Seventy-two days, and 57 hours. Those time periods are what caused me to write this blog. Both numbers surprised me greatly.
Seventy-two days is the amount of time cut from the process of opening a new restaurant in New York City over just the past few years. A $50 million increase in sales and a $9 million increase in tax revenue last year were directly attributable to that advance. How was it possible? The city’s Department of Small Business Services used a Salesforce.com platform to streamline the process for restaurateurs in obtaining licenses from a dozen previously unconnected agencies. I learned this in a session last Wednesday at the Salesforce World Tour and I had planned to run this amazing example of better living through data as news on Thursday.
Here’s where the 57 hours came in. I am only reporting it now because that’s how long it took Salesforce to get me the name of the person who related that story, the city agency’s Deputy Commissioner Robinson Hernandez. No attributable source, no news. Hernandez’s name popped up on the presentation screen at the Salesforce session for about two seconds before fading away like a Snapchat post. No time to write it down. I would have asked him his name myself at the end of the session, but I had to leave early for the exhibit floor.
Later, I checked the program for his name. No names of speakers were printed on the agenda. So I figured, no problem, I’ll ask someone at the press office. The folks at the “Press and Analysts Room” were really nice and gave me a delicious boxed lunch, but they couldn’t serve up Robinson’s name. In fact, of the half dozen or so Salesforce reps in the room, all but one were dedicated to helping the analysts who write the product review reports that affect Salesforce’s sales. I did meet one press officer named Dane who promised to email me, but when I asked his for his card so I could follow up, he said he didn’t have one.
Odd, isn’t it, that a company that charges sales and marketing organizations $300 per screen to supply names and contact information for qualified, in-the-market buyers has a hard time providing their own names or the names of people speaking on their behalf? Dane still hasn’t gotten back to me.
On Thursday I contacted Salesforce’s outside PR rep, who put me onto an in-house person named Joe, who commiserated with my plight and sent me the link to the website of the Small Business commission. What he did not send me was Mr. Hernandez’s name and title. The search was still on for the mystery speaker. Were I a linen supply salesperson who used Salesforce, this would be like the cloud telling me that someone at Hilton Hotels was really interested in buying my product, but they could not tell me who that someone was.
Joe did get me Hernandez’s name on Friday at 8 p.m. when I was long gone from the office and wouldn’t be writing another thing until Monday. So, no news story was to appear extolling Salesforce’s acumen at cutting through red tape like a machete. The Salesforce press people lost the sale and got this blog instead.
Look, I’m not laying out this saga to get back at Salesforce for treating the analysts better than me. I’ve been at this long enough to know that PR people don’t kiss up to us media hacks because we’re so great, but because reaching one of us with a positive story can mean reaching hundreds or even thousands of potential customers who read us.
No, I write this to make the point that digital methods can be magical, but they are worthless without old-fashioned, personal follow-through. Even when that linen salesperson does get the name of that buyer, he’s not going to win the account without gripping that lady’s hand, forging a personal relationship with her, and gaining her trust.
In the B2B arena where Salesforce rules, losing personal touch with the real people who pay your salary is a mistake. This was evidenced when CEO Marc Benioff cancelled his keynote appearance at the last minute and was replaced by Vice Chairman Keith Block. Something tells me it’s been a while since Block called on a client. After extolling the achievements of clients Coca-Cola and the Girl Scouts of America, Block made an offhand remark that he’d love to partake in those products but his doctor wouldn’t approve. Now, I know you can buy and sell me a billion times over, Mr. Block, but take a tip from an old sales guy: Don’t suggest that your clients’ products are unhealthy, especially in their presence–and most especially with a few thousand other clients looking on.
Perfection’s hard. People jump and swipe at it with utmost exertion. They rarely come close. Salesforce comes a lot closer than most. But digital alone doesn’t cut it. Sometimes you need to make personal contact to get questions answered and to make a sale. And business cards. C’mon Salesforce, buy your people some business cards. You can afford it.