Agents of Change
The culture of business transformation
with Eric Berridge, EVP Commercial Officer at Salesforce
Our Agents of Change series with business leaders and pioneers talks of how to drive sustainable success in a changed world.
Join Agent3’s Chief Revenue Officer, Paul Mackender, and Salesforce’s EVP Commercial Officer, Eric Berridge, to hear why cultural change and not technology change is the biggest challenge Enterprises face as they look to digitally transform their businesses in this new pandemic era.
Paul Mackender (00:07):
Hi, I’m Paul Mackender. I’m the chief revenue officer at Agent3. and as part of our Agents of Change series, I’m here today with Eric Berridge. Many of you will probably know Eric, he’s got a very illustrious career starting of at Oracle. After that, he was the co-founder and the CEO of Bluewolf, which he sold in 2019 to IBM. And after a period there, then surprisingly to me, went back to work with Salesforce and became an EVP and commercial officer at Salesforce. So Eric, as always, it’s great to see you and thanks for making time to chat today.
Eric Berridge (00:38):
Oh, this is great to be here, Paul. Great to see you and hear your voice.
Paul Mackender (00:41):
Fantastic. So, Eric, as you know, in the Agents of Change series, we’re looking at things that really changed over the last year or so since the pandemic and talk to business leaders like yourself to see what the observations you see, what the, kind of the key things. So maybe just kick this off under the auspices of like this, putting up customer obsession of digital transformation. What’s the biggest change that you’ve personally seen within business?
Eric Berridge (01:06):
Well, I mean, I think the positive change has been that thank goodness, digital was ready for many businesses to keep us going, right? I think we’ll always look back on the pandemic, and hopefully it’s slowly receding into the rear view mirror here, but I think we’ll always look at it as one of those moments in time, similar to 9/11, similar to, I would assume, World Wars, where as a society, we had to come together and survive.
Eric Berridge (01:36):
And if you think back, if this had happened to us even five years ago, we would not have been digitally ready. I can’t even imagine how businesses would have survived at all. And now we’re operating in a world where some businesses, almost embarrassingly, are thriving because of digital. And I don’t know how we’re going to come out of it and what the real lessons learned are, but this is certainly a moment in time that will be a landmark for how we behave with customers in the future. And it’s going to be fascinating to see as we open back up, how customer interaction and how customer engagement will continue to evolve and change.
Paul Mackender (02:17):
Yeah. And so you just mentioned about, if this is five years ago, so are you basically saying that technology is there today? And so if that is the case, is it more of a people both focus or cultural change that’s required?
Eric Berridge (02:32):
100%. it’s all how we use it, right? I think the challenge for organizations is prioritizing the right things for customers. The challenge is not network bandwidth. The challenge is not the right digital tools. The challenge is not being able to store and harness massive amounts of data. The challenge is not scalability or elasticity. And I would say even five years ago, certainly 10 years ago, those things all showstoppers on the path to true digital engagement.
Paul Mackender (03:02):
Yeah. And I suppose with that, as we become more digital, it goes to without saying, people are more discerning and impossibly brand loyalty. What’s your view on how possibly customer experiences comes to the fore, and how that’s really playing out across different industries?
Eric Berridge (03:21):
Yeah. I mean, I think, I’m a big believer that we get tied to brands emotionally. And we love great experiences. We abhor poor experiences. And as consumers, or as businesses, there’s never been a broader array of choice. And we tack towards the things that make us feel good. So the trick for organizations and for brands and using these technologies is find those experiences. And I think the hard work, I’ll even call it the manual work, if you will, is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to experience your brand from their lens. And I don’t think there’s anything that’s ever going to automate that. Right? And that’s the world we’re in at Salesforce. It’s the world that I was in a Bluewolf was, working very closely with customers to try to understand their customer journeys and to truly try to understand the nooks and crannies of those journeys. Because you can have the greatest customer experience designed, but put your customer down the wrong path. So they never experienced that. And you’ll probably lose them.
Paul Mackender (04:28):
Yeah. And so this whole shift of being digital transformative or transformation generally, when we talked recently, and I think you used the word calcified, the bigger organizations there, the ones that need to… Those Oil tankers need to shift. Can you just maybe elaborate on what you mean by calcified and how does that manifest itself, if you like?
Eric Berridge (04:53):
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. So as you said, at the outset, I had the great privilege to build a company over a decade and a half, and we were always very agile and we didn’t have a lot of hierarchy and we had the benefit of having no legacy, right? And then I went inside of IBM, which is a hundred plus year old company that has done incredible things, is one of the most storied technology companies on the planet. But what I learned inside IBM is that inside of large organizations, there are naturally silos. There are antiquated technologies, they’re antiquated processes that just exist, and that’s not unique to IBM. It’s unique to every large company. And those things hold organizations back from innovation. They hold organizations back from great customer experiences because they tend to take an organization and make it inwardly focused as opposed to outwardly focused.
Eric Berridge (05:52):
But what I learned coming into Salesforce now, also a large company, is that Salesforce has those too. So my utopian vision of the world, which was, you can’t have silos was actually wrong. Every organization has silos. They’re not going away. In some respects, they’re good. You need to organize people into groups. You need to give people responsibility. You need to have boundaries. And that’s ultimately what creates a silo. And then you actually build technology around those silos, which creates the calcification that I was speaking of.
Eric Berridge (06:22):
The trick, is what does a next generation business that’s focused on their customers do to leverage their silos in a positive way? And this is where cross collaboration comes into play. This is where technology can be used to communicate across an organization. This is where roles like chief customer officers, and chief transformation officers and chief inclusion officers, which create cultural imperatives across silos.
Eric Berridge (06:55):
I think the role of the CEO in a big company is to look at his or her organization and understand where the silos exist and figure out ways to get them to interact in the interest of the customer and the employee. And that’s my new view in the world now being inside of two big companies over the past few years. And there’s technology out there to help these silos work together. And I’m not saying you should design your company to have a bunch of silos, but I am saying these are just natural bones of an organization that you need to figure out how to get to work together in a better way. Because left to their own devices, they work to the detriment of your customer.
Paul Mackender (07:36):
Understood. And so building on that, what are the other core traits, if you were to list maybe five or six traits that you would see as being critical for those organizations that are transforming, or either on the journey to transform or have transformed, if you like.
Eric Berridge (07:52):
Well, I think one of them is just speed.
Paul Mackender (07:55):
Eric Berridge (07:55):
We talk about time to value and that whole concept was given birth with the advent of the cloud when organizations could move faster with technology. So speed and time to value is just a critical cultural imperative at any next generation organization. What does that mean? I’ll break that down for you. What is the cadence inside of your organization? How often are you talking about customers? How quickly can you self-organize across your silos in the interest of a customer? Whether that’s out of a call center or whether that’s how your website interacts digitally or whether that’s how your sales organization is constantly talking about how to push your pipeline faster and bring more customers into your ecosystem. So cadence and time to value in these companies is the growth imperative. And technology enables that because if you’re on the right technology platform, you can continually pivot and provide solutions to your employees that will make them more impactful and effective in front of customers.
Eric Berridge (09:03):
I would say the second thing that is a trait of these organizations is a focus on your customer’s outcomes. So less focused on how much product are we selling, less focused on some of the typical metrics that organizations get judged on by Wall Street, and more focused on what are the outcomes that your customers are actually having with your products or services? And even if that’s only an internal mind shift change in an organization, just the language around customer success, as opposed to your own company’s success-
Paul Mackender (09:42):
Eric Berridge (09:42):
Is a driver of change and it’s a driver of value into your ecosystem.
Paul Mackender (09:47):
Yeah. What about risk taking? I mean, do you think the organizations that are at the forefront, are they taking risks, failing fast, is that something you’re seeing in these organizations?
Eric Berridge (09:57):
I think in this day and age where capital continues to be cheap, which translation means you can actually afford to make more mistakes. And you can make an acquisition that is a riskier acquisition than you might’ve been able to make 10 years ago. You can invest in a line of business that you might have had a tougher time getting your board or your CFO to agree to. I think we continue to operate in a risk taking… risk is on, particularly in technology. I think risk is on across almost every industry right now coming out of the pandemic, because I think leaders have been given the opportunity to sit back and truly decide, are we going to hunker down or are we going to double down? And the message we’ve gotten from the capital markets has been doubled down. Which is fascinating if you think about it. I mean, a year and a half ago, if you and I had predicted where the global stock market would be 18 months after a pandemic, we probably wouldn’t have predicted where it is today, right? And I can’t necessarily explain it either.
Paul Mackender (11:06):
Yeah. And again, going back to this whole idea of digital transformation with the customer at the heart, is it right to say that it’s the biggest brands that have got the most to lose? Is it the ones that, they’re the ones that really need to take a focus on those silos and really address this need.
Eric Berridge (11:26):
That is the biggest talk track that we have with executives today in Salesforce’s customer base. The big brands who are concerned about digital disruption from companies that you and I haven’t heard of, like in the insurance space, a company like Lemonade has big, large insurance executives scratching their heads, saying, “I need to deliver a digital experience that is either on par or better than a fintech upstart.” We’re seeing that in healthcare, we’re seeing that in manufacturing, and the Elon Musk effect in the auto industry. There’s not an auto executive out there that isn’t looking at how Tesla has disrupted their traditional space.
Eric Berridge (12:16):
And the good news is, there’s a lot of positive energy around it. It creates opportunity for brands. It creates opportunities for employees. I think our traditional workplace is naturally evolving into a knowledge workplace. And I think it’s why unemployment is low. It’s why… It’s because there’s opportunity out there.
Paul Mackender (12:43):
Yeah. Yeah. And as you say, because it’s fresh thinking of them. I’ve listened to a few of your podcasts and it was two things. I heard one point you made about when you changed your car. And that maybe you’ll touch up on that. And also, when you’re talking to your joint friend of ours, Lindsay Armstrong, with regards to how you measure customer success, and you were talking about NPS and those scores and whether or not, are they the right indicators? So do you see both of those points? Is there a new way that boards and leaders need to think about how they measure, I suppose, that the quality of the service they deliver to a customer? The metrics that really mean simply as opposed to possibly bygone metrics that were written up and just no longer relevant these days.
Eric Berridge (13:29):
Yeah, I think for most brands, and this is really hard and Lindsay and I rift on this in the podcast. And I think I even challenged her. I said, “All right, what is the metric then?” And she said, it wasn’t NPS, but we couldn’t come up with a great one together, right? But if I look at the history of brands, most companies come to market with some amazing idea or revolution or new way of doing something. And the great brands did it in a way where they just create a dominance in a short period of time. I think the way that executives need to measure the efficacy of their companies, is can you really, truly… Are your customers buying your whole portfolio? Are you getting their share of wallet across your growing products set? Right?
Eric Berridge (14:22):
And are you doing that in a way where there are obvious synergies between product A, product B, product C or service, whatever you’re selling, right? Because I think companies that actually might be doing well on paper, but might have an eroding foundation are those that are one trick ponies and are playing price games and margin games with existing product sets. But they’re not actually leveraging the fact that they have these touch points with their global customers. I think that share of wallet statistic is one that most CEOs today are really focused on, even though it’s less of a stat that Wall Street is concerned with, right? Wall Street will continue to worry about earnings per share, top-line growth. And they’re less concerned with what’s actually going on with the consumption of an organization’s products set.
Paul Mackender (15:15):
Understood. And have you got any examples you can talk about? Organizations that you think are doing this work at the moment?
Eric Berridge (15:22):
Well, I mean, obviously I wear the Salesforce jersey, but I think as a company, Salesforce is doing it fairly well. I think in a different way, Amazon’s obviously doing it pretty well. I mean, if you look at their portfolio of products and services, I actually think IBM is starting to do it pretty well. As I look at how that organization is evolving under Arvind’s stewardship. And there are many other examples. But I think customers are so hard to acquire. It is so hard to get a customer to fall in love with your brand and trust your brand. And they’re so easy to lose.
Paul Mackender (16:02):
Eric Berridge (16:04):
And you’re going to lose them if they’re only relying on you for one thing, right? Because someone else is going to come up and disintermediate that one thing.
Paul Mackender (16:11):
Yeah. And so coming full circle, can you tell me a bit more about your role, why you joined Salesforce, what you’re doing working with some of Salesforce is largest customers?
