Updated: Jan 22
Welcome to the first installment of our series of interviews with Salesforce MVPs! Salesforce MVPs are a special group of people. They’re considered experts on the technology, and they’re passionate about the Salesforce community, too. They’ve been recognized by Salesforce because they consistently share knowledge and have a heartfelt enthusiasm passion for the platform.
First on the list is Eric Dreshfield. You may know him as a Salesforce MVP “Hall of Famer” or as the founder of multiple Salesforce community groups and events including Midwest Dreamin'. He’s spoken at Dreamforce at least five times, and if you’ve been to any Salesforce event over the past decade, you’ve likely heard or seen his name.
Last month, I had the opportunity to spend 30 minutes with Eric. I found him to be not only a Salesforce enthusiast, but an open and kind human being. When I asked for his time, he didn’t blink an eye and when we spoke, he was incredibly gracious, and I felt like he was truly happy to talk to me.
Eric and I chatted about his sort of accidental entry into his first Salesforce role and his journey since then. These stories can be inspiring for those of you who are just starting out and trying to figure out how to navigate this massive new world.
He also shared some thoughts for new and growing firms that want to stand out in the ecosystem. Read on to see his advice!
It’s All About the Network
Eric never intended to become a Salesforce MVP, but his love for the product and the community led him to more and more involvement. He has been named an MVP every year since 2013, just 4 years after he first asked, “What’s Salesforce?”
Eric’s main takeaway from his journey from Salesforce newbie to MVP is the power of the Salesforce community. The community welcomed Eric and helped him learn, supported his efforts to connect and educate, and helped him find a job he loves.
He continues to be amazed by the people he gets to work with in the Salesforce ecosystem.
In fact, the thing Eric has missed the most during the pandemic is face-to-face networking. Virtual is better than nothing, but it’s just not the same.
He’s looking forward to (hopefully) resuming in-person events in 2021 and encouraged new users to attend events and take advantage of the “random collisions” with other users to grow their own networks.
According to Eric, leveraging the Salesforce ecosystem has been vital for more than his own success. For the past 5 years, his job has been to help the company he works for become more widely known in the Salesforce ecosystem.
To do this, he attended community events and hung out on Salesforce-related Twitter threads. This helped him “feel the pulse” of the community and understand what kind of message would resonate. Eric credited understanding the Salesforce community with enabling him to craft the messages that helped his companies grow their influence in the Salesforce ecosystem. Let's hear the story of how he got started.
The Journey Begins: Eric’s Introduction to Salesforce
Eleven years ago, Eric was working in a temporary role similar to a software support agent when he got a call from HR about a full time position. He went through the interview process with the Vice President, someone he had never met before.
She said, “OK Eric, I’ve looked at your customer support scores and I know why you’re still here. My one question is… Why are we wasting your time and ours supporting our customers where there are so many other things you could do to help this company move forward?”
Three weeks later he was working as a Business Analyst tasked with rolling out Salesforce to the company’s call center. Eric had never heard of Salesforce, but he embraced the learning curve and dove head first into the Salesforce ecosystem.
There were no Salesforce community groups nearby, so Eric travelled up to 5 hours one way to attend groups in other cities. He quickly fell in love with the amazing Salesforce community.
After several months of travelling, he called Salesforce to ask what it would take to start a local group and whether they knew of any users in his community who might lead the group. Suddenly, Eric was that person.
He had no idea this was the first step on his journey to Salesforce MVP. Eric still leads the group and the same five people who showed up to the first meeting still attend today.
He had is first opportunity to attend Dreamforce in 2010 and longed to go, but there was no money in his company or his personal budget to attend. Eric seems to have never met a challenge he didn’t feel like taking on.
In 2011, he launched his own community led Salesforce event. The conference that started with 100 people in Louisville, KY has grown into the annual Midwest Dreamin’ event held in Chicago from 2014-2019. Midwest Dreamin’ attracts hundreds of Salesforce enthusiasts eager to learn and network and is planned to be held in Minneapolis in 2021.
Outside of his work in the Salesforce community, Eric’s career continued to change. He realized that marketing and product evangelism were his true callings, and leveraged his Salesforce user network to work for several companies before beginning his current role as a Partner Marketing Manager at Active Campaign in September, 2019.
Intangibles Make A Difference
When I asked Eric for his thoughts on how partners - both ISVs and SIs - can differentiate themselves in the ecosystem, he mentioned the importance of intangibles such as company culture and diversity.
It’s important to have a clear brand voice and compelling customer stories, but making it clear that your company values diversity in all forms is equally critical.
Eric said that both the workforce and the leadership team should reflect the diversity of the community. Clear commitment to diversity of thought is also important. To stand out in the Salesforce ecosystem, Eric emphasized that companies must both have an open and diverse culture and make sure that these values are communicated through the website, content, and branding.
Eric’s Top Three Tips For Standing Out in the Salesforce Ecosystem
Hearing about Eric’s Salesforce journey is inspiring, but I know you’re also hoping to learn his secrets to Salesforce success. Here’s what he said when I asked him for this top three tips for companies entering the Salesforce ecosystem:
Pick A Niche
It’s no surprise that the Salesforce ecosystem is competitive. To give your company the best chance of success, Eric recommended carefully picking a niche with relatively few competitors. You’ll start with instant demand and avoid being the smallest fish in a big pond.
This may seem difficult, but Eric mentioned several niches with increasing demand that aren’t yet saturated. His list included focus areas like analytics, CPQ, and Tableau CRM.
Make Sure Your Employees Are Well Cared For
Salesforce puts a lot of emphasis on how partners treat their employees. To be part of the Salesforce ecosystem, you must make sure your employees have good work life balance and that your policies result in happy employees. Practices such as only allowing contractors to bill 38 hours per week for a job that requires 50 to complete are a definite no-no.
Eric said that well cared for employees will help you get noticed by Salesforce and by your customers. When employees are happy, customers can feel it. Their happiness colors every customer interaction - both positive and negative - and has a profound effect on your company’s success. The opposite is true, as well, so put in the effort to treat your employees well.
Treat Everybody Like Humans
Eric’s final recommendation was to treat everyone like humans. Remember that people are more than data. They have thoughts and opinions and hearts. To succeed, you need to treat people as equals, treat them like you would want to be treated, and value their input.
One way to do this is to commit to listening. Eric mentioned that Salesforce had an Ideas Forum where anyone can post ideas for future features and vote on what Salesforce should prioritize. Salesforce listens to the users on the forum and implements their ideas and requests. That’s the kind of listening that will help you break into the Salesforce ecosystem.
Follow Eric on Twitter @EricDresh
Need Help With Your Own Salesforce Journey?
I enjoyed talking with Eric, and I hope you find the things he shared helpful. Every Salesforce journey, whether for an individual or a company, is unique, but there are common themes in every successful trail.
The bloomly team knows what it takes to stand out. Entering the ecosystem can seem overwhelming, but we’re here to help. We focus on crafting your unique message and communicating your value to the people that matter.
Schedule a free introductory call today to learn how we can help grow your footprint in the Salesforce ecosystem.