It doesn't require much to set personal goals, or even an agenda for an entire company. That's easy. And with a bit of talent, a dollop of luck, and a great deal of internal strength, you can even drive a company consistently toward those goals. That's a little more unusual. But setting goals, driving toward them, and shifting an entire industry in the process? For this,CRM Hall of Famer Marc Benioff, cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com-and a fervent evangelist of the on-demand delivery model-has returned as one of our Influential Leaders.
Once known as CRM's Bad Boy, Benioff can now add another "B" to his collection: billion-dollar. In its 10th year, Salesforce.com topped yet another major milestone-$1 billion in annual revenue. Benioff's expansive goals have been matched by his company's expanded offerings: Its early days of pure sales force automation (SFA) are long gone, joined now by marketing, customer service, and-thanks to its Force.com platform-infrastructure and ecosystem. "Salesforce.com used to be all about the SFA deals," explains Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research. "Today we're seeing Salesforce.com-and there's no other vendor in CRM we've seen do this-successfully move from one complete business area to another."
In January, Salesforce.com unveiled its Service Cloud, which captures conversations from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Even in the offering's first few months of availability, its promise warranted a Rising Star nod in CRM's April Service Awards issue.
It's easy to credit a CEO for his company's success, argues Tim Hickernell, lead analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, but it does take power and influence to keep a team of like-minded individuals focused on a common goal. "Marc has a good team of people that, from the beginning, was fanatic about the concept of multitenant architectures," he says. "They got it from the beginning, before anyone else did."
"From the beginning"-a phrase that recurs when it comes to Benioff. The beginning is when he influenced events merely through bold predictions and proclamations.We're now seeing a new dynamic: the era of Benioff influencing the industry as a result of his leadership, rather than the other way around.
One look at this year's Market Awards will confirm that Salesforce.com and Benioff are no longer plausible in the role of David shooting stones at Goliaths such as Oracle and SAP. The tables have turned, and Benioff's balancing act between small and large customers may come under more scrutiny:Analysts cite complaints among small business customers over pricing and service. Will Benioff stay true to his entrepreneurial roots, or will he continue to push higher, leaving the smaller segment to some new up-and-comer? No matter what Benioff is thinking-and there's no doubt the man is always thinking-his influence remains a force to be reckoned with.