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Salesforce wants all its users to start using Slack, rolls out first post-acquisition integrations

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright August 17, 2021
The first fruits of Salesforce's acquisition of Slack are unveiled today as the CRM giant urges customers to adopt a Slack-First Customer 360 approach to sales, service and marketing

Slack-First Service - creating a swarm - screenshot via Salesforce
Slack-First Service - creating a swarm (screenshot via Salesforce)

Salesforce today introduces the "Slack-First Customer 360," its new vision for sales, service and marketing in the work-anywhere world of the Vaccine Economy, founded on its $28 billion acquisition of messaging platform Slack, which closed last month. Today's launch contains no new products as such, but there are several new pre-configured integrations, workflows and an updated Salesforce for Slack app designed to help Salesforce customers quickly get up-to-speed in their use of Slack to streamline how they work. More important is the work of persuading long-term Salesforce users to learn to work in Slack rather than the familiar Salesforce environment, the main theme of an online event with Salesforce and Slack leaders timed for 1pm Eastern Time today.

The rationale for bringing Slack and Salesforce together is that we now find ourselves in a much more digitally connected world, which demands a new approach to how sales teams work. As Rob Seaman, Salesforce SVP of Product Management, who spoke to diginomica ahead of the announcement, explains:

When we're talking Slack-First, we're talking about how to effectively remodel your sales organization in this all-digital or hybrid world. With Slack as your digital HQ, Slack-First sales is the way you model your sales organization — your teams, your geographies, how you do deals, how you connect with partners, etcetera. And the innovations that we're announcing [today] are the first in a series that are going to support that vision.

Salesforce believes that adding Slack as a shared front-end to access Salesforce and other functionality will help teams work better. It quotes research carried out for Slack by Forrester Consulting that shows sales reps who use Slack typically experience sales cycles that are 15% faster, and that service teams using Slack achieve an 11% improvement in customer satisfaction scores. Slack's own customer tracking survey finds that three-quarters (76%) of marketers agree that Slack improves the speed of their decision making.

A deal room in a Slack channel

As an example, a new Salesforce-based Slack app for sales includes the ability to quickly set up a deal room to work on a specific customer or deal in a shared Slack channel. Doing this in Slack opens up a new set of capabilities that weren't previously available in Sales Cloud, as Seaman explains:

Deal rooms are something that were theoretically feasible before. But without Slack, they weren't searchable. They weren't discoverable. They didn't necessarily accelerate the sales cycle.

It becomes possible to bring more people into the channel as needed to move things along more quickly, he adds:

It's opening up to a much broader set of people that can help you close that deal as a salesperson, including customers and partners ... Finance, legal, product teams, you name it, may not typically be in Sales Cloud or Salesforce, but they most certainly can be in Slack.

It's possible to integrate other significant apps into the Slack environment, such as Tableau analytics and third-party apps such as incentive compensation, applicant tracking and recruitment. Finally, the workflow and integrations that the Slack environment brings will speed up processes such as approvals that may have caused delays in the past. Seaman says:

The approval process for most companies, and most sales reps that have to go through it, is typically very opaque and slow. I think by having this deal room that people can come in and out of, moving approvals into that is a very tangible example of accelerating deal cycles, so they're just lightning fast compared to what they were in the past.

From old habits to new ways of working

All of this depends on sales teams moving away from familiar old habits within Salesforce and learning new ways of working within Slack. Many Salesforce customers are longstanding users of the vendor's own Chatter messaging app, which continues to be supported. However Seaman argues that the additional capabilities available within Slack — in particular, using Slack Connect to bring external participants into a channel — will win them over. He explains:

I think it's a transition most will make because of the value that they see in the way that we're doing things with Slack ...

If you look at it from within a sales context, moving away from Chatter over into Slack, you can get something like a deal room, but you can also get Slack Connect. So you can connect directly with your customers and actually go through a contract negotiation process directly in Slack — in the same place that you have all the context about that particular deal and all your subject matter experts helping you, in a way that's secure and effectively eliminates the void that is email and the way things were done in the past.

