Why the 2014 Dreamforce Expo is the Modern Roman Forum

hardest job in sales dreamforce 2015

The Giants may have been in the NLCS last week, but you would have hardly realized it because their supporters were severely dwarfed by Benioff’s Army, which occupied the entire city of San Francisco. This year’s Dreamforce had a little something different for each of the 130,000 people, with keynotes, product introductions, sessions, parties, and even a wild Beach Boys sighting.

But nowhere was Dreamforce more real and raw than on the Cloud Expo floor. This year, there were more than 350 companies sprawled across Moscone West and North.

The Expo is sales in its most ancient, unadulterated form. Is this what the Roman Forum was like? Reps, managers, marketers and product managers engage in hand-to-hand combat as thousands of prospects walk through and decide where to spend their precious time.

roman forum

I made the mistake of starting my 2.5 hour journey in West, only to realize it was the smaller of the two showcases. There were companies in gamification, email marketing, analytics, quoting, content management, and more – each with a shiny booth, schwag, games to play, video monitors, and willing combatants. Caesar himself would have been overwhelmed at this new Rubicon.

They say that competition makes us stronger. Yet, Hoopla wasn’t just competing against LevelEleven. And Yesware wasn’t just competing against ToutApp – although whoever put them 1 booth apart may have been playing a cruel joke.

No, here’s the insight – in reality all 350 companies were competing against each other in a Benioff-refereed fight-to-the-death, Royal Rumble-style. Here’s why – as I heard one CEO say – “they’re all great, but there’s no way I can do all of this stuff.”

More than fighting each other, each company is fighting the status quo. According to the Sales Benchmark Index, 6 out of 10 deals end in no decision. Prospects elect to do nothing, because they aren’t compelled to act.

So as a prospect, why should I invest in your solution vis-à-vis all the other places I could invest with my scarce dollars? Why will your solution deliver the best ROI? It’s about opportunity cost as much as it is your unique value proposition.

According to Corporate Visions, you need to answer three fundamental questions:

  1. Why Change?
  2. Why (Insert Your Company)?
  3. Why Now?

Were reps thinking this way on the Expo floor? Everyone could answer “Why Your Company” reasonably well enough. Even still, I ran an experiment at one booth, asking two reps the difference between their offering and a competitive one. The messages were definitely different to the untrained prospect ear, and one was not as crisp as the other. And these two reps were standing next to each other!

“Why Change” was the next most common run I heard, which often comes in the form of the problem you solve and why it matters. Still, most reps led with features and benefits and circled back to the problem when prodded.

As expected, though, few if any reps were able to speak to “Why Now.” This in particular has a lasting impact, as reps who can change the nature of the conversation are 75% more likely to win versus competition. When you think about it, most prospects are going to invest in one, maybe two new solutions, but spent the week talking to dozens of vendors. Features and benefits just aren’t good enough.

What if we could simply get your reps to answer these three questions, crisply and concisely? Your company would win more often until everyone else could do the same.

What if?

Until next year, Dreamforce!

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