Kevin Micalizzi: There are so many things you can look at in relation to a sales process, and how you run sales in your organization, what the culture looks like. And really, how you make decisions to drive the organization. Today we're going to be talking to Frank Perkins, our VP Enterprise Sales Programs at Salesforce, and he's going to shed some light on quite a few of these areas.
Frank, welcome to the podcast.
Frank Perkins: Thanks for having me.
Micalizzi: I'm Kevin Micalizzi, Executive Producer of the Quotable podcast. Let's jump into it.
So, Frank, your name has come up so many times in podcast conversations with Salesforce folks. I thought it would be a perfect time to get you into the studio, talk a little bit more about who you are, what you do, and see if you can give us some good advice. Welcome to the podcast.
Perkins: Sure, thanks for having me.
Micalizzi: And today, Scott Sugimoto, Product Marketing Manager for Sales Cloud at Salesforce, is joining us co-hosting. Welcome, Scott.
Scott Sugimoto: Glad to be here.
Micalizzi: So, Frank, your name has come up in a number of different contexts. The one that always cracked me up was the Clean Your Room! dashboard.
Micalizzi: Which I've heard isn't used as heavily just because the culture has changed here. But I'd like to get an understanding, what is it you do here at Salesforce?
Perkins: Sure. So, I'm a salesperson. Let's start there. I will always be a salesperson regardless of what role that I have. I've been with the company about eight years. Along the way, I learned something about Salesforce that I think is really special and unique. And that is that we can see what our customers are doing or not doing on that platform. And in most arenas, that's a mystery.
Perkins: Right? And a lot of times they'll buy Sales Cloud, as you know from product marketing, they'll buy Sales Cloud and they're creating a ton of cases and they have no opportunities. And if you just look at it on paper, you're like, oh, they're using Sales Cloud, but they're not. They're really using the service functionality of it.
And it kind of coincided with me personally — I have three kids, all boys — and physical fitness started to become really, really important to me just in order to keep up.
Perkins: And I had a personal trainer who put me through this intake form that was, like, insane. It was, you know, how often do you sleep? What do you eat? You know, what foods work for you, what doesn't? When are you stressed? What time of day? How do you relieve stress? It was, like, an exhaustive intake form.
Micalizzi: Right, right.
Perkins: I mean, it was really inspiring because he was asking questions that nobody had ever asked. Not like, go do this program. First, you know, what are you all about, and what are your goals. Is it flexibility? Is it endurance? Is it, you know, this or that? And he created a program for me based on what I wanted to do that was actually realistic.
Perkins: And I started to follow it. And it's a huge stress reliever to just follow a program. You've already made the decisions, do you know what I mean? And so, that was happening at the same time that I was realizing at work, we can, if we wanted to and if we could, talk to our customers and say, look, I'm your personal trainer. I have all of this data. I can see when you're sleeping, when you're eating, what's working, what isn't working.
And if I wanted to, if I care about you and I'm plugged in at that level, and if you trust me, I can create a program for you that you can just execute on and we'll tweak as we need to ongoing. But to become successful, you tell me your goals, I'll tell you how to use this thing to accomplish them.
So, I ended up essentially doing that at scale. When I was an account executive, I might be able to find an opportunity for me, a sales opportunity, with a customer based on the data. When I was an RVP and I had ten reps, I might be able to find four or five. And then once it was global, because I had a global role for a while, it was, wow, the opportunity.
If we can become trusted advisors to our customers and kind of pop that balloon of salesperson, buyer attention, and just say look, what are you trying to do? I'll tell you what we're good at and what we're not. If we can get there, then it's a total win-win. The customers get advice on how to grow at this thing. This really kind of hard to understand platform, I think, in a lot of ways, and the salesperson gets a customer who's growing, which is what they want.
And so, that's what I do now. I run a team that pays very, very close attention to the usage metrics of our customers in real time, and prescribes, we use that word a lot, ways to grow on that platform. Sometimes it's just to get back to zero. That's what prompted that adoption article that I wrote.
Micalizzi: Right, right.
Perkins: But once you're there, once you're rocking and rolling, then it's just, hey, where do I go? Should we grow — Where do those breadcrumbs go? Do they go into marketing automation? Do they go into call center tools? Do they go into forecasting? Whatever it might be.
Micalizzi: I love that approach.
Perkins: Long, roundabout answer to your question, if that makes sense.
Micalizzi: Yeah, no, definitely. And I love the thought of going into the personal trainer and they actually know the data already.
Micalizzi: So it's really a conversation about what my goals are versus having to do that painful intake process.
Perkins: Yeah. And I think what makes that model, that metaphor, work so well is, since it's automated and it's real time, the personal trainer — let's say we’re using Fitbits, right — the personal trainer could reach out to me proactively about the data, right? If all of the sudden I stopped logging my food and I stopped logging my workouts, something’s wrong.
He, or she, can reach out and say, “Hey, what's going on?” You know? And you can respond, like, “Look, I'm traveling. I have this crazy travel schedule. I'm making bad food choices in airports, and I'm not working out.” And he could say, “Hey look, here's a ten-minute workout you can do in your hotel room, and here's a list of things in airports that are usually going to be good for you.” Would that work?
So it's a proactive reach out about what I'm trying to accomplish, not a product. It's not a sales call really.
Perkins: Right? Because I hired the person to help me with this goal.
Perkins: And, so I think that that's — you know, it's a great model for selling if you can get there with your customers.
Micalizzi: So, the context it always comes up in for me is in relation to how Salesforce is using the work that your team is doing. But it sounds like this started as an external-facing or customer-facing initiative. Was it always a part of it to apply it to how we run the business at Salesforce?
Perkins: No. I didn't really care. I just wanted to hit my number. You know, when you become an RVP at Salesforce, or anywhere actually, when you run a sales team, you have to care about people other than yourself. It's always such a big jump, to be honest, because a lot of salespeople, let's be honest, are, you know, they're hunters.
Let me go kill what I eat. It's the best job in the world if you can do that well. It really is. If you can make money and have a good work-life integration as a salesperson— you find me a better job, I think. You know?
You know, great salespeople make more than brain surgeons, with a whole lot less schooling, you know?
So, when I was using that same process for a team, then it became empowering them. Hey, did you know, if you can get your customer to trust you, right, you've only called them to sell them something the past three years. That's it. If you can maybe have a call about their business, about their process, show how you listen, show curiosity.
And not as a tactic, but genuinely, actually be curious about what their business is all about. And also them as individuals. Then you can maybe get a playing field there where you can start to make recommendations that will be a win-win.
Sugimoto:: So Frank, you mention, and I read that article that you wrote on LinkedIn, and it's really great. The whole title is "How Do I Get My Sales Team to Use the CRM 100% of the Time?"
Sugimoto:: And what comes out in the article, as well as in a meeting that we had where you came and spoke to the whole team, you like to get right to the point. And I think with sales you mention that, for sales, the main thing is making my number. It's not using my CRM and putting in all the data, like a lot of companies try to put that on their salespeople.
Can you talk more about that? Just the relationship between sales and their CRM, and how companies can best make that connection with sales, and the tools that they're using in general?
Micalizzi: It's a great question, especially because that's central to giving you the data you need to make those calls.
Perkins: Totally, yeah. One of the best parts about working at Salesforce and selling to salespeople is you get to meet so many different cultures. I mean, having done this for eight years, I've been in, you know, inside call centers in rural Texas where they're pitching insurance.
I've been in manufacturing sales floors where a sale cycle is two years and they're selling to Boeing, you know. And I've met with VPs of sales. I've also been to almost every Salesforce office, so I've seen how we've done this internally.
Perkins: Yeah. I remember one time in southern California, myself and another account executive. We had a two-hour meeting with two VPs of sales, and it did not go very well. We were really just trying to listen to them, but we came out in the parking lot, looked at each other, and we were like, oh my god, I would never work at that company no matter what.
I don't care if their product was the greatest thing since sliced bread and they were paying me 3X what I'm doing now. I just wouldn't work there. Because everything was sticks, no carrots. Why doesn't my team do this, why doesn't my team do that. And then I've been on the other side. I've seen ones that really work. So, culture is definitely a big part of it.
But I think what you're getting at with your question is, how people use a CRM, and what that relationship is like. Here's how it's supposed to work, I think, is that the CRM helps you make your number, right?
