What You Should Be Asking Dreamforce Vendors

October 3, 2016 Mark Emmons


SAN FRANCISCO — On the eve of the Dreamforce mega-conference, this might be a good time to re-post the most recent version of the Marketing Technology Landscape. In the likelihood that you don’t have a magnifying glass handy, there are an remarkable 3,874 companies in the supergraphic compiled by Scott Brinker.

And it probably will seem like all of them have set up shop at the annual Salesforce event.

An army of vendors is descending upon the world’s largest software conference as they all try to impress attendees with their products. Or as David Brock noted in a recent blog post, companies will “trot out their shiny new toys and releases, enticing us to buy.” Everyone will be bragging that their solution increases pipeline, sales velocity, revenue and yada, yada, yada.

marketing_technology_landscape_2016_3000pxBut, “these discussions should strike fear, and perhaps loathing, in the hearts and minds of sales/marketing management and professionals,” added Brock, the author of the “Sales Manager Survival Guide.”

He cautions that more tech isn’t necessarily better for a business. That point is symbolized by Brinker’s landscape — which focuses largely on MarTech. Brinker said last week in an email that if you combine all sales and marketing tools, there probably is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 vendors out there.

It’s a big, complicated SaaS world. All of that technology can confuse even the people who appreciate how data drives better decision-making.

Dreamforce is more than a conference. It’s a celebration of the cloud. That’s why software vendors converge in San Francisco every fall. So it’s the perfect opportunity to stay current on developments in the Salesforce ecosystem.

And we’re here to help you make sense of the wild scene. As you roam the Dreamforce exhibit halls and listen to an onslaught of product pitches, here are questions you should be asking to cut through the clutter.

But what is it that you really do? Sales reps will have well-rehearsed, jargon-filled spiels. When they come up for air, ask them to repeat what they just said — this time in plain English. If they use words like “optimize” and “omnichannel” again, you’re walking.

How does spending money for your product save or make me more money? Most technology solutions are big-ticket items. There needs to be a clear and compelling case on how exactly it will return that investment. Again, bonus points if they can do it without the buzzwords.

Does your product play well with others? Tech stacks are only getting bigger and more complicated. Technology intended to save time actually is adding to workloads as businesses invest more energy into maintaining their systems. You want a solution that works without constant internal supervision and also won’t cause any unintended headaches. What’s the point in adding something that causes other tools to go haywire? Oh, and will this solution help your business get more value out of existing tools in your stack?

How safe and secure is this product? Data is the lifeblood of every business. Will you export my data anywhere, or import anything? Are you on the Salesforce AppExchange? The wrong answer here should be a conversation-ender.

Can you prove it will work? You want to know what a vendor offers when it comes to proof of concept. What about references? Happy customers love to talk up products that make their lives better.

What’s in it for me? Yeah, that sounds a little selfish. But we all want to succeed. We do that by solving problems, not creating new ones. How is this product going to make me look like a hero?

One last thing. Dreamforce is a hiking expedition. You’re going to walk miles wandering the booths, sessions and social functions while looking for answers to your questions. Pro tip for first-timers: Make sure you wear comfortable shoes.

Seriously. You’ll thank us later.



About the Author

Mark Emmons

Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at mark@leandatainc.com.

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