This week on the Digital Transformation Show, we interviewed Merlin Luck.

Merlin Luck has been with Salesforce for 6 years. He started in Business Development then move through various Account Executive roles, into his current leadership position.

Now merlin leads a team of Salesforce Account Executives in the small to medium business market and loves that his workplace is entrepreneurial yet also a market leader.

This provides amazing opportunities and support with the freedom to be disruptive, and really flex those entrepreneurial muscles.

Merlin’s Story

Merin was bought up in a hippy commune, so a life in the corporate world was never really on the cards. Early on in his career he founded his own retail fashion business and grew his team to 13. Unfortunately, that entire business collapsed.

With a wife and baby to support, he decided it was time to get a ‘real job’ – and joined Salesforce.

Initially Merlin’s plan was to stay for maybe three years, clear his debt then go start again in the start-up world. Six years later he is still with Salesforce, feels fulfilled and happy and couldn’t ever consider leaving.

It’s funny –  the very thing that seems like something you don’t want turns out to be the best possible thing that could ever happen. That’s testament to the culture of intrapreneurship at Salesforce.

Merlin Luck, Manager SMB Commercial Sales, Salesforce

Salesforce hasn’t lost its roots, it still acts like a tech start-up out of San Francisco. It helps that the technology is unrivalled in its capability. The people who sell it the technology truly believe in the product and how it can help their clients.

Taking a step back and looking at Salesforce’s journey is impressive. The hyper growth it has received; nineteen years ago it was four people in a rundown apartment in San Francisco to now employing over 35,000 people globally, not including all partners and careers its created.

Salesforce and Small Business

Many customers believe that Salesforce is a conglomerate organisations design only for enterprise clients – which is just not the case.

The best way to think about it is to think of it as your own business or having your own business. Merlin says he thinks about his own business and how he hadn’t invested in those important things like technology.

When your business is small with a team of one or two, it’s easy to coordinate the day to day activities but as you grow your business becomes in-efficient without the proper technology stack.

Customer centricity is another important factor to consider when you’re faced with the task of scaling a business. You lose customer centricity due to differing touch points, multiple employees and the different moving parts. You can lose sight of who is who.

Customer centricity and hyper growth all revolve around smart, connected technology. Clear visibility of cash flow, data clarity, communications across the business and collaboration between teams – those things cannot be scaled on gut instinct.

Merlin says that his sense of belief comes from first understanding how hard it was growing his own business and that he can help his customers realise how much easier it can be.

A two-person start-up can get the best technology in the world based on their level of maturity. The great thing is not having to buy something that suits your requirements now but doesn’t grow with your business rather, buy the tech that suits you now and into the future.

You cannot be competitive with your marketing strategy if that doesn’t deeply connect to your technology strategy. It’s the same for customer service, finance, operations – even your employees expect it.

Customers do not expect a linear experience when dealing with your organisation, they see it all as one. To the customer, things do not happen in isolation – they are all connected. The tech needs to empower your business to connect it all. This is the true definition of customer experience.

Merlin says that he often notices that small businesses have a reactive approach to their technology. They are running so fast, wearing so many hats – with no bandwidth to step back and look at the big picture.

For example: A business hires more salespeople to keep up with enquiry demand then realise they need a platform to manage their activity. They then hire a marketer to get more qualified leads then implement a great piece of marketing technology. Marketing and sales are doing such a great job that they need to hire more customer service representatives then realise they need a platform for managing complaints and warranties.

As a result of this approach, they end up with a Frankenstein of siloed applications.

Many applications say they are open and connect with other platforms. This may be the case but having a customer centric, single source of truth approach is fundamentally impossible due to each application holding its own records based on how it’s interacted with the customer.

What differentiates single platform solutions like Salesforce?

The key point of differentiation of Salesforce is that its single platform allows all the best apps and tools to be built on top of it, live, integrated into the data. The platform itself is the key source of truth that records all touch points and information to allow a truly 360 degree customer view.

Administrating one platform is less of a drain on IT and now with AI being built in, the opportunity for small businesses is unprecedented. This technology is crucial for any business that plans to disrupt and dominate their industry.

The Problem with Technology Debt

The term technology debt is something a lot of small to medium businesses would be aware of who have made the switch from siloed technology structures to a singular platform like Salesforce.

Your organisation will spend so much time investing into the numerous platforms; so much data, so many processes, so much training, that when the inevitable ‘growth roof’ is hit, you have to dismantle everything and translate it into the new system.

This method is definitely not the end of the world but a far easier way to set your business up for success is to make the investment in the right technology from the start. This often-overlooked component will heighten your chances for success as your business grows.

The Implementation Approach

Just because software like Salesforce is single platform, doesn’t mean that you need to deploy the whole thing from day one.

We recommend a crawl, walk, run approach. Iteration over time is best practice.

Implementing the entire system at once would be very disruptive and too expensive for most business to do successfully.

Our implementation approach is often quote the paradox. The less you do the more value you see, not the other way around which is often surprising for a lot clients. Most people think that the more you spend, the more you change, the more value they will create – which is just not true.

Salesforce Explained

To further help understand Salesforce, it’s a single platform with a bunch of great apps easily downloadable from the App Exchange and is all custom code-able. It really is the greatest meccano set for businesses of the 21st century.

Salesforce and the App Exchange are similar in concept to the iPhone and the Appstore. The iPhone is the single platform and the app store is where developers from anywhere in the world can build an app that you can download. Salesforce works exactly the same.

The great thing about the App Exchange for customers is that each app is highly specialised which makes the market places highly competitive. In such an ecosystem, innovation and value for money are driven further and further each day – all build on the one platform.

Final words from Merlin

We asked Merlin what one message he had for small businesses considering what they need to do when approaching their technology structure.

Merlin said “Don’t get trapped in the ‘this is the way I’ve always done it’ rhythm. On the other end of the spectrum you have business owners who want to disrupt and change things at the drop of a hat which can cause issues.”

Attitude + Strategy + Technology = Success

If you require assistance through any of these stages, get in contact with us.

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