Is Marc Benioff still the right CEO for Salesforce?

by Ian Campbell February 14, 2023
Marc Benioff is distracted and has lost sight of the two most important things he needs to watch as a CEO: his customers and his employees.

Marc Benioff has lost sight of the two most important things he needs to watch as a CEO: his customers and his employees. When was the last time he sat with a small customer to see how they use Salesforce? Does he understand the real cost to deploy, or the real level of customer service his company provides? Does he care? On the employee front does he really understand how his employees act? Is this a customer-focused company or has an “attitude” started to take hold among the staff. Slimming the company by 10% is a start, but does he realize how many of his remaining work-from-home employees have a side hustle (I’m not just picking this point at random)?

Any 3-star Michelin chef will tell you the hardest part about gaining that third star is the pressure to keep it. You can’t just be great; you need to remain great. Salesforce was first to the SaaS CRM market and that made them a leader by default. Momentum kept them in front and for some time they led the way with expanded capabilities and industry-specific solutions. But momentum needs to be maintained and Salesforce has not done that. Last year we moved Salesforce out of the leader quadrant when we noted increasingly negative feedback from customers combined with very costly per-user deployments. The exception remains some of the vertical solutions and we still see positive feedback there, but in general Salesforce is a very expensive proposition with a poor ROI.

Okay, I’ll say it… Benioff is no longer the one.

Marc Benioff is distracted. Salesforce under Benioff is a company with a monument to itself in downtown San Francisco, too many cartoon characters in its marketing, a curious affinity for Hollywood stars, ongoing rumors of the CEO’s political ambitions, and a very loud ESG message. Now we’re all for social initiatives and anyone who knows our company knows how much we support our local husky rescue, but we don’t shout about it.

For many years I noted Ginni Rometty’s lack of ability at IBM. She was wrong for that organization, and they took far too long to make a change, but in her defense, she got IBM when that company was in a difficult spot.

Marc Benioff has no excuse.

Oh, and Callie in the picture is a wonderful, very loving dog that will spend her time lying on the couch with you. Please consider adopting her: