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You would be correct if you observed there were two main themes this year, Trailhead and Einstein. Trailhead is Salesforce’s digital skills initiative that was released late last year. Developers, Admins and users can follow guided learning paths that take the guesswork out of where to start and where to go next to make your journey easier.

You earn badges and certifications that you can keep to yourself or make public in your LinkedIn profile or on your resume. The entire Dreamforce event was one big guided learning experience with multiple paths (creatively designed to look like a national park).

Artificial Intelligence

And next, is Einstein Salesforce’s big splash into AI for the masses. I’ve been waiting for Salesforce AI to make a difference for sellers since the RelateIQ purchase. In my mind, it hadn’t yet come to fruition.

RelateIQ is not the only AI investment they’ve made. In fact, they’ve invested over $1B just in AI acquisitions (e.g. RelateIQ, Implisit) in little more than a year, and that figure doesn’t include the research and development.

Salesforce hired Shubha Nabar to create and run a team of data scientists and Einstein is the brilliant result. Einstein is not a separate platform. The data science and intelligence is built into the Salesforce platform and thus every Salesforce cloud and every Salesforce application can make use of it. However, it only works in the Lightning experience. If you haven’t made the move to Lightning yet, you might want to start planning for the move.

As Ms. Nabar demonstrated, Einstein goes to work discovering insight from all your data. The way it works is that you customize your “discoveries” by selecting the “signals” you want Einstein to consider in his analysis. They can be an object in Salesforce, your calendar, email, social or any combination.

einstein-dials

You set up different discoveries for salespeople, managers, and others using the Lightning process-builder interface. The workflow example shown was a lead routing example. I happen to think process-management, or put a different way, improving productivity through the use of smart process work-flows, is going to become one of the most important technology trends in the next few years. And Salesforce just made it a lot easier.

Salesforce has called itself the “Customer Success Platform” stopping just shy of eliminating the term “CRM” altogether. As they can continue this path, it will become more and more difficult for other CRM vendors to compete for the business of anyone looking at a long-term strategy for their entire organization.

I’d be remiss not to mention an AI solution that has picked up a lot of momentum this past year called Conversica. They were on the Expo floor showing their unique approach to sales lead follow-up. Conversica is a virtual sales assistant that fosters real conversations through email and paves the way for sales to engage with the most qualified sales opportunities.

For anyone coming back from Dreamforce with thousands of leads and not enough salespeople to touch each one, you simply run the leads through Conversica’s engine and let the virtual assistant go to work. This video on Conversica explains more about how it works.

Technology announcements

Of course, Dreamforce is the place to make technology announcements. Vendor’s take advantage of the large gathering of end-users as well as the press. There were a few announcements that caught my eye.

Sales Capabilities Platforms

What’s a sales capabilities platform? It’s any system that’s aimed at raising the skill-set and effectiveness level of all your salespeople. Some Sales Enablement platforms like Callidus Cloud Sales Enablement and Veelo, offer coaching and knowledge reinforcement. Others, are designed more firmly for the purpose of coaching, training, and capabilities testing. That’s the case with Qstream and PointForward Software.

Qstream
This mobile enterprise software is designed for igniting high-performance sales teams. At Dreamforce, Qstream announced several new capabilities that give managers the insight they need to coach at precise moments. The Coaching Hub is one of those features and it gives frontline managers data within Salesforce, that alerts them to pivotal moments in a sales cycle where human coaching can impact deals.

I was one of three people who spoke on a panel at the Sales Enablement Soiree during Dreamforce (along with Craig Rosenberg, Matt Heinz and moderator Craig Nelson). My role was to talk about technology.

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One point I made was that companies need to make sales enablement capabilities available to sales reps while they have micro moments of availability which often means when they’re mobile and equipped with nothing more than their smart phone. This is precisely where Qstream’s success lies. Read their press release here.

PointForward
Another thing I mentioned is that salespeople need a way to practice various challenges in a supportive environment. You don’t send athletes to the field without first practicing plays and scenarios. That’s where PointForward comes in. PointForward Software was debuted by The Brevet Group at the Sales Enablement Soiree. The Brevet Group is a sales training and sales enablement firm that recognized clients needed a video-based practice and coaching platform to move the needle in sales performance.

Salespeople receive challenges and then record themselves practicing their response. When they’re ready, they submit it for their manager’s review and approval. Use it for onboarding, new product releases, and compliancy training. Watch the video I did when we made PointForward our Recommended Tool of the Week.

Sales Engagement Platforms

ClearSlide
Coinciding with their win as company of the year for the second year in a year in a row,[1] ClearSlide announced their biggest, most important product update since the launch of their company over 7 years ago. It’s called ClearSlide ION. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s a sales engagement platform—which differs from a sales enablement platform in a slight, but important way. Whereas sales enablement solutions are mostly aimed at equipping salespeople with product information, knowledge and sales content, sales engagement platforms are aimed at improving the actual prospect interaction, whether in person, on the phone, or through email. I’ve always stressed the importance of making every interaction count (which flies in the face of the number’s game, even as it falls short of negating it altogether).

Providing the right content to salespeople is but one ingredient of successful outcomes. The actual mechanics of sending information through email and presenting information on a call is equally important. As is the way a system logs activities and presents analytics.

Check out ClearSlide ION to see whether it can help you increase close rates by 3X (like it did for my home-town Sacramento Kings). You’ll see that it provides for fast access to the right content and materials, as well as ease of sending, calling, and remote (plus in person) pitching. Read their press release here.

It’s a WRAP

DF16 is now officially behind us and the date for next year has already been set: November 6-9, 2017. I saved a lot of walking by using our own Walking Trail mobile app that was created with the generous support of the folks at WRAP. WRAP allows you to tell your story where it’s convenient for your prospects and customers – on their mobile phones.

There’s no programming, no waiting, and no apps to download which makes it super easy for Sellers (and Marketers) and prospects. Imagine your salespeople in conversation with prospects on the phone saying, “Do you have your cell phone handy? Give me your number and I’ll text you a link with all the information we spoke about.” There are many use-cases for WRAP and our Walking Trail was one that garnered a lot of attention – just like yours will.

For me, I’m on to the CEB Sales & Marketing Summit in Las Vegas next week. I highly recommend this conference for sales leaders who are themselves, trail blazers. You’ll hear speakers and participate in conversations that don’t take place at other venues. You can register here: CEB Registration. If you go, do let me know.

As for Dreamforce 2016… That’s a Wrap.

[1] At the 2016 BIG Awards for Business, sponsored by the Business Intelligence Group

About the author

Nancy Nardin

Nancy Nardin is a recognized thought leader on sales technologies and building a sales stack. Smart Selling Tools reviews the latest sales and marketing software across multiple categories, including Inside Sales, Sales Intelligence, Sales Acceleration, Pipeline Management & Deal Flow, and Predictive Sales Analytics. It's been named a Top Sales Blog by HubSpot, and Nancy Nardin has been named alongside Forbes’ top 30 social sales influencers in the world. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools