Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who delivered inspiration on a recent earnings call
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who delivered inspiration on a recent earnings call

Marc Benioff Delivers: “The Best I’ve Ever Seen Salesforce Perform”

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Whether procuring and delivering 50 million pieces of PPE, launching an extraordinary new pandemic-driven product, or generating $4.87 billion in revenue during the COVID-19 crisis, Marc Benioff’s had a quarter like no other.

And during yesterday’s fiscal-2021 Q1 earnings call, Benioff made it perfectly clear in his inimitable fashion that Salesforce’s performance during the quarter blew away every expectation he—or anyone else—could possibly have had.

This is important—incredibly important—for a number of reasons. Yesterday, Benioff and Salesforce:

  • redefined the roles of, and expectations for, the world’s top tech companies;
  • gave CEOs in many industries stability, hope, and confidence to overcome potential economic devastation;
  • created a new set of highly relevant products in a remarkably short time;
  • transformed the company in ways that will endure for years to come; and
  • helped reinvigorate the entire software industry with a new sense of purpose and possibility.

Wait—I almost forgot two other pretty decent accomplishments Benioff managed to squeeze into the quarter. First, Salesforce boosted revenue by 30%. And second, Benioff signed what could be the largest deal (with AT&T) in the company’s storied 21-year history.

These achievements—and the dreams, passion, and unrelenting will behind them—are a continuation of Benioff’s evolution into one of the great leaders of not only the tech world but the global stage as well. (I recently explored in that journey detail in How Salesforce Plans to Beat Oracle and SAP While Scaling to $35 Billion.)

Against that backdrop, please let me share with you some of Benioff’s impassioned remarks from the earnings call. Because in times like these, good news and big dreams and fact-based optimism should be cherished. 

Over the next week or two, I’ll dig into some of the details within Salesforce’s blowout quarter. For today, the focus is on what those big dreams are about and why they matter—to all of us.

“In a moment of crisis, you need to invest through it.” 

“My personal belief is always that in a moment of crisis, you need to invest through it. Maybe not every company can do that, but a lot of companies surprisingly can. That’s why you have to offer a full portfolio of capability. I really saw that come together in the first quarter. I was really impressed with the bookings that we achieved in the first quarter. As it kind of started to get crazy in the middle of March, I was like, wow, what is going to happen at the end of March and then through April? Well, this was the best of Salesforce. This was the best I’ve ever seen Salesforce perform.

“I mean, it was just incredible to see all of our Ohana the sales organization, service, engineering across the board and then in the second quarter, well, as I mentioned, I’m already really, really inspired by the bookings numbers that I started to see and the pipeline numbers. So we’re quite optimistic about what the future is going to look like for us.”

Digital transformation is no longer an option—it’s a high-urgency imperative

“I’ve been on more sales calls with more CEOs in the last two months than at any time in my career. And there is universal agreement among them. Digital transformation, well, this isn’t a want to have, it’s a must-have. Companies and organizations and governments around the world have a digital transformation imperative like never before and many are accelerating their plans for digital first, work from anywhere environment.”

Growing 30% when much of the world was crashing

“When you’re addressing a market with a set of products and capabilities, you’re going to have a set of strategies as well as a set of tactics. You’re going to have plays as well as products and programs. And you’re going to do that differently by geography, different by industry.

“I think we already know that unlike the financial crisis, the way that this has discriminated against different industries is quite different than anything we’ve ever seen before and has been quite shocking. And for some industries, that will take some time for them to recover from and other industries its actually been accelerating and it causes them to grow faster than they anticipated.”

The landmark digital-transformation deal with AT&T

“AT&T is moving to a highly accelerated, digital-first world to deliver the most amazing 5G service with an incredible connected experience for their millions of customers and subscribers across every customer touchpoint… With Salesforce, AT&T will further extend this vision of a single view of their customer, single source of truth really with every customer touchpoint federated on Customer 360 across retail sales and call centers, on messaging, and online, and in-home service and more…

“The AT&T truck pulls up to my office or my home, that’s going to be Salesforce. I walk into the AT&T Store and that’s going to be Salesforce. I’m getting an email from AT&T and that’s going to be Salesforce. And I’m on the phone with the AT&T call center and that’s going to be Salesforce. And we’re going to make sure that they have that Customer 360-enhanced.”

Guiding businesses through the unknown

“I was especially inspired by the productivity of our incredible engineering organization. In talking with CEOs all over the world, it became apparent very quickly that many were looking to Salesforce to help them guide through these uncharted waters. Companies were working from home, leaders have little visibility in their businesses, no way to easily connect with their remote employees, customers or partners—and they turned to Salesforce.

“For some of our customers most severely affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, we even granted them a temporary financial flexibility.”

Amid the crisis, huge opportunities

“While we were developing the contact-tracing app for Rhode Island, we saw we needed to deliver several products now to mitigate the spread of the virus and we needed to do it rapidly, not only for our public-sector clients but for our commercial clients as well. Customers are asking for automation to facilitate the return to work safely including the contact tracing, shift scheduling, workforce assessment, a command center for the crisis. And this was the genesis of our platform, which has rapidly become a significant part of our public-sector pipeline and actually a meaningful part of our overall pipeline. We’ve been hugely surprised.”

Behave like a startup while generating $5 billion in quarterly revenue

“At times, even though we have nearly 52,000 people at Salesforce, creating felt like many of our early start-up days with the speed and scrappiness, the laser-focused execution of our management team. This was the best I’ve ever seen Salesforce and we’re starting to see the return on this investment now. It’s amazing: in a very short time has generated enormous interest from businesses and governments at every level and from our partners. We’ve deepened those partnerships with the world’s largest systems integrators including Accenture, Deloitte, PwC, and IBM. And many of our partners are building solutions on as well.”

In a recent episode of our Cloud Wars Live podcast, my dear friend Christopher Lochhead put it this way: “The future needs you.” Christopher’s point is that each of us can choose to create that future, or to passively let it happen to us.

Marc Benioff chose to invest through the crisis, and to dream even bigger than he had before. 

And in doing so, he is driving a transformation of the entire enterprise-tech sector.

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