Inside's Customer Obsession: 10 Powerful Lessons From Marc Benioff


Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has his company on a $10-billion annualized run rate. (Photo by John Medina/Getty Images for New York Times)

(Note: After an award-winning career in the media business covering the tech industry, Bob Evans was VP of Strategic Communications at SAP in 2011, and Chief Communications Officer at Oracle from 2012 to 2016. He now runs his own firm, Evans Strategic Communications LLC.)

CLOUD WARS: As tops a $10-billion annualized-revenue run rate and aims for $20 billion by 2020, CEO Marc Benioff has become even more emphatic in stating that Salesforce's ongoing and often-breathtaking success is due primarily to the company-wide obsession with making its customers successful.

Of course, it's not all just a matter of having 27,000 fresh-faced employees flush with buoyant attitudes and charming personalities—Benioff also raves about the power of AI and of platforms and partners and the increasing impact of being a truly global brand.

But again and again during last week's earnings call, Benioff and president Keith Block hammered home their belief that it is Salesforce's customer-first mindset and culture that most clearly differentiates it from a slew of powerful competitors and that has allowed Salesforce to reach $10 billion in annual revenue faster than any other enterprise-software company ever.

And without question, that corporate culture—easy to talk about but so elusive to sustain—is a primary reason why Salesforce has been tied for #2 with Amazon on my Cloud Wars Top 10 since early this year behind #1 Microsoft (and Marc, remember--don't let Microsoft get inside your head!).

itech-dude-contents-Cloud-Wars-Top-10-Graphic-for-Aug-28-2017 Inside's Customer Obsession: 10 Powerful Lessons From Marc Benioff | iTech Dude - The Technology BlogBob Evans

Salesforce's customer-first culture and Benioff's cloud evangelism have been huge factors in SFDC being #2 in Cloud Wars Top 10.

So for any businessperson looking to create or advance a truly customer-obsessed behavior model and culture, here are my selections for the 10 most-powerful ways that Salesforce puts customers at the center of everything the company does—and in the tech industry, this is becoming the primary differentiator between the winners and the losers. (And to see first-hand the degree to which this thinking animates Benioff and Block, you can read the full earnings-call transcript from—I've used it in places to supplement my own notes from the call.)

  1. Customer Commitment. "Nothing is more important to Salesforce than customer success even though about half of our 27,000 employees today probably weren't with us two years ago," Benioff said during the call. "That's something we really spend time with them on because when you're in enterprise software, you have to realize that it's hard work and not everything's going to be perfect all the time and there are going to be problems.

"And that's why I believe being so committed to the customer is more important than it's ever been, and I think that's really why you're going to see extraordinary growth from us for years to come because it's really this culture that's driving us forward."

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