Industry Veteran Joins CRM Upstart

Marc Benioff is known for stirring things up with his "The End of Software," proclamations. Now Benioff, chairman and CEO of the online CRM vendor Salesforce.com, is trying to shake up the industry again by drafting Jim Steele to the company's management team as president of worldwide operations. Steele, a 23-year veteran of IBM, most recently served as executive vice president of sales for Ariba. The announcement comes shortly after Salesforce.com celebrated acquiring is 5,000th customer and launched three new products. Steele is in charge of running worldwide sales, services, support, and marketing for Salesforce.com. Two third of the company's 300 employees will report to Steele; he will report directly to Benioff. "I feel great about this," Steele says during a break in a meeting with a New York-based customer. "Usually you have to figure out the value proposition of coming into a new position, and this was just the opposite. I'm joining at a great time. While everyone else is watching their fortunes drop, it's a very different environment here. What I like about this company is its course direction and the company's demonstrated growth. And it looks like it will continue." Steele brings nearly 25 years of technology sales and executive management experience to his new role at Salesforce.com. At Ariba Steele served as executive vice president of worldwide sales, and was responsible for customer satisfaction, expansion of direct and indirect sales channels, and increased penetration in vertical markets. "Ariba was a terrific experience. I got there when the Internet bubble was bursting and I needed the skills I gained from having to go through all of that. I have no regrets. Ariba is on the right foot, but I'm confident this is the right fit for me in terms of growth," Steele says. At IBM Steele started as a sales representative and then worked in various management roles, including vice president of sales and marketing for the western U.S. When he left IBM in early 2001 he was vice president of North America, western region, with responsibility for 10,000 employees and more than $9 billion in hardware, software, and services revenue. "My experience at IBM was great. It was like a family for 23 years. What I learned selling enterprise systems around the world was that selling solutions and meeting customer's requirements wasn't technology chasing a customer, it was finding a customer and developing a plan to serve customer needs," Steele says. "IBM teaches you it's all about the customer. My whole experience working abroad developing solutions is not only how to keep customers loyal for life, but how to scale a business globally and how to pull all your resources together--sales, services, consulting, and marketing--for the best solution. Hopefully that will serve me well at Salesforce.com," Steele says. Steele's charge at Salesforce.com is growth: "This is a very large opportunity for us. My goal is to bring the same level of success the company has had in the past two-and-a-half years to the next two-and-a-half years. We look at our business model and our strategy is to grow organically and exponentially. We want double-digit growth month-to-month, and triple-digit growth year-to-year," he says. Steele says Salesforce.com will most likely accomplish further growth by not only looking for new customers, but also by luring companies that have used other systems in the past. "The question in 2003 is not whether or not we will grow, the question is to what magnitude," he says.
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