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Dreamforce 2019: The Power of Data and Togetherness

This year’s Dreamforce conference was nothing less than innovating, inspiring, and motivating. Read about the biggest trends, takeaways, and innovations we noticed there.

9 min read

Dreamforce has come and gone, and as usual, it was a week-long whirlwind of thought leadership, inspiring speakers, and innovation. Between all of the keynotes, the resurgence of OpsStars, and incredible performances by Beck and Fleetwood Mac, Dreamforce left me both exhausted and inspired.

As I look back on this year’s event, there are several trends emerging with the power to transform the sales industry. Data has long been touted as the future currency of business, but in 2020 the bar is set higher. Just having data is no longer enough—it’s having the savvy and tools to use that data for benchmarking, actionable intelligence, and insights that allow you to make educated, data-backed business decisions. Whether your role is in Finance, Sales, Marketing, or HR the ability to analyze data and use it to make informed choices will play a key role in gaining a leg up on the competition and building a successful career. 

In his Dreamforce opening keynote, Marc Benioff, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce, spoke to the importance of togetherness and how coming together—whether as internal teams or with our customers, peers, and partners—makes us stronger. Benioff also enforced the need for organizations to establish a single source of truth, which he described as “integrating all enterprise systems, including CRM, ERP, marketing automation, order management, commerce, supply chain, contact center, billing, etc.”

Overall, the need for quality and actionable data stuck out to me as a key theme this year. When used strategically, it provides a huge opportunity for all of us to take advantage of. We all have data within our companies—but are we using it to make smarter decisions for our organizations? And how can we use the ideas of togetherness and a single source of truth to build trust not only internally, but with our customers as well?

Embracing the Future of Data’s Possibilities

Do you want to be able to understand the health of your company, how your sales teams are performing, identify which of our top sales reps booked the most meetings at Dreamforce, and so much more? Data is the key to this critical information. But if we keep all of this data siloed within our individual teams, or sit on that data without taking strategic action, what good is it to us?

Here’s where the real issue comes up. We all have data, but we don’t all have a single source of truth. Without a single source of truth, we can’t expect our organizations to operate together as a unified team, and we certainly can’t provide customers with a superior experience. We need a way to integrate all of our enterprise systems, make data universally accessible, and align our teams together. 

Achieving Togetherness with Sales Performance Management (SPM)

We’re realistic. We know that it’s not an overnight, one-step fix to integrate your data and have a perfectly tuned Sales Performance Management machine—but you have to take the initial leap and automate internal processes first. Then, once you’ve mastered the automation piece, you can use data strategically to inform decisions and optimize your holistic Sales performance management (SPM) process. This is the end goal.

I also remember what it was like to run sales compensation off of a spreadsheet. This was back in the 90s when I first joined a company whose goal was to build a better mousetrap for managing incentives. But that was just getting the calculation right. It took another decade before Xactly was founded, and the groundwork was laid to connect all of the parts. In London earlier this year I spoke with a customer who is now pulling data to build territories, set and negotiate quotas, layout a data-informed and driven sales plan, and finally manage their entire incentive process. The game has changed, and anyone not taking advantage of all of the available tools WILL be left behind.

This aforementioned journey—from the table-stakes of automation to a complete data-driven sales organization— is what we call SPM Maturity. During his OpsStars keynote last week, Xactly’s CEO Chris Cabrera defined what it means to be a data-driven sales organization. One of my favorite learnings he shared during the presentation, was the idea that, “we are at an inflection point. You have to get on board with being a data-driven organization or you WILL be left behind.” His speaking session reinforced the idea that a fully mature organization in terms of SPM would be unified around a single source of truth. In addition, all discussions and decisions about sales quotas, capacity plans, territories, and incentives would be backed by data. Organizations that adopt this strategy become stronger because of it. It’s up to us as leaders within our organizations to initiate change and to help implement the tools to do so.

A Few Personal Highlights 

While the keynotes were incredible and the sessions were inspiring, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of my personal favorite moments at the event! Xactly took home an award from Salesforce’s much-anticipated annual Demo-Jam. It’s always great when people get to see our product in action, and its benefits resonate with the pain points they are currently experiencing.  

Personal highlight number two for me was spending time at the XactlyLovesMe Lounge. Our goal was to make our customers feel comfortable and completely taken care of during the stressful week. Seeing tweets like the following one helps reinforce the idea that they appreciate the customer focus (and the swag of course!) 

 

Dreamforce is over – so now what?

Coming out of Dreamforce, it’s important to remember this key takeaway: data is our biggest strategic force so we should take advantage of it. To do this, we need to eliminate silos within our organizations and align our teams around a single source of truth—our success depends upon it— and a Sales Performance Management (SPM) platform helps us make it a reality.

You can learn more about the benefits of sales performance management in this white paper, or see how Salesforce uses data for strategic sales planning, execution, and optimization in our recent webinar with Salesforce VP Global Revenue Operations, Michael Lightbody.