Salesforce.com Buys Dimdim: Is Anyone Planning to Train Those Salespeople?

Last Updated Jan 10, 2011 8:39 AM EST

Salesforce.com has just bought the web presentation platform company Dimdim for 31 million dollars.What this means to Mark Benioff and company is an expansion of their "Chatter" collaboration platform. For Dimdim it means a great deal of cash. What does this mean to those of us who manage remote teams?

I suspect it means 3 things:

1) Web presentations and remote sales calls have become a standard and expected part of the job of selling as well as managing remote sales teams. What are you doing to make this a normal, expected part of the job and build the skills of your sales people and their managers?

2) This marks the end of the free Dimdim accounts, which have been a gateway for many teams to start using web presentations and collaboration while their employers run around figuring out what to use. It probably also means another round of consolidation and a reduction in the number of smaller companies providing these services, especially for free, and...

3) Tens of thousands of salespeople and their managers now have access to yet another feature of Salesforce.com they won't use unless it's properly introduced to them. If you've watched a company struggle through a big Enterprise-wide software integration (and it's not restricted to CRMs- are you listening SAP and SharePoint?) you know that this can mean upheaval, stress and more than a little drama unless handled properly. In the case of sales people, all that frustration and tension can mean lost opportunities and significantly reduced return on investment.

As leaders, are you laying plans to introduce the tool and get people using it or are you crossing your fingers and hoping they figure it out? Before you answer, look at how your Salesforce.com or other CRM (Customer Relationship Management software) rollout has gone so far- are you pleased with the results?

As an observer of the industry, it's a fascinating development. It demonstrates a number of dynamics that have shifted in the last year or so:

  • As the industry matures, there are fewer free options out there, but the overall price of these tools has gotten very low, relative to the benefits. There are fewer excuses for not using these tools as part of your normal communication toolbox.
  • While more companies use these tools, over 60% of customers find online presentations and demos unsatisfactory. This isn't good news for the sales person trying to impress a prospect.
  • Expect more consolidation of platforms as companies look for "suites" of collaboration tools, rather than stand-alone solutions.
  • By some estimates over 90% of companies now use some version of webmeetings or online presentations at least occasionally. These are no longer exotic tools for the early adopter but the way work is done today. For sales people, as territories get larger and travel budgets shrink it will become a critical part of qualifying leads and shortening the sales cycle. Get over it.
  • A lot of stressed out sales people are going to be asked to give presentations in a new medium that they're unfamiliar with and uncomfortable using. This can either be an exciting new opportunity to shorten sales cycles and expand territories or frustrate customers and sales people alike. (Likely it will be a bit of both until people figure it out.)
  • Easy access to tools is no guarantee of their effective adoption. Look at SharePoint, Office Communicator and other similar integrated solutions. As many companies suffer from feature overload and unexploited potential as get a healthy return on their investment.
  • Just because managers, sales people or project managers are expected to use these tools, doesn't mean they'll use them effectively (if at all). Selling, presenting and facilitating meetings online is different than the way they've been doing it up til now... and that assumes you're happy with the way they've done it til now and they're building from solid skill sets.
Full disclosure-- I have a long friendly but non-financial relationship with the folks at Dimdim ( they provided some research and graphic materials for my latest book "10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations") so I'm happy for them. I also have enough clients using Salesforce.com to know this is potentially a good move on their part. As always, I am not married to any particular provider or platform.

The question for companies and their leaders is: will companies give their people the training and support to use these tools effectively or will this be another feature added to a tsunami of change that's already making people crazy and negatively impacting productivity?

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photo by flickr user Orin Zebest CC 2.0