, “curious” thing to me, but I get it. I was once in the Management Consulting world, and I know someone with SAP experience can get up and running much faster than someone without. However, Salesforce isn’t as ridiculous as SAP. Or at least, so I thought. I mean, again, I had never experienced it. My logic was rooted more or less in the many articles, talks, and even YouTube videos I had seen of Salesforce. I always questioned why Salesforce was a “needed skill” rather than a “nice to have”.
Yesterday, I took the first half of my day and spent it at Atlanta Tech Village to “play” in one of my friend’s company’s instances to learn more about Salesforce. I can’t keep preaching about it without having some experience, right? Okay, here are some take-aways.
  • The foundation of Salesforce is built on Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, and Contacts. In fact, check out a quick intro via Rivalry’s blog—“Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, and Contacts in Salesforce: The Basics”.
  • Re-packaged and glorified spreadsheets and Outlook in one. That is to say, when you play with Salesforce, you can quickly see how Salesforce grew so fast because it really is Excel and Outlook repackaged. In the end, many sales people started with cruder products earlier and Salesforce’s structure, the reminders, etc. were familiar already.
  • It’s massive, but also not so. Salesforce reminds me a lot of web templates you can get off the internet (think: ThemeForest). That is, you buy a template, and you get a ton of great features, CSS files, JavaScript, etc. However, you will likely scrap most of it anyways, and focus on a few core pieces relevant to you.
  • You can see its earlier “Big Platform” cloud beginnings. Marc Benioff (Salesforce’s Founder) is a former Oracle Exec. When you click around Salesforce, you can see very similar UI/ UX as some of the other big platform players like Oracle and SAP. Not originally Oracle, but I see similarities with Oracle’s Agile PLM, SAP eSourcing, etc. (full disclosure: I played with these systems three years ago).
  • Salesforce’s power is its core + all the third-party apps. Salesforce is #winning and killing it by being simple, and also the system that holds the data. At the end of the day, it’s hugely simple in concept, and what makes it powerful is integration to other powerful apps through its App Exchange like Rivalry, SalesLoft, Tinder Box, ToutApp, etc.
  • Salesforce is still cumbersome. The opportunity is automating/ mechanizing it. I love tools like those mentioned above, but especially Voxa. Everything Salesforce does, I was doing already in my own setup with spreadsheets. I could make it more powerful with notifications and the like, but really, that’s all it was. As I did Biz Dev for Body Boss and others, the biggest pain in the rear, and ultimately what makes Salesforce powerful is the data that is inputted. From this standpoint, every CRM is still annoying… until you can automate logging events like contact history, adding leads/ contacts, etc. That’s where tools like Voxa which can automatically log your activities and even detect human language to schedule follow-ups that much more powerful. You get around the biggest pain!
  • There are better tools, but they integrate to Salesforce, too. You really don’t need much time in Salesforce to see where it could improve. However, like I said in the bullets before, there are tools that are better and can MAKE Salesforce better. For example, as a pipeline tool, I’m visual guy, and I don’t see Salesforce’s Opportunities list as a great tool. It really just looks like a list. PipeDrive, however, is a much better, visually-oriented tool to manage your pipeline. Luckily, it, too, can integrate to Salesforce.

Obviously the above didn’t just come out of three hours, and okay, maybe I’m not an expert. Some of these were notions I had coming into the learning sessions, but were reinforced. Can’t say anything was dispelled other than Salesforce is really, really easy. I know during my three hours I didn’t play with every module, and maybe one day, I’ll get that opportunity in MY OWN instance. Or, maybe I’ll be a part of simplifying Salesforce into another CRM startup. (Okay, that made me laugh because there are several others that do a decent job.)

At the end of the day (or morning, rather), Salesforce IS powerful. It’s powerful because it’s simplified the structure of customer relationship (seems very sales focused, but not necessarily account management focused, but maybe that’s just the instance I was using) and enabled others to pick up the slack via the App Exchange. They’re really the big platform that profits, but also gives others including startups a chance to build businesses, too, off them. It’s a great ecosystem.
Salesforce is one of those simple tools that doesn’t need to be a “MUST HAVE SKILL” for a sales role. It’s simple enough that anyone can get started very quickly in the matter of hours. At least for me, I’ve seen the beast, and it’s really just a tiny rabbit with a big shadow. It’s not daunting, and I’m glad I got to spend a few hours in a Salesforce user’s shoes.