I think you'll see a number of our customers moving over for the incremental benefits.

Ultimately, there are very few activities you might do in Salesforce that aren't possible to carry out from within Slack. The exceptions include hands-on editing such as configuring a quote, designing a piece of creative content, or redlining a contract. But in the main, the Slack-First vision really does see Salesforce users primarily interacting with the underlying applications through the medium of the Slack messaging layer. Seaman says that Salesforce has prepared the ground to ensure that customers get the help they need to adapt to these new working patterns, including setting up new content on the Trailhead interactive learning platform as well as working with systems integrators (SIs) in the Salesforce ecosystem. As he outlines:

We launched an entire portfolio of Slack courses on Trailhead right at close, and we'll continue to invest in that. But we're also, in parallel, actively investing in the SI ecosystem, to make sure that the best practices that we're offering — the approaches that we're espousing and trumpeting through Trailhead, and enabling people to learn on their own — are also making its way out to the SI partners that we have that have a ton of reach within our customer base.

New capabilities for digital sales, service and marketing

In the end, moving to Slack reflects the direction the world is moving in, Seaman argues:

Sales organizations, just as an example, are typically a very in-person, very travel-based, very celebrate-in-person, type of culture. To move to a hybrid model or to move to an entirely digital virtual selling model is a challenge.

I think that's where, these two companies coming together, it's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And there's a lot of thought leadership, best practices and codification of best practices and products that we need to do to help people get there. We're just starting, and it's super exciting.

The full list of pre-configured functions announced today is as follows:

  • Digital deal rooms that provide a shared channel for sales teams to collaborate on a customer or deal cycle, with the ability to access and update Salesforce records and meeting information directly from Slack. External partners and customers can be invited to join the channel as needed for faster interactions.
  • Automated daily briefs in Slack that give sales reps a personalized daily list of tasks, meetings and priority deals for action.
  • Integration with Tableau to provide automated notifications when data changes, such as when a sales pipeline or average service response time dips below a specified threshold. Team channels can also subscribe to specific Tableau dashboards to bring new data and insights into Slack, or set up watchlist digests which provide a daily update on selected metrics and trends.
  • Swarming, where a dedicated Slack channel is instantly created to allow service teams to collaborate on complex and high-priority cases, bringing in the right contacts, both internal and external, to achieve rapid resolution. To quickly identify the best experts to add to a swarm channel, a new Expert Finder draws on Salesforce Einstein recommendations to automatically analyze factors such as availability, capacity, and skills and make suggestions.
  • Instant sharing of AI-driven insights from Marketing Cloud and Datorama — such as engagement being lower than expected — directly in Slack, where marketing teams can take rapid action to keep campaigns on track.
  • Automated workflow notifications in Slack when changes are made to a marketing journey — for example a change to a headline — to prompt rapid review, discussion and approval.

There's much more to come in the future, including at Dreamforce later this year. Today's announcements are just the start, says Seaman:

It's a combination of quick wins and where we thought we could create the most value. This is just the beginning. You're going to see integration after integration coming from each of our clouds and our industry solutions.

My take

Salesforce has a big job ahead of it, evangelizing this new way of working to its customer base and others beyond. While it's definitely on-trend — for several years now, we've been writing about the inexorable rise of the conversational layer as a universal medium for headlessly accessing enterprise application functions and data — several questions still hang in the air. Such as, what if I choose to use Microsoft Teams rather than Slack as my messaging layer? And whatever happened to Salesforce Anywhere, launched only last year? What if I don't want to shell out the extra cost of an enterprise Slack license on top of what I'm already paying Salesforce? How will ISVs and customers be able to build on the combined Slack-plus-Salesforce platform? And much more.

The trajectory does bear out what we said about the acquisition right from the start, and the preview that Salesforce COO Bret Taylor gave us of its thinking a month before the deal closed. As we said then, this strategy makes perfect sense. But explaining exactly what it means for customers and how they should adapt to it may take a lot more work.

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