Salesforce.com announced its “gamechanger” at today’s Dreamforce conference keynote: the introduction of Salesforce Chatter which incorporates microblog capabilities into the CRM platform. To paraphrse blogger and heavy Twitter user Robert Scoble: “How much Twitter Koolaid did Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO drink this morning? This much…”
Can they pull it off and change the way sales organizations work? Can these organizations evolve from walled garden type processes to something more akin to the way sharing happens on Twitter or Facebook? The short answer is “maybe”.
There’s plenty of coverage on capabilities so I’ll focus on an adoption issue that is rather nuanced one. Chatter isn’t terribly revolutionary, but the move is significant in that it should quell any remaining illusion that microblogs are not for those who “get real work done.” Terrific. However, microblogs have proven successful in lines of work involving collaboration and serendipity among several individuals working on similar problems. Microblogs are particularly powerful when it comes to distributed work where combining yields work far more valuable than the sum of the parts. But the people who use salesforce are, well, sales people. They’re not known for collaborative work and typically sport a rather independent nature. That nature is reinforced by management policies encouraging competitive hunger (good thing) and individual achivement (good thing in some ways, bad in others).
For example, I can’t see a salesperson using Chatter to “tweet” something like “Can I offer flexible terms” or “I need help to close a deal”:
For the intended users of Chatter, it becomes a bit more of a medium to broadcast issues, which they’ll feel makes them look incompetent. That’s heresy in a sharing social media culture, but it’s important to understand that management policies and countless sales methodologies promote sharing successes and promotion individual accountability for results. IF a collaborative selling approach is something salesforce is driving (rather than just hopping on the fad of the moment) then change is necessary to promote team selling models, which changes sales organizations’ DNA. Specifically what’s needed is a fundamental shift to team incentives instead of traditional individual commission structures. That’s MUCH easier said than done – expect a burst of activity from salesforce and third parties consultancies to spring up to offer “training solutions” to just that problem.