Eric Berridge (16:21):
Absolutely. I said to people, when I signed on in December of this past year, I said, “I feel like I’ve been interviewing for this job for like 20 years with this company.” And I was flattered to be invited to be a part of the organization. It was a tough decision because I’d been out of the corporate world for a little while, which had its refreshing moments, but also had its moments where you’re like, “I got to jump back in.”
Eric Berridge (16:50):
But the thing that is exciting and what really got me excited about joining Salesforce was, first and foremost, Marc has this company on a mission, a growth mission, where we have our sights set on being a $50 billion company. And to do that, as I said, it’s imperative that our customers adopt our platform and adopt the Customer 360 platform through and through. And that’s not always easy to do, right? It’s pretty easy to deploy sales cloud or service cloud into a silo. It’s harder for a transformation to happen across a large multinational company where all of your data is flowing through a 360 degree view of your customer. And that’s ultimately where Salesforce shines.
Eric Berridge (17:39):
So I joined our Professional Services organization as our commercial officer. And one of my roles is to help Lori Steele, who runs Professional Services organization, to really build a more strategic services offering inside of Salesforce, that partners with our ecosystem. So we work very closely with the GSIs. We worked very closely with a whole host of third parties that deploy Salesforce solutions. But to do it in a way where we are our trusted advisors to our most strategic customers, to make sure that they’re getting the most value out of this platform. And it’s been a ball so far. Somehow the pandemic kicked off this digital transformation wave and we’re talking to just about every company on the planet about how we might be able to help them do it. So it’s been exciting.
Paul Mackender (18:35):
Fantastic. So I suppose to wrap all this up, then looking forward and maybe looking for as part of role, what do you think the main lasting impacts of the pandemic are? I mean, is it that this digital transformation boulder will keep rolling and rolling and rolling? Do you see some things morphing and changing? What’s your prediction for how businesses are going to move forward?
Eric Berridge (18:59):
Well, first of all, I think it’s hard to predict that. I think that, talking to people now, in fact, I’ve had one customer meeting a couple of weeks ago, I met a customer for a drink, which was like an out-of-body experience. I’m going on my first trip at the end of this week to see a customer down in Charlotte. And I think I’m starting to see people gradually get out in a careful protocol oriented way, which is great. I think there’s going to be a pent up emotional, just outpouring for organizations as they get back with each other and as they get back with their customers. And I think that’s going to make for an interesting summer and fall.
Eric Berridge (19:40):
And I think from there, the question is going to become, how do we learn the lessons from the pandemic? How do we use digital in the right ways? How do we not over digitize our lives either? I think one of the downsides to digital meetings is, it’s so easy to jump into them that you find yourself now on calls with 20 or 30 people, which is great if someone’s giving a presentation, it’s a terrible forum for discussion, right?
Eric Berridge (20:08):
So I think we’re going to have to get into a mode where we use digital correctly, but we still use face-to-face for the things that needs to be used for. And then I think at a higher level, I think… This was a global health crisis, and I think we’re all hopeful that as a society, we can learn how to not only deal with global health crises, but to improve ourselves as a society from a healthcare perspective. And from, I’ll even say, a class perspective, right?
Eric Berridge (20:42):
There were haves and haves nots during the pandemic. And I hope one of the driving lessons that we get out this is, we’re all in this together. We need to be empathetic. We need to invest our tax dollars and our corporate citizenship and the right way so that we A, can avoid future situations like this, but B, we can help bring more people into this economic have and have not world.
Eric Berridge (21:08):
So I’m hopeful that that’s going to happen. I think back to 9/11 as a moment that I think we missed at least in America, where we really had an opportunity. And I think, instead we furthered our military industrial ways, and we governed by fear and not to make this a political discussion, but I’m just hoping that coming out of the pandemic from a corporate perspective and from just a personal and a group perspective, there’s a lot of positive change that we can all affect because we’ve all had a lot of time to sit back and think about our place in the world.
Paul Mackender (21:44):
Well, that’s one thing for sure. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. So Eric, it’s been fantastic to chat. It’s was enlightening. Appreciate your time. Stay healthy. It’s good to see you again.
Eric Berridge (21:54):
Thank you. Paul’s great to be here.
Paul Mackender (21:56):