If it doesn't do that, don't use it. Otherwise, what are you doing? What is it? And so, if you're a salesperson, your job's to hit that number. And the way that time management works is if there's something that's getting in the way of that, you should not do that. So, the first question I always ask is, can I close a deal at your company without using the CRM?
If the answer is yes, then I should not use it, and you should say that. We should all just agree there. I should not do this because every hour I spend not selling, not trying to hit my number, is a wasted hour.
Perkins: So, if you can design the CRM so that the act of completing the CRM is not separate from the act of selling, then it's the win-win. I think that what everybody really needs to do, and the thing that I always talk to VPs of sales about is, is there a way to sell your product or service? Is there a way. They'll say, oh, there's lots of different ways. But is there an official way? Have you done the research? And if you haven't done the research, maybe buy some.
There's Miller Heiman, there's Sandler, there's the complex sale. There's all types of sales methodologies out there. You need to invest in one and see which one works. At Salesforce we did a survey to create our own. And one of the biggest things that’s different about our company and others is our methodology is right there in the opportunity record. It's in the CRM.
It's almost like, you know, when I hired reps I would say, look, I hired you because you're awesome, first of all. You don't get into Salesforce unless you're, you know, you've been successful. And you can do all kinds of awesome things at this company, but do this.
Do these ten things. Ask the customer, in your own words, what are you trying to get out of Salesforce? That's part of our process. Red flags, can you tell me all the things that would just blow this up? I want to hear from you, you know, why now? Compelling event, right? And there's seven or eight of these things, and you have to put those into the CRM.
To use the workout person analogy, it's like, I walk in there with the workout program. Do four sets of these, six sets of that, here's the rest period, here's the intensity level, etcetera. And if you execute on the program, chances are, for the most amount of people, it's going to work, it's going to scale.
So, if the reps believe that the CRM is going to help them sell, and they use it like a way to stay on course. Wait, I didn't ask this customer what the red flags were, that's a problem, I've got to remember that. So I got in the habit of just filling that thing out while I was on the phone. I would literally just skip over the next field. Hey, Mr. Customer, tell me, you want to do this, you said six months is your decision cycle on here, what could blow this up?
And then I would just list it out, and then I'd go to the next one. You know, who else are you looking at, because you want to get competitors. Then I'd save the record and move on to the next thing. Now, if your reps do that, then the managers can report on that at scale. And that's really the secret sauce at Salesforce, is that our managers, two degrees up, can run a report at any time of day or night that says, show me all my opportunities over $100,000, where's there's no compelling event.
Or there's no partner [attacked] or, you know, name the criteria, and they can take action immediately on specifically those opportunities in intra-quarter decisions that will move the needle. So, it's like sailing, right? They're going to move the sale two degrees to the left, but we're going to be in a different country by the end of the quarter.
Micalizzi: Yep, mm-hmm.
Perkins: And you can't do that if the reps aren't using the CRM. If the CRM was sold to them as a management reporting tool, you're going to be in a tough spot.
Micalizzi: Not going to happen.
Micalizzi: So, from a process perspective, I'd kind of equate, using your analogy of the personal training, I think a lot of folks that I've spoken with see the CRM as kind of giving you that process, which is not necessarily a good thing. That would be like going to the personal trainer, and instead of having a customized workout for you to reach your goals, they're just handing you, here's the packaged workout of the week.
I'm curious what you recommend to folks for finding that process. Is it really taking a packaged one, one of the major programs out there? Or taking that Salesforce approach and really figuring out, okay, what has been working, and let's crystallize this, let's make it explicit.
Perkins: Right. And that's kind of the art. Finding the right sales methodology for your tool, for whatever it is, for your product or service, is incredibly difficult. Automating it, though, you do have lots of choices, right? Whether or not a field is on there, that's a choice.
How it's worded is a choice. The little help menu on describing what that field is asking for. Whether that field is required or not, right? And then, whether or not your manager will require it. Let's call them foundational milestones.
Perkins: I think, I would say that every single company can at least settle on six, seven things that you have to do, right? You have to understand why now? You have to understand what the customer is trying get on it, how they measure success.
And then basic things, like who makes the decision, stuff like that. So, I don't think it's a complete mystery to be able to do that. Probably does take some time. You know, there's the Pareto principle, right? You just run a report of all the people that are closing deals, right? Usually you'll find 20% of the reps closing 80% of the deals. You want to understand those 20%.
I would even say you split off the top five because they're just on another level. There's greatness in every discipline, sports, everything. There is greatness, there are people that are just born with it that just will always succeed at your company, or somebody else's.
Those aren't usually the qualities that you can scale out, but in the middle of that top 20, there's usually some replicable actions that you can take and build into the record and start small. The art comes in if you go too small, you don't have the data you need to make decisions. If you go too big, then you've bumped the flow, which is a complete cardinal sin, I think, as a VP of sales, to waste the time of your own reps?
Micalizzi: Oh, yeah.
Perkins: Worst thing you can do, because time and communication —those two things are what sales is all about. Time management, and then the art of communication. If you can knock those two things down and master those, you're going to be successful in this business.
Sugimoto:: And I love what you're saying there about looking at the sales process and really figuring out what's the most effective thing that you can do for your reps. I used to do Salesforce implementations for six years, and that's what we saw. A lot of companies wanted to make a lot of fields required just to make sure they had all the data in the system.
But if you made too many, a lot of sales reps wouldn't even use the CRM just because it was too much work and too much time. So, I think looking at the sales process is so important to this entire thing about marrying the CRM with helping the salespeople do their job more effectively.
Perkins: Salespeople need to own it, right? You know, at too many — since you've done a lot of implementations, you've probably seen ones where IT owns it completely, right? No knock on IT, but unless you've carried a bag and taken bullets for an entire year trying to feed your family, you just know, you just don't know.
It's like somebody who's never been a chef to come in and set up a chef's station so he can handle the rush. Where do I put the knives, where do I put this? No. Only somebody who has dealt with that rush can design it. So I think, you know, finding who in the company can be an ambassador from sales and sit with IT, if IT is going to do all the work, which usually they do, to say look, should this field be required or not?
And then it's a balance. Well, what do we get from a reporting standpoint? Now, I personally think the compelling event field is so, so, so important for almost everything. That is a must.
Micalizzi: Right. If there isn't a motivator, then you could have all the conversations in the world and it's not going anywhere.
Perkins: Exactly. I can't think of a product or solution where knowing the compelling event wouldn't be. You know, a lot of people say, at Salesforce, they'll say, hey, the compelling event is they don't have a CRM, right? Well, I don't have a Ferrari, right? That's not a compelling event for me to buy a Ferrari.
Compelling event actually doesn't have to do with need; it has to do with time. Why now? And so that's one, as an example, that would be required. IT might not even know the benefit of that. Only a sales manager would know, to be able to look across 100 opportunities and see the ones that don't have a compelling event and reach out and go to the rep and say, hey, have you asked them why now?
They haven't had a CRM for five years? Do they lose their job if they go another five? Is there any reason why they would change? Another workout analogy there, right? We all know what it takes to get healthy. Why now? Or quit smoking, or whatever it is. That the key piece.
So, you know, going back to how to create that record. There's five or six things in every sale that are critical.
Micalizzi: Right, that have to happen, or you're not really moving toward the sale.
Perkins: Right. Milestones in the sales process, right, where you've crossed the milestone, you don't need to go back. Is ROI a milestone for a 5K order? Probably not. For a $2 million order, yeah, there's probably going to be an ROI study that needs to pass the CFO's desk. And so that, based on the opportunity amount, other things, certain things will be required.
Micalizzi: So, I'm guessing a lot of your work is more, let's say, top down. So you're working with the sales leadership and kind of guiding them on what to do. What do you recommend for a rep who's, how do you say it delicately? Let's say, in a scenario where there really isn't that clear process, or they're really not driving sales the best way possible as an organization. What do you recommend they do? Just kind of wing it on their own?
Perkins: Well, like I said, when somebody joins, I say, do this. In our case, the company has already made a decision. This is what works. So, like anything, you have to get a baseline, like a forecast. You have to create a forecast model, run it for a year, and then see if it's plus twenty or minus twenty and then you can tweak it.
I think the same thing with a rep. What is your process? In the absence of one that you have with yourself, here's the one that we're running. You run this, and we'll see. If they're not running a part of that, then you have some direction on how you can coach and how you can tweak. And if it's not working at all, you have leverage there that you can pull.
But yeah, asking somebody to create an effective way to sell a new product to them on their own is a little bit unfair.
Micalizzi: Totally agreed.
Perkins: But it happens all the time because I think —
Micalizzi: I think there are people who still run fairly large sales teams off spreadsheets.
Perkins: Yeah. I was thinking this earlier today too, that there's still a lot of mystery about sales. I think that people — you know, luck is a big factor in sales. Somebody wrote a great article about this. I wish I could remember the title. But about, don't discount luck.
And luck is a factor. You know, just, hey, there's external market conditions that drive something happening this year in an industry, and all of a sudden you're in that industry, you're in that vertical. But it's not such a mystery that sales leaders can say, hey, you're good, you've been good at other companies. Come on over here and let me know what you need.
Perkins: Do you know what I mean? It's like, there has to be some sort of process that you believe in that you lead with, you know?
Perkins: X's and O's, you know? Here's a play for this, here's a play for that. Let's run these and see if they work.
Micalizzi: Yeah, and belief is such a large part of selling. If you don't believe in what you're selling and what you're doing, then —
Perkins: Yeah, I've been lucky in my career with that. I've worked at Apple and Salesforce, basically it. And a lot of people actually bring that up and say, this relationship that I was talking about earlier that you want to get to with your customers where they trust you. If you've ever had a career, or a span of your career, where you've had to sell a solution that you didn't believe in, I never had that.
I get that that happens sometimes, but that's something to work through. It really, really is. Are they the right prospect for you? And I think the fact that that happens at all in our business creates problems on both sides, and a lack of trust. And there needs to be a way for a customer to figure out whether this rep just wants to hit their number, or they want to help them.
This career works when both of those things are happening, and that's the best. That's why I say where it's the best. If my customer wants to increase their sales, and CRM can help them do that, I sell them CRM. I make money, they increase their sales, and it's such a win-win. Sometimes that doesn't happen, you know? So, the belief needs to be there for sure, that what you're doing for the customer is going to help.
Sugimoto:: It seems like what's core to having a good sales organization, or company, it's always going to be top-down, right? So, a lot of times this comes from sales leadership, and really the culture around sales that they've put together in the company. Can you go into what makes for a good sales culture?
What should sales managers be cultivating within their company in order to get the best out of their reps, and make sure that they're really helping them sell their products to their customers, and helping them build that relationship and try and help the customers. Perkins: Yeah. I'm smiling because that's a hard one. It's one of those things, like, you know it when you see it. So much is in the hiring. Aaron Katz, who hired me to Salesforce, I would often ask. We had a great team culture, and I would ask him about similar questions like this. How do you grow this, you know? How do you maintain the culture? How do you keep everybody jazzed about it?
And he would always say, it's in the hiring. It's almost like, for a movie, do you cast a great actor to pretend to be this person, or do you cast somebody who already kind of is that person, right? So, I think that getting the right people in is absolutely critical. And outside of that, I think there's a disconnect on, is sales a team sport, right?
Everybody who's in management will say that but it's kind of like a company line. I've been a rep, killing myself trying to hit a $2 million quota, let's say, and then you go to one of these team meetings where the manager is like, all right guys, we've got to hit $15 million dollars. And you're like, that might as well be a bazillion dollars.
Like, how do I — I can't even — What can I do? I'm doing everything I can here. And so, on top of that, every week, I see a list of names, my teammates, stack ranked against each other. And so are they my teammates, or are they my mortal enemies?
And it's hard. Salesforce, I think, does a great job. First of all, driving work-life integration, which actually is, I think, incredibly important. Both, actually, in CRM adoption, and in just team culture. If people are feeling like this job that they have isn't a massive burden on them, but it fits with their overall life, that they're still able to hit their commitments to family and to their health, that goes a long way.
Just give me a room full of people that are stressed out and haven't gone to the gym, and are, you know, missing their kids because they're not seeing them a lot, traveling a lot. And then give me another team who's doing all those things, and still successful. The culture is definitely going to always be better.
So, one thing is hiring. One thing is ensuring work-life balance. I know on my team, what we do at the start of each quarter, we look at, we have this little methodology, we go through, we look at our whole life on eight different pillars, and we stack rank them. And it's actually pretty rare that work, career, is number one for that quarter.
And that's really important to know as a manager, because look, it's not going to be. Sometimes your wife is sick, your son is sick. You know, your in-laws just moved into your house. Who knows? But you can have stressors on your life that are going to occupy the majority of your headspace for that three-month span.
Acknowledging that, not feeling like you have to hide that from your sales manager, pops the tension balloon a little bit and makes us all feel like, look, we're not drones here. We're human beings trying to accomplish this task. And I think when everybody feels like we're all sharing that, then it does go a long way to feel like we're all in this together.
The other piece is, you know, you get a base. You're not 100% commission. You do get a base. And there are things that you have to do that only matter in the aggregate, right? This is like a lot of work that I do. It's difficult running certain programs where it doesn't actually matter to that individual account executive if they close a deal worth, let's say, $20,000.
But I need five people to do that on this team this quarter, then it's material. And so, you know, on the individual relationship front, there has to be a buy in that we are all in this together. And Salesforce does a lot of team events and things like that. Volunteer events are absolutely critical for that. You just know. You guys have been in this situation. I'm sure you walk into your co-workers and you just feel like you're a part of something. That goes a long way. Incredibly hard to scale out though. But yeah, it's a factor.
Micalizzi: But if it's a part of your culture, then I think it does become easier for managers to cultivate that feeling because it's kind of expected.
Perkins: I had a customer. I won't name them, but a bank in the Miami area, who had, their whole CRM was run by three MBAs. Never sold before, but they knew technology and they knew business. And stick after stick after stick. Penalties for not filling out this thing, like we'll doc your commissions if you don't submit your forecasts on this day, and all this kind of stuff.
And, they were asking us, why isn't this working? Like, what's going on? And we're like, this is terrible.
Micalizzi: Because everyone's afraid of doing something wrong.
Perkins: Right. I don't want to touch the thing because every time I do I get in trouble. And it comes down to just treating people like human beings, and putting yourself in their position. Would I want to do that? If the answer is no, then you shouldn't really expect somebody else to have that. Or, you know, figure out a [spiff] or some other way to get them to do it.
Sugimoto:: I like what you're talking about. Like, the culture and how important it is. I know that, you know, people have a lot of stressors in their lives, right? So, what you'll see a lot of times is there are really good people, something happens in their personal life, and maybe their productivity goes down. But it's not because they're not a good worker, it's just, they have other things that are going on. Once that’s out of the way, they'll get back to what they were doing before.
But I feel we're always — a lot of companies always judge, all the time, you have to be hitting your number all the time. You have to be working hard all the time. But, you know, I think Salesforce does a really good job of making sure that we're all treated like humans and we have things in our lives that are going on, so, you know, be up and down. But they support us, and we're a family, right?
Perkins: Knowing the ebbs and flows of the business too. Like, we're on a yearly fiscal calendar, and yearly sales cycles in a lot of ways. Right now is the hard time. You know, and I look at things like, right now activity, things are like stuck in stages, things are going a little bit slow. And it's Q3 for us right now. This is a grind. If you have a yearly sales cycle and you're trying to close it by the end of January, this is the hard part.
This is the part where, you know, a question on, hey, where are you at with this? It might be better put, how are you doing with this? Like, how are you doing? Do you need help? Can we give you some extra resources? Just acknowledging that this is incredibly hard to do, and to do well, knowing the flow of that business and preparing for it.
You know, this is the time where extra scrutiny probably won't do much good. It might have the opposite effect, right? So a little bit of understanding right now. Now, in Q1, where it's, everybody needs to get out there, meet your customers, get an understanding of their business. That's when you need to drive the activity and be a little more of a taskmaster. So knowing the seasonality of your business I think is critical for culture development.
Micalizzi: I really want to dig into to what you measure for those organizations you're helping. But I'm actually thinking let's talk a little bit more around the topics we've been on. And I'm going to drag you back in because I think that one merits a 25-minute podcast conversation on what you look at, what you measure for these organizations you're helping.
So, even ones who wouldn't necessarily be in a position to work with you and your team, what should they be looking at? That kind of thing.
Perkins: You mean internally at Salesforce?
Micalizzi: No, I mean as an external customer.
Sugimoto:: Like what data they should be looking at, you know.
Micalizzi: What data. What kind of dashboards should they create and follow on a regular basis.
Perkins: Well, you mentioned Clean Your Room! earlier. There's a whole bunch of dashboards around Salesforce. I didn't invent Clean Your Room! There's Clean Your Room!, there's Shake the Tree, there's Find a Nickel, there's Flip a Couch Cushion. You know, there's all kinds of dashboards like that out there. The reason we can create those is because people generally use the CRM.
So I can — And a lot of what I do actually is prescribing based on data, right? To use the personal trainer analogy again, if we see a dip in, if somebody stops logging things, right? That's an indicator and I can reach out. The same things with us. So if a customer is using lots of our, they bought Sales Cloud, let's say, and they're using, all of a sudden, a lot of custom tabs, a lot of custom objects.
You know, they start using Workflow. This is Salesforce-specific stuff here. These are indicators that the customer has had what I call, you know, the light bulb popped. Where they're like, oh my gosh, I bought an app, but it's really a platform.
Sometimes we try to drive them to get that light bulb to go off, but sometimes it just goes off. Sometimes Salesforce's success is because of the app itself. It's like an amoeba; it just eats things around it, all these Excel spreadsheets and stuff.
And so you can see that and say, hey, if you're doing this, this is great. First of all, tell me about it. A lot of people will not dig into that curiosity. I think I'm a little bit lucky in that because I actually am curious. I'm just geeky on the technology a little bit, so I want to know. Forty-nine custom objects in 60 days? What are you doing? You know, what happened?
Micalizzi: Or what do you need that the platform isn't doing for you.
Perkins: Yeah, and they'll say, well, I'm building this. I went to this course, or I watched this video on YouTube and now, we have this awful expense management spreadsheet, I'm going to bring that into Salesforce. All right, awesome. Do you want a sandbox? It's much easier to build stuff in there. You don't have to break anything. Yeah, that might work, let me see.
So now it's like, I'm not selling you. I am, but I'm not selling you just out of the blue without regard to what it is that you're trying to accomplish. I say something that indicated you might need this, and in the discussion, let's bring that up. I think that that's the foundation for growing accounts. On a platform like ours, and I realize not everybody has that amount of data, or an application that's that broad, but that's the way to do it.
Perkins: I do meet with customers a lot that ask us this question. How do I cross-sell and upsell, right? And it ends up coming down to, well, what data do you have? And there's two things. First is that Salesforce has so much data, right, a lot of metadata that we can use. Not every customer has that, but the foundational idea I think is that the people trying to help their reps get more successful, I think would be better served by, instead of focusing on those reps, to first focus on their customers, first.
I bet you, in every company that we talk with, there's about 1,000 customers that they really want to get into. Or you could ask them to come up with a list of the top 1,000 customers. Now, it might make sense to focus on them through research alone to figure out what these customers are trying to accomplish and come up with what we call a value hypothesis.
Once you have that, a prediction, or a hypothesis of how you think your product or service would impact that customer, then you can enroll your account executive, versus going right to them and saying, sell this product, sell this product. You know, figure out how to get it in to that company. It's a better use of everybody's time. They're executives. They're executing on the strategy.
Too often, companies will ask the account executives to create their own strategy for that. Gartner says it's 70% — I think it's Gartner — 70% of buying decisions now, for enterprise software, happened before the prospect communicates with the seller.
But I think the reverse is going to be true as well. I think that we can accomplish about 70% of the sales process before we even reach out. If we understand what's happening with the customer, what the competitive situation is, what their market situation is, what they're investing in right now, what problems they're dealing with, we can reach out and say, hey, let me show you what I think here.
Here's the assumptions that I'm making. Here's the research that I've done. Here's what I think, you know, how this might benefit you. That's just way more effective than saying, AEs, go figure it out, right? So that's kind of the building blocks of what it is that we do.
Micalizzi: Excellent. And they may be looking — if the customer is looking at buying your product, then you come in knowledgeable, knowing that, hey, this makes sense for you. And they're like, oh yeah, we thought the same thing too. You're sort of meeting them in the middle.
Perkins: That's the best.
Micalizzi: Right, such great emphasis on why it's so important to have all your data in your CRM and really build up that base of information that you can use to improve your sales.
