Monday, November 10, 2008's Burning Desire to Win

I suspect each of us attends so many meetings, conferences, trade shows and networking sessions the specifics from any one particular event fade over time.

For instance, I can tell you that John Chambers from Cisco Systems and Scott McNeely of Sun are exceptional speakers each with a dramatically different style. Yet, I haven’t a clue about the messaging they delivered last year at their respective FOSE key notes.

Of course, like certain memories from childhood there are times when a speaker addresses a topic or answers a question that sticks with us.

More than eight years ago I attended a Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) event that featured a presentation on corporate strategy from the CEO Of an online marketplace called Pack Expo. I can’t recall the CEO’s name or what he talked about, other than the fact that the company has just negotiated an exclusive reseller agreement which gave them access to a new market. The CEO was particularly giddy this teaming agreement effectively blocked out their primary competitor.

Hands went up for questions and a woman in back shot up. Didn’t the CEO think it was unfair for PackExpo to negotiate a relationship that derailed the prospects of another company, she asked. Wasn’t there enough business to go around for everyone to work collaboratively?

I remember the CEO responding decisively. I won’t apologize for being in business to win, he said. We provide value to our customers through our products supported by a strategy that delivers a return for our company, its shareholders and its employees.

I suspect subscribes to this view as well. In a recent InfoWorld column, Bill Snyder recounts the tussle between the software-as-a-service leader and a start-up called Zoho. The story breaks down as follows: gives the green light for Zoho to sell its products on AppExchange, even though one of the applications is a competitive CRM offering. This deal will give Zoho access to thousands of potential new customers, so they invest time and money to integrate their products with AppExchange. CEO approaches Zoho CEO about a potential acquisition of the company. Zoho says “no.” changes its mind and gives Zoho the boot off of AppExchange. Zoho cries foul to the trade press.

While comes off as untrustworthy, the company is completely within its right to alter the nature of its relationship with Zoho. I suspect the initial agreement was part of’s approach to acquire Zoho at the most favorable terms possible.

It didn’t work out. So they changed course. As long as did not violate the terms of a contract or acting unethically, they were merely executing on a business strategy.

Where it breaks down for is when their CEO Mark Benioff stands in front of a room of customers at its user conference and declares that they, unlike Microsoft, “love everybody.” (Image courtesy of ZDNet.)

It’s simply not true and, as a result, the statement rings hollow. Like the speaker from my NVTC event, Benioff should embrace his desire to win.


cybersurfer2349 said...

Ayy chance that Salesforce may rethink its position on Zoho? If it does, it will speak volumes about the company and its leadership. Do you agree?

Marc Hausman said...

@cybersurfer2349 -- I've never done any business with, yet they strike me as a well run business with a clearly defined strategy. As such, I suspect they continue to have an interest in a relationship with Zoho.

Steve "The Salesologist" Cadley said...

I would agree with you assessment that SFDC was within it's right to "manhandle" Zoho. has effectively created a new market and Eco system in the SaaS and as such currently has the edge in this market space. And we know that this market leading position won't last forever, but while they have it, I think they are well within their rights to leverage their position in this space.

And as for SFDC allowing Zoho to build into App Exchange, with the premeditated intention of acquiring them, I think is a bit to Machiavellian of a view for this situation. While I am not taking away anything from SFDC in their leaderships strategic foresight, I think this is more about the left hand not knowing what the right was doing. We know that communication is a challenge in any organization, so I think that Zoho was given the go ahead to build into App Exchange and THEN it was discovered that a potential acquisition (or some sexy IP) was right under Benioff's nose. And then the M&A activity went into action. At least that is my thought on how this unfolded and I may be proven to be wrong at some point in the future.

Anyway thanks for making me aware of this situation and for offering a forum for this to be discussed. It was fun.

Steve Cadley
Cadley Consulting Group
A Sales Performance Consultancy and Social Media Strategic Planning Group.