My First Trip to Dreamforce


I finally had my long-awaited chance to go, and I was absolutely stoked once I found out I’d be heading to San Francisco. Most of my current colleagues and former co-workers had already been, some multiple times, so I had heard all about it. At the same time, no matter how hard I tried to imagine what it would be like, I didn’t truly know what to expect. I had no idea how HUGE this event actually would be.

It was massive — the world’s largest software conference. 171,000 people from 83 countries. Talk about a completely different scale.

Of course I had done my research before flying out to SF and knew that Salesforce would literally take over the city for a week, but to see it in real life was another matter. There were Salesforce advertisements as far as the eye could see, coach buses shuttling folks around, and every Starbucks was spewing lines of conference-goers out onto the sidewalks. It was absolutely amazing: the size, the scope, the speakers, the attention to every last detail, all the way down to the compostable lunch containers.

It was, in a word, incredible.

As a Dreamforce virgin, I filled my time quite heavily with numerous sessions, leaving little time to check out all of the other offerings at the conference (in the future, I’ll be sure to leave more time for exploring and networking but let’s save that for another post). Talk about amateur hour. But having negotiated my way into going in the first place, I wanted to be sure I focused primarily on learning new skills and ideas that could be implemented in my current role.

Mission accomplished.

I came back to Atlanta with a pile of scribbled notes — yes, actual paper notes — and an abundance of information aimed at driving and retaining more revenue, speeding up the sales cycle, eliminating bottlenecks, and increasing Salesforce user adoption across our organization.

All in all I attended 14 different sessions from hands-on training to keynotes to panel discussions. Here are the details:

Sessions Visited:

  1. How Salesforce Uses Chatter (solid)
  2. The Power of Data in Sales and Marketing Alignment (solid)
  3. Onboard, Train, Reinforce: Solve Sales Operations’ Biggest Challenges in 2017 (the worst)
  4. Wave Analytics Roadmap (great)
  5. The Power to Break Through: Your Ultimate Edge with Tony Robbins (the best!)
  6. Build Miracles with Excel and Salesforce (great)
  7. Accelerate Sales with Salesforce CPQ (great)
  8. Be a Customer Trailblazer with Marc Benioff and Special Guests (solid)
  9. Drive Metrics Using Reports and Dashboards (meh)
  10. Drive Growth from Cross Sell, Up Sell, White Space (solid)
  11. Leadership Equality: Women in the Boardroom (solid)
  12. Renewals at Salesforce (solid)
  13. The State of Sales Ops (great)
  14. Getting Data Right: Leading Best Practices for Better Insights and Adoption (solid)

 Nerd alert: I even charted my ratings of the sessions.


So, 86% of my time was spent taking in awesome or at least solid content and only 14% was disappointing. Not too shabby. Okay, so what did I learn from all of these sessions? I’m glad you asked because that’s the best part.

Adding some additional color where I found it helpful, I’ve summarized the key ideas, tactics, and insights gleaned from hearing industry leaders and experts share their thoughts and experiences over the course of Dreamforce week.

Here goes!

On improving Salesforce user adoption:
  • The #1 factor in CRM adoption is data quality. Bad data results in lack of trust and thus, low user adoption. Although it’s a constant struggle for most organizations, data must be continually maintained. That means cleaning up existing data, managing newly created records, and eliminating duplicates.
  • Management can lead by example by using dashboards and reports to drive team meetings, as well as one-on-ones. As Sales Ops, consider leaving your cubicle once in a while to sit down with your sales teams to see how they use Salesforce and get their input to ensure the reports and dashboards you create are effective and will be used.
  • Organizations must live by the motto, “If it’s not in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist.”
  • Use Chatter to collaborate on key opportunities and accounts, make announcements, and connect users with similar interests who don’t normally interact. This is also an effective way to get out of your inbox and create a collaborative environment.
  • Use tools to enable your team and make their lives easier but avoid overwhelming them with too many programs. Be selective and make sure the software you’re implementing isn’t merely a shiny new toy but something that adds real value.

On Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ):

  • CPQ is an acronym that’s thrown around quite a bit but what does it actually mean? From the Apttus website, “CPQ helps your channels close bigger deals faster with visibility into the latest product and pricing information, and the ability to quote quickly — from any device…discount smarter, run faster than the competition, and be easy to do business with — no matter how complex your business becomes.”
  • Salesforce CPQ shows that the following factors, all benefits of CPQ, can ultimately reduce the length of time from quote to close by 26%:
    • Improved forecast accuracy (29% better)
    • Reduced approval time (32% faster)
    • Faster quote generation (41% quicker)
    • Reduced quote errors (44% fewer)
  • Salesforce CPQ also helps:
    • Companies protect margins and control discount approvals.
    • Sales find the right products while also enforcing product rules (for example, the user must include implementation fees, integration charges, training fees, etc., based on the products selected).
    • Streamline tiered pricing across multiple quotes. That means if a customer makes an initial purchase at one price and their next purchase bumps them into a new tier, the CPQ tool will recognize this and adjust pricing appropriately.
    • Users easily modify quote terms.
    • With co-terming add ons so renewals fall in line on one date instead of being scattered throughout the year.
    • Organizations with renewals forecasting.
On minimizing churn:
  • Churn is the rate at which subscription-based businesses lose customers. For SaaS companies, churn is a key metric for tracking historical performance and forecasting future revenues from their base. The goal here is to ultimately generate negative churn or more revenue from cross- and up-sell opportunities to existing customers than is lost by cancelled subscriptions.
  • The Law of Churn means that losing 10% of your customers in year 1 will result in almost 33% revenue lost after four years.


  • Reduce churn by proactively focusing on renewals. Here’s how the renewals process works at Salesforce:
    • Renewals start on day 1 of a closed sale. The renewal opportunity is created right away and they have a dedicated team to manage these specific opportunities to close.
    • Gather insights. Take time to understand what the customer purchased and why they decided to buy.
    • Set a timeline. Understand how far out to start working on renewals for typical deals as well as riskier opportunities. Salesforce typically starts reviewing renewals at 90-120 days out.
    • Collaborate as a team to ensure the deal gets done and the renewal comes through the door.
    • Finalize and close.
  • Use machine learning to identify and target micro segments of your customer base. It’s not enough to provide only high-level segmentation; you need to get as granular as possible to spot potential problem areas early.

On aligning sales and marketing:

  • Lack of alignment across sales and marketing can lead to a 10% revenue loss. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!
  • To remove the disconnect between the 2 groups, try doing the following, which can lead to 27% faster profit growth:
    • Ensure lead management and nurturing is a collaborative process between the two teams.
    • Set complementary definitions of success and incentivize teamwork by creating shared goals and metrics.
    • Develop a unified data management and reporting structure that both teams agree on.

On challenges faced by Sales Ops:

  • The primary focus of the Sales Operations Department is to ensure success for the entire organization while also working closely with sales to streamline process and drive more deals to closed won. Challenges Sales Ops will need to tackle include:
    • Protecting margin.
    • Speeding up sales cycles.
    • Getting reps out in the field more.
    • Establishing universal metrics.
    • Focusing the team on selling new, not legacy, products.
    • Expanding the role beyond reporting and forecasting by driving the sales model and sales plan.

On life and professional growth:

  • Diversity of backgrounds, any way you define it, is huge for a company’s success.
  • Advocate for yourself because no one else will do it for you. Put yourself out there, connect, and network.
  • Information coupled with emotion leads to action.
  • Failure is not due to a lack of resources but a lack of resourcefulness. As an example, the ultimate resources are the intangibles: creativity, commitment, determination, and flexibility. They are not time, money, employees, etc.
  • We’re drowning in information but starving for wisdom.
  • To grow you have to have:
    • Innovation – Don’t fall in love your products and services. Love your customers and create value for them instead.
    • Marketing – Nobody’s product is good enough to sell itself.
  • Continue to add more value!

Whew! That’s a ton of information, and it’s just a snippet of what I learned throughout the week. With my packed schedule, time certainly flew by, and I have to say my first Dreamforce experience proved to be more valuable and educational than I had ever imagined. Can’t wait to do it again next year!

Do you still remember your initial Dreamforce visit? What was it like for you? What key lessons did you take away? Leave a note in the comments — I’d love to hear about it!

2 thoughts on “My First Trip to Dreamforce

  1. Interesting article. Sounds like time well spent. Your wrap up on life and professional growth were insightful and right on!

  2. It definitely was worth the trip out there. From Salesforce to life lessons, I came home with a number of new ideas to ponder and implement in my own life both at home and at the office.

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