Last week at Dreamforce , I had the great pleasure of receiving a guided tour of the Small Business Lodge by Eric Bensley, Senior Product Director of Marketing for Salesforce, and Rekha Srivatsan, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Salesforce. There were several hundred people sitting in, doing one-on-one sessions with Salesforce engineers, and watching demos of different Salesforce applications.
To get even more of a flavor for what small business attendees were interested in learning about, I sat down with Eric Bensley right in the middle of all the activity in the lodge for a few minutes to find out more. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full conversation, check out the video or embedded SoundCloud player below.
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Small Business Trends: Thank you for having me come in and check out the Small Business Lodge here.
Eric Bensley: Absolutely. Welcome to Dreamforce.
Small Business Trends: This is awesome. First of all, there’s a lot of activity, a lot of sessions going on, a lot of one-on-one things. Just give me a broad overview of what’s happening here today.
Eric Bensley: Dreamforce can sometