“This is a match made in heaven,” — Marc Benioff
As someone who has been embedded in the collision of CRM and messaging for over five years, I could not agree more. Messaging as the engagement platform for work has always been an inevitability given human nature, but now that we are all living in a period of remote and distributed work the future is now.
A lot of people have been reaching out over the past week asking me if I’m freaking out.
I think my co-founder Dan Reich did a great job articulating why Salesforce acquiring Slack is actually a good thing. When the news came out, we were in pretty violent agreement on this being positive from the get go.
What is more top of mind for us given the business we've been building for a long time is how these two companies coming together is actually going to take form in the market to create more value for customers.
Given the breadth of Salesforce’s product suite and the fact that Slack is front and center throughout every user’s workday, the opportunities to create accretive product experiences are truly remarkable.
Here are just a few of the opportunities that exist.
Owning more of the data layer
One of the biggest challenges every company faces with CRM is making sure high-quality, accurate data is captured and maintained. The data inside the CRM is where the real value is, not the pipes. But people hate administrative work, which is why there has been so much friction here, and why customers love working with Troops.
You know what else people love? Chatting with each other. This is why people spend 9+ hours a day with Slack open and six of the top 10 mobile apps in the world are messaging applications.
And today more and more conversations containing rich information about customers are happening inside of messaging platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
If Salesforce could harvest all this data, and structure it in a way that businesses could better understand their customers, this would be incredibly valuable. The paradigm shifts from asking people to perform an extra task, to conforming to the behaviors they’ve already adopted in a seamless way. There are a couple of different communication modalities that Salesforce could play a meaningful role in:
More and more companies are using Slack Connect to have conversations with their customers. This is something we’ve been seeing for years amongst early adopters, and even something we’ve adopted ourselves. There are many benefits to this, including greater responsiveness and increased visibility. There’s also an intimacy component that feels more informal than emails with giant disclaimers at the bottom.
Slack has been making a big bet that this will become more and more popular versus traditional mediums like email.
Today behavior primarily occurs in scenarios like pre-sale proof of concepts, and higher tier support offerings, but you can imagine if they get the user experience right, this being the de-facto medium for any B2B communication where there is double opt-in consent. It’s just easier.
If this holds true, it means that there will need to be a historical record of the communication associated with particular accounts and opportunities. This is something that our customers have been begging for us to build, and we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. Storing the information in a digestible format would be opportunity one while using things like NLP and AI to interpret, structure, and disseminate it would be the next logical step.
Next steps could be adding information into a system like a CRM or communicating things that are important but hard to see across the organization. Imagine detecting negative conversational sentiment or a competitor mention in one of these channels, then automatically signaling an executive for support or visibility. The opportunities are endless, and this is a proven paradigm that we are seeing in other communication mediums like trackers in Gong and Chorus.
Internal, account-centric collaboration
A few years ago, we noticed that amongst a data set of over 500 companies that had installed our product, over 70% had a channel that matched a record in Salesforce.
What was clear was that people were using dedicated Slack channels to coordinate and collaborate on their key accounts. This behavior was what Salesforce intended its Chatter product to be. However, the fact that it was asynchronous versus real time, as well siloed inside of Salesforce, always created friction.
The opportunity we saw was to bring the same idea to the modern engagement layer where everyone from the whole company lived, across devices. We built a product called deal rooms that facilitated the creation, management, and connectivity of these account-centric Slack channels to Salesforce. The customers that have adopted this as part of their motion love it and have reported amazing results like improving win rates by 30%. And anecdotally, as someone who isn’t living in Salesforce, I have never had an easier time as an executive understanding what is going on with my top five accounts in under a minute from my phone on the walk to lunch.
The opportunity for Salesforce is to do more here, and again interpret and structure these conversations so that all of the rich context on what is happening via internal conversations makes it back into the systems of record in a seamless and intelligent way.
The Business Insights Layer
Once you have the data in your systems of record, you need to understand it! We’ve talked about this at length, but even though many companies think they have a data problem, just as many have a problem using their data. How many times has a missed opportunity or connection occurred simply because data existed that someone didn’t see? Probably many times a day.
Salesforce clearly understands the value of business insight given their acquisition of Tableau.
The challenge is that many people do not feel comfortable logging into Tableau and manipulating the data, and they may not even have accounts for that matter. It’s not uncommon for a few people to live in a BI tool like Tableau with other people asking them to pull data and reports. This slows businesses down and is a dying paradigm. The world is moving to a place where everyone needs easy access to data on demand … at Troops we call this Software at Your Service (SayS).
And what’s the one place where everyone in the company spends time and is comfortable consuming information? You guessed it, Slack!
Salesforce now has an opportunity to streamline the communication of everything happening in their core systems and insights tools to a much broader audience, helping companies make better decisions. Charts and graphs are great, but what people really want in most cases is the bite-size insight that informs a decision or action. And Slack is the perfect consumption medium for that.
At Troops, we call this revenue communications and it’s something we’ve been helping customers achieve for years.
What tools like Tableau and even Salesforce reports have lacked is the ability to provide that “pulse” like experience. Reports are great for analysis on a cadence (i.e., weekly), but for many use cases there is more value in giving bite-size visibility into a piece of information that matters now.
If well adopted and integrated, Slack becomes the central nervous system for your business. By providing more event-based integrations across their products, Salesforce will deliver exponentially higher value to their customers. We’ve seen this first hand with customers that have adopted Troops to connect Slack and Salesforce saying things to us like, “I’ve learned and understood my business more in the past week, than I have over the past two quarters.”
Same data, different consumption model …
This dovetails incredibly well into what Salesforce and all the other big cloud players are selling: digital transformation. Democratizing data! Breaking down silos! There are a million buzzwords for it, but the fact is, enterprises recognize that they need to get the right information, to the right people, at the right time, and Slack has the potential to help Salesforce accomplish this perfectly.
The same will be true for other cloud players, which is why at Troops we are building an event-based platform that makes it possible for any of your core SaaS applications: Salesforce, Zendesk, HubSpot, Intercom, Jira, and more.
The Communication layer
More and more businesses are communicating with their customers through messaging. Facebook just acquired Kustomer for over $1B for this exact reason.
Salesforce already has a powerful customer service offering in ServiceCloud and Slack has made it easier to spin up conversational threads across devices in a persistent interface with Slack Connect. It just makes sense for these to work seamlessly together in a way that leverages and feeds existing processes.
Imagine opening up an opportunity in Salesforce and automatically spinning up a channel with everyone from both buying teams in Slack.
Or someone from an active opportunity coming to the website with a help question that automatically triggers the creation of a Slack channel with a support agent and the account executive so they have real-time visibility into how their customer is being helped.
Let’s not forget about Quip. The buying process is becoming more and more collaborative, which is why you see more and more proposal products that provide a joint experience, such as PandaDoc and GetAccept. What if you were able to dynamically chat next to a Quip document in real time, versus scheduling a Zoom call two weeks in the future that slows down your deal? Moreover, imagine having a conversation with your colleagues and the system is smart enough to inject intelligence into that conversation!
By launching things like Salesforce Connect, it’s clear Salesforce has recognized the need to integrate more real-time communication in and around their existing products. Now they have the perfect vehicle to do that with Slack, which already has built-in adoption. This last point is key.
Codeless (human) integration and workflow
With more and more SaaS applications in most customers’ portfolios, integration will only become more important. Salesforce clearly recognized this when they bought Mulesoft in 2018, and the same can be said for Slack. Slack doubled down on their platform ecosystem and workflow through the acquisition of Missions.ai, which is now called Workflow Builder.
