It’s the 10th birthday of the Salesforce AppExchange, so I wanted to share our story of how the AppExchange has helped LevelEleven turn a basic idea from a new Salesforce customer into the creation of the revenue behavior management industry and the sales performance platform.
Five years ago, I was the SVP of Sales Strategy at ePrize, an established, 400-person marketing technology company based in metro-Detroit. We worked with the world’s largest brands including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Target, and General Motors to motivate and engage consumer behavior via web, mobile, and social. As our sales team grew to 125 people strong, I led the effort to purchase Salesforce so we could more effectively manage our sales team. Like anyone who buys Sales Cloud, the premise for the investment was that if we could measure what was happening within our sales team, we could motivate what we wanted to happen more often.
Coming from the perspective of a sales leader, I bought Salesforce to monitor and manage the data behind our sales team’s interactions with customers. But something was missing in terms of how I wanted to be able to manage our sales process. I knew how much business we closed this month and what the pipeline looked like, but I was still scratching my head on a lot of questions:
- I see a lot of salespeople who are busy, but why aren’t they selling more?
- I can see our opportunity pipeline, but what are the sales behaviors and activities that will lead to sales?
- Are we having enough new business intro meetings to line us up to hit next quarter’s sales targets?
- Are we sending out enough proposals?
- What are the top performers doing compared to everyone else?
- Are they making the right decisions on where to focus their time? How do they know?
- Are our front line sales managers managing their team effectively? If so, which ones?
- Are our new reps ramping properly?
- Are we ahead or behind our activity goals? If so, by how much? Do people even know?
- Are there particular teams or individuals who are struggling? If so, which ones?
- Who needs coaching around the activities and behaviors that drive the sales process?
I knew all this data was sitting inside of Salesforce, but I wanted to figure out a way to get access to it and share with salespeople and sales managers to help them see what was going on. Our sales team had been running for years on too much subjectivity, and I wanted to change that.
And then it hit me… I’ve personally spent the last 10-years working directly with the world’s largest brands to motivate the behavior of tens of millions of consumers. How could I take that experience and do the same thing to motivate salespeople? I became aware of the AppExchange as a marketplace of solutions that could be plugged into Salesforce, and realized there could be a massive market opportunity if we could build something around this idea.
So we went to work.
Building the Dream(force)
I first approached our CEO who loved the concept, as I knew he was actively seeking innovative ways to create new lines of revenue. I shared that in just a few months the Dreamforce conference was happening, so we should aim to get something live by then. We quickly assembled a team of developers and project managers, and started researching what it would take to build a native Salesforce application and get it on the AppExchange.
Fast forward a few months, and we got our first product iteration through security review and live on the AppExchange just days before Dreamforce. Phew!
This massive conference gave us a firehose of feedback that would have taken months to get otherwise. It also got us a boat load of leads, so our little side project business idea was off to the races. The following week, we closed our first paying customer. A few weeks later we signed up a big manufacturing company out of Chicago with 100-users. Then a month after that we signed up 2000-users at Comcast, and then another 50-users with the Detroit Pistons. Within 4-months we signed up about a dozen paying customers.
The initial product, which was a really basic contest and leaderboard app was only the beginning. We didn’t know how to charge for it, the whole idea of selling licensed based software was new to us, and we were selling to a completely new buyer than we were used to from our digital marketing backgrounds. Now we were selling to Salesforce administrators, sales managers, and a new title that was emerging called “sales operations.”
While this whole concept was really early, it became clear that this could turn into something much bigger. I started seeing the vision for a robust sales behavior management platform, and with Salesforce growing so quickly with over 80,000 customers at the time, it was also clear there was a defined market we could go after.
While this was all happening, ePrize was in the process of being sold to a private equity firm, Catterton Partners. So the timing was really unique, and the CEO and I agreed this idea would be best served as its own standalone company. So I reached out to a local VC firm that had just launched, Detroit Venture Partners. It was backed by the original founder of ePrize, Josh Linkner, and Dan Gilbert, the CEO of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So in October 2012, we officially launched as LevelEleven. Fast forward just a few years later and we’re still totally focused on the Salesforce ecosystem. We’ve created over 30-new jobs in the city of Detroit, led the charge on building the revenue behavior management category, raised over $9 million in venture capital, been viewed more than 1.2 million times on the the AppExchange, and secured more than 200 customers including Comcast, American Express, EMC, Procore, Staples, Symantec, HubSpot and Pandora. And we’re still doing it 100 percent on the Salesforce platform.
Happy Birthday, AppExchange.
Being part of the AppExchange community is something to be proud of. It’s the first real enterprise app marketplace, and it gives you instant credibility within the Salesforce community.
Not only has being a part of the AppExchange attracted a lot of attention for us and exposed us to new leads, but it’s become tremendously easy to get our software in the hands of our customers. While traditional enterprise software would take months to get installed and integrated, our clients can set up a completely secure and infinitely scalable product from LevelEleven in a matter of minutes.
Mostly importantly, what started as a niche tool for internal use has become a full-blown company serving customers around the globe, and is helping sales teams drive significant increases in productivity and revenue from of their investment in Salesforce.
So here’s to you on your 10th birthday, Salesforce AppExchange. We hope it’s a good one, and we can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store.