Perkins: Yeah. I think the problem — So, Mark Cuban said, the model said to do it, will be the most politically charged phrase of the next decade, and I completely agree. The problem isn't that the models are great and predictive, because they are. The problem comes in the hand off to sales. Because if you're an account executive, you've had an account for a year, and sales is hard, you're trying to develop relationships, all this kind of stuff.
All of the sudden this geek in the home office says he predicts they're going to do this or that. It's almost defensive. Like, what are you talking about? I know these people.
Micalizzi: These are my people.
Perkins: These are my people, what are you thinking? So, it's almost like somebody calls you out of the blue and says, hey, I'm with the Subaru dealership down the street, and there's a 91% chance you're going to buy a Subaru Outback in the next 18 month, right? That's probably what sales is going to be like in the future. Some version of that. But your first response is why? What are you talking about?
And they're going to have a set of data. Let's say, well, I noticed you have a 4Runner and the lease is coming up. I noticed that you're a skier because you've checked in three times to Squaw Valley on Facebook. I notice that you have three kids so you're going to need something with — you know, whatever the data is. And you're going to want to listen to that.
You might be part of the 10% that's not going to buy it, but you want to hear that. I think that that's probably, some form of that, is how a lot of sales conversations are going to be. You know, I mean you can see it now with Equifax, right, this massive security — Every single security company on the planet probably is thinking there's a reason here to go talk with Equifax right now. A massive data breach. Like the worst in the history of the United States.
And that's a macro event, but there's tons of little, small indicators that you, if you're paying attention, can use to go out and get that conversation [unintelligible] make sense.
Micalizzi: Right, and definitely, I think in terms of the data driving those decisions and those recommendations, I think as more reps see it bear fruit, then it just becomes a natural way of working.
Perkins: That's the key.
Micalizzi: It is a competitive edge, and I know we talk about it being a competitive edge using that data, artificial intelligence, that kind of thing. But until it actually delivers value to the reps, it's still going to be an, okay, maybe, maybe not. Maybe you know what you're talking about, maybe you don't.
Perkins: Yeah. Like I said in that article. Until they have that experience of looking at their bank statement and seeing the extra zero or two zeroes because of something that data showed them, you're not done. You've got to keep going for that. You're probably done with that person now that they're a believer, but sometimes it's different. Sometimes it's just getting meetings, right?
The whole BASHO email methodology, if you're familiar with that. It's like, why you? Why you now? That can work too. It does work. It can work turning that light bulb on for the AE when they're like, okay, I'm going to use this to get the meeting. They're done, they get it. They've now bought in that that's the model.
But we do need to get there with every rep. That they need to see a financial, because that's the business that they're in, reward for something that data did. Until that happens, it's going to be something new and interesting, not something real.
Micalizzi: So, I want to ask you our lightning round question. If you could take all your knowledge and experience that you have now, go back to the beginning of your career, and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?
Perkins: I think I would say that, to have a plan and work the plan, and that it will be okay.
Perkins: I think that that's so much of — we were talking about culture earlier — so many things that make sales difficult at a big scale is there's so much worry all the time.
When sales isn't working it's the most stressful thing ever. You know, you're in a job where you have to kill what you eat, essentially, for a large portion of your comp plan and how you're going to survive. And there's so much worry. But if you can create a plan, it will work out.
All coming back to the personal trainer thing again. If you're trying to lose weight, if you eat less than you burn, and that's it, you're going to lose weight. It's a mathematical conclusion. Like, it's going to happen.
And I think we have so much calories burned, as a bad metaphor there, or worry about whether this is going to work. It's like, look, come in, punch the clock, make your dials, get your demos. Whatever your business is, right? Do your research, reach out, try to get meetings. If you create the plan that you believe in and then you work that plan, you really shouldn't worry that much and it will be okay.
I didn't believe any of that when I was a kid — Almost said when I was a kid. I feel like I was a kid when I first started in sales. But I was just terrified all the time. Like, is this going to work? Am I going to hit my number? And I probably benefited a lot from that worry because it motivated me. But it was probably a lot of needless stress earlier in my career. That if I just believed in what I was doing and executed on it, that it would work out. So, yeah.
Micalizzi: Great advice. Awesome. Frank, thank you for coming in and joining us.
Perkins: Sure. Thanks for having me.
Micalizzi: And Scott, thanks for jumping in.
Sugimoto:: Yeah, no problem.