Everything we’ve discussed so far is only valuable if it can be adopted seamlessly across an enterprise. That said, we are moving away from a world of a few people on the business systems team holding the keys to the integration kingdom to one dominated by the citizen developer, where anyone, regardless of technical ability, can build and deploy workflows. With Slack as the consistent consumption and engagement layer, Salesforce can now provide more codeless applications to connect and configure these experiences.
Speaking of consistency: This is precisely what Salesforce and Slack will need to figure out. In both ecosystems, connecting applications is far from a consistent experience, which is one of the few downsides of a broad, open platform. Every company and cloud has built their own integration and they all have different capabilities and look and feel completely different. From a usability and management perspective, this inconsistency causes a lot of friction, which means these workflows don’t get used. It also makes it much harder for companies to clearly understand the art of the possible because they lack a unified paradigm.
To sum it up, to create the most value across the entire Salesforce ecosystem, Salesforce and Slack should strive to create a codeless, consistent framework for the connectivity of all applications.
From System-to-System to System-to-Human
The other element worth mentioning is how we see integration and workflow automation evolving, and what this could mean for Salesforce’s long term integration strategy.
Passing data from one system to another is valuable, but at this point kind of a commodity. Many iPaaS solutions can help you accomplish this, including Mulesoft. The harder part is getting data out of people’s heads and into a system. This is the infamous “adoption problem” that all sales and marketing applications wrestle with.
The next generation of workflow is not about pushing information to people based on a rule set, but empowering people to react to it, in a highly customized way that can be measured and evolved based on user behavior.
No one likes getting an email alert that requires them to click through, log into another system, navigate to the appropriate part of the application, click edit . . . It’s a time-consuming and confusing nightmare. Compare this to creating dynamic modules that present (in Slack) the next best action for any scenario and let users execute those actions with a simple click from whatever device they are using at the time.
It’s a no brainer which is the better user experience. That’s why companies like Atlassian are doubling down on these experiences because they understand this is where the world is going. This is corroborated by the countless Troops customers we’ve seen achieve better data by shifting away from the mindset of “I want my people living in X platform” to meeting them where they already like to work, in Slack.
At a macro level, I think more and more of the companies who build systems are realizing the stance of wanting people to exclusively engage inside their platforms is no longer effective, and you have much more to gain by extending the capabilities to the natural workspaces of the entire company.
Getting mobile CRM right
I remember the contrarian insight we had with Troops when we raised our seed funding from First Round Capital was that mobile = messaging in the context of mobile CRM and data input. People are tired of clicking around myriads of buttons and boxes, and want to spend time in apps that feel like the ones they use in their personal lives.
Salesforce Mobile has made strides over the years, but if I was a betting man, I’d say engagement on the Slack app far surpasses it. By extending the full functionality of their applications like Sales Cloud to the place where everyone is already spending time, they have a chance to massively increase engagement. We’ve seen companies with large outside sales teams like Doordash that save over 127 hours a month across their team while improving data quality by having Salesforce within their messaging application with Troops.
The Big Picture
The opportunities outlined above are ones we’ve discussed over the past five years with our team and our customers. We anticipate some of them will become priorities for Salesforce/Slack, and for Microsoft as well. With its acquisition of Slack, Salesforce is now establishing a more complete collaboration and productivity suite. To stay competitive, they will need to stitch together their cloud in a way that unlocks more value for every system and every customer. This means bringing their products together in a cohesive way that drives usage, adoption, and customer success.
During Microsoft's earnings call last month, Satya Nadella talked about the 115M Microsoft Teams users creating a platform effect and driving usage for Microsoft's Dynamics CRM, a Salesforce competitor.— Chetan Puttagunta (@chetanp) November 25, 2020
Perhaps it's no surprise that Salesforce is thinking about acquiring Slack.
With Slack, the modern engagement layer, now a part of their portfolio they have the opportunity to increase adoption across all products. What they lacked before was the engagement layer to bring to life the most valuable part of their entire ecosystem. They now have that and from what we’ve seen, there will be no stopping them.