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Salesforce.com’s 2011 Dreamforce conference is under way. If you’re in sales and you use the company’s application, here’s how to gain the most value from your time at the conference. 

Today, For background, we need to note that Salesforce.com is not as focused on the sales force as it once was years ago, now concentrating more on application development, collaboration, mobility, database and cloud computing advancements to address the needs of IT who is readily engaging into this method of software usage. All of these are useful underlying capabilities that a sales force might use, but they are not aligned with the critical sales activities and processes. If you use Salesforce.com for sales force automation (SFA) in managing accounts, contacts and opportunities, we advise you to link it to a larger management and operational process that we call sales performance management and now are doing some new research. Our ongoing research into this topic shows that sales organizations require a portfolio of applications to support this process, but that two-thirds of organizations are not satisfied that SFA is meeting their needs. 

Salesforce.com does have a framework for sales called the Sales Cloud that addresses sales representatives’ basic needs in managing accounts and contacts, entering opportunities and quotes, working through approvals and workflow along with analytics. The company will be introducing some new capabilities, including basic sales forecasting, but that will not match the current class of sales forecasting available from its partners such as Cloud9 that I just assessed. Salesforce does deliver auxiliary collaboration with Chatter, email and calendaring and the ability to augment its contacts in an account with its purchase of Jigsaw. It has been steadily advancing its capabilities for mobile technologies including smartphones and tablets. It also recently released its Account Viewer, an iPad app that lets managers and account sales teams access account and related information as part of a review or visit. 

It’s a good thing Salesforce isn’t standing still, because Oracle and SAP are entering this market with cloud and mobile-based SFA offerings. My analyses of Oracle and SAP found they have covered the basics of SFA and provide more functionality for sales managers and management, which should provide new competition for Salesforce.com. Microsoft is rapidly becoming competitive with its new offerings and move into cloud computing. 

Dreamforce has grown so big that picking out what matters for sales professionals is not easy. There is much focus on cloud computing, collaboration, mobility, analytics and social media at the conference, and these are important topics that we have outlined as the business technology innovations of the decade. The secret behind Salesforce.com’s strategy is its enterprise software in the cloud, and the diatribes on technology-related advancements in cloud computing will be overwhelming.  

Still you need to determine what applications fit best for your sales organization. At Dreamforce you will find a number of sessions that are valuable for sales operations and management staffs. I am looking forward to “LinkedIn for Salesforce: Close Deals Faster with Insights for Your Pipeline” and “Mobile Crash-Course for Busy Sales Executives.” “iPad Revolution: How Going Mobile Will Transform and Boost Sales Efficiency” will get you thinking about the use of mobile technology for your sales organization. I also suggest “Social Selling: Rising Above the Noise to Drive Sales Performance” and “The Future of Comp (Hint: It is not Excel).” If you are trying to see whether Salesforce will go beyond the basic projections of opportunity records and align to the forecasting process, stop into “Forecasting Best Practices and a Sneak Peak at the NEW Forecasting Application.” I would also not miss “Sales Cloud Roadmap: A Sneak Peak into the Future” to see if Salesforce will advance further into sales performance management, and “Roadmap Sneak Peak: The Future of Analytics in Salesforce” to see what the company plans to do about sales analytics, which our benchmark research shows needs serious improvement from the wide use of spreadsheets and generic reporting and dashboards.  

At the Dreamforce expo you can find a wide range of dedicated sales applications, some of which are more likely than others to be worth your time, but the show floor will be chaotic and there is no “sales cloud” area on the show floor. The quick guide below starts with sales-related vendors who have the smallest booths, and works up to those with higher sponsorship levels and investments. 

At the Bronze level, see what Merced Systems is offering in Sales Performance Management 4.0, which I recently assessed. Stop by Qvidian, which has been advancing the art of sales playbooks and proposals in applications, as I just assessed; it could be one of the gems of the show for sales. If you are trying to improve the science of territory and quota optimization, stop by TerrAlign to see how the largest and most complex sales forces optimize their sales organizations. Zyme, which my colleague Robert Kugel recently assessed, helps you gain control of your channel through data integrity. If you care about pricing and profitability, see Vendavo and Zilliant, both of which have been helping B2B organizations for years. 

At the Silver level, ChannelInsight provides applications to help manage channels sales, a critical area of focus for many who depend on distribution and reseller channels. Also Varicent, from our analysis is one of the fastest-growing providers of sales performance management specializing in sales compensation and incentives, along with quotas and territories and sales analytics. 

At the Gold level, Callidus Software is a long-time provider of applications for sales management and operations, and was rated a Hot Vendor in our Value Index for Sales Performance Management. It has been integrating talent management into its sales portfolio through acquisitions that started with that of ForceLogix in 2010. If you care about configuration, pricing and quoting in your sales organization to maximize margins and pricing more immediately, stop by Camelon Software. Cloud9 has just expanded to provide intelligent sales forecasting to complement its pipeline management, as I just assessed. Xactly is showing its rapidly growing suite of sales performance management; we rated the company a Hot Vendor, and it provides a range of applications for the sales organization. My latest analysis of Xactly shows significant growth of capabilities in its 7.1 release. 

At the Titanium level, if you are looking to arm your inside sales and accounts teams with maturing leads that might be ripe enough to sell to, you will find Marketo has expanded its footprint to provide a sales application called Marketo Sales Insight that is worth checking out. 

There will be a lot to cover for sales professionals. I will be busy assessing the latest from Salesforce.com and dozens of its partners as part of my preparation for the 2011 Value Index for Sales Performance Management. Our 2010 version indicated that Salesforce still has a way to go to reach Hot Vendor status. We are also busy with our latest benchmark research in sales to determine your priorities for more efficient sales processes from management to operations to sales teams, all aimed at gaining the best possible outcomes.  

Dreamforce should be a good event for those in sales teams. Make sure to network with your peers in the sessions, as the rest of the event will be chaotic, with attendance well beyond even Salesforce.com’s expectations. I too will be looking to see how I can get the best return on my Salesforce.com investment that we use for SFA, and whether our firm should continue using it. If you are in sales and want to track me down and catch up, find me on Twitter at @marksmithvr, and we can talk about providing you with ways to get inexpensive access to our research and consultations.  

Regards, 

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

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