Dreamforce, the Force Majeure: A reminder of the importance of planning

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The French term “force majeure” describes an irresistible force or overwhelming power. Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual user conference, has become just that. Sponsors beg for booth spaces smaller than caskets, attendees line up for hours for keynotes, and grown adults walk around with cotton candy, nitro ice cream, and stuffed animals bulging out of their sponsored backpacks. Millions live stream Marc Benioff’s keynote.

Having been to Dreamforce many times, I now know that the best way to make the week productive is to have a plan. As it turns out, the same recommendations apply to managing a sales organization.

Here are some planning strategies to live by, whether you’re planning your next conference adventure or planning the future of your sales organization.

Planning is more important than “The Plan”

Heading to Dreamforce with a plan every year is essential. Without a plan, there’s no way to juggle all those meetings, trainings, dinners, product demos, keynotes, and sessions. At the same time, you have to be willing to adjust your plan as the need arises. It goes without saying that you’ll meet people you didn’t anticipate meeting and be exposed to concepts and products that pique your interest. Any of these may lead you to adjust your plans.

The same holds true for your entire sales strategy, whether it be territory plans, quotas and targets, or your sales compensation. You may set these plans at the beginning of the year or quarter, but to keep them working, you need to continuously evaluate their effectiveness and modify accordingly. Knowing when and how to tweak your plans is how you stay ahead of the market and maintain an edge over your competitors—proactively making changes to your sales strategy is the art behind the science.

Planning is more powerful when it is connected

Let’s say you and a handful of your coworkers all plan to attend Dreamforce. This year’s event had over 2,000 sessions and 3,500 sponsors. If you and your teammates didn’t coordinate your schedules, you may have missed the chance to do competitive intel, or to meet with your existing customers, prospects, or partners. However, if you went to the event with a coordinated plan—one person covers innovation sessions on your current Salesforce applications, another explores sessions related to potential expansions, another meets with current partners—you received far greater value from the conference.

It’s similar with the planning aspects of your sales strategy: territory planning, quota/goal planning, sales capacity/head count, account segmentation, and more. These efforts need to work together as well. A single change to a territory structure—whether an intentional adjustment or a headcount opening—can impact your quota allocation, which, in turn, impacts how your sales compensation budget is set, which ultimately impacts your sales forecast. Each change to your strategy ripples outward. If these parts don’t work together, organizations can see communication errors, seller frustration, and misalignment with your corporate objectives—none of which are helpful for achieving revenue and growth.

Connect with old friends, but be open to new as well

You may be comfortable with Salesforce as an app and a company, but the whole point of Dreamforce is to expand the value of that investment for you. There’s no better opportunity to vet potential partners, view demos, meet with experts, and ask questions. Be sure to reconnect with your existing contacts, but also focus on broadening your network.

When it comes to technology for your sales organization, the same advice holds true. Salesforce’s CRM solution is great for managing customer relationships. It’s superb for tracking opportunities, accounts, and contacts and helps sellers be more efficient with their time. Over 90 percent of organizations now have CRM solutions in place, so although CRMs work, they unfortunately no longer provide the competitive edge that they once did.

Today, forward-thinking sales teams invest in technology that moves beyond core CRM functionality. The best of these gives sales leaders everything they need to manage the entire sales strategy on a single, connected platform. Sales leaders need to think about the big picture; they need a solution that understands how the elements of the sales strategy are interrelated and that gets those pieces working in concert.

When it comes to both attending Dreamforce and executing your sales strategy, it’s good to have a plan, but it’s even better to see “planning” as an ongoing, connected effort.

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