It’s, Thank You Very Much


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The title’s a dead giveaway to my frequent readers that something sarcastic is about to happen. You won’t be disappointed. However, rather than prejudicing the case against dear old SalesFORCE, I’m going to first give a straight recitation of the facts without once “slipping it to them.”

A client with whom I’m working on a long-term CRM project asked me to find an interim automation package for the contact center—one that would hold them over until an enterprise-wide shift towards customer-centricity that’s a year to eighteen months away I looked at eight or ten possible packages, focusing on SaaS systems not requiring extensive implementation time/expense. SalesFORCE was one. However, because we typically recommend CRM systems with specific strengths to clients, as opposed to “well-rounded” apps, I needed a SalesFORCE refresher.

Now the fun begins. I went to the SalesFORCE website, which offers a free trial download. Of course I had to complete a form with sales follow-up information to pass “go,” and even then’s free trial system requires direct contact with me before I could download. To give SalesFORCE credit, an inside sales rep called me within minutes. He was happy to oblige with the download info—as long as I would give him sufficient information about the client to assign a sales rep to me plus reveal my client company’s name. We went around in circles for a while, with me declining to divulge information that would set up my client to receive sales calls ad nauseum. Finally, I told the bloke that if really needed this information, than I really needed to focus my investigation elsewhere. He cracked and sent me the download code.

Since then I’ve been virtually attacked by some nameless, faceless, inside sales rep he assigned to me plus another SalesFORCE person invited to the party. Until, that is, I e-mailed them all one of my Dick-o-grams making it painfully clear I expected not to hear from them again. Oh yeah, I also told them we’d already decided to narrow the search to industry verticals that are contact-centric whereas SalesFORCE is company-centric—to the point of shutting off access to any record with a contact name but not company name by anyone but the user entering the record. No point doing workarounds or asking for code changes when the application is essentially a throw-away.

End of story.

SalesFORCE wound up bugging the crap out of me from beginning to end because they want to deal directly with end-user companies, not intervening consultants. Why, when software sellers we frequently work with value our services because we keep the out of competitions they can’t win? In a word, “control.” SalesFORCE is an old school company that believes that effective marketing and sales means forcing its product into as many openings as possible, even where it doesn’t fit. Typical of this genre of sellers, SalesFORCE also believes in “controlling” customer decisions rather than consultative selling. Hey, looks like Marc Benioff is “out-Siebeling” Tom, or at least the Tom of old.

So what was the endgame here?

First, I found two very obliging vendors willing to work with us on a gap analysis between their out-of-the-box systems and my client’s basic needs—and one of the two could morph into the permanent solution.

Second, I re-remembered why I don’t like trying to do business with SalesFORCE.

Third, SalesFORCE embarrassed itself by once again revealing it doesn’t practice what it sells. There’s a world of difference between building customer relationships, a la CRM, and high-pressure sales tactics. Excuse me, but whatever happened to selling at the customer’s pace? How about selling the way customers want to be sold? Not to mention matching your selling process to the customer buying process? SalesFORCE may fanaticize it has “space age” services. But it’s definitely missing the reality that it has “dark ages” selling process.

And I, for one, am getting tired and cranky over CRM sellers who don’t have a clue about CRM. Five years ago this might have just been “my gripe,” today I’m only one of a growing chorus of complainers. SalesFORCE ought to watch its step.


  1. has had a phenomenal run of growth for several years. However, history has shown, with Siebel Systems and other tech companies, that it’s hard to keep it going indefinitely.

    In an increasingly tough economy with more competition from Microsoft too, I wonder if management is pushing too hard on reps to “just make your numbers, dammit.” That might explain some of the behavior you experienced.

    Regardless of the reason, forcing growth to meet investor’s expectations could have the same nasty consequences that befell Siebel System, or, more recently, backers of subprime mortgages in the USA.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  2. Bob – I suspect you’re absolutely right. Toynbee really nailed it with his statement about success sowing the seeds of failure.


  3. I am the decision maker, business owner and my experience was no different with salesforce. First, I had to be vetted by a guy who couldn’t answer questions and for that matter didn’t ask a lot of questions. And, then he said he would forward the next person’s contact info and I could follow up! I registered online for the 5 minute demo and appears to take 5 hours to get the damn demo.

    Questions regarding migration of data and features could not be answered. And, when I simply asked for the demo to be scheduled…I had to speak to yet another person.

    Enough. The beginning of any business relationship is at its best during the honeymoon stage and this relationship with salesforce is already frustrating me. I don’t care if they ‘re selling gold for free- The sales cycle of the company has too many layers and too many gatekeepers. Shouldn’t it be the other way around since I’m the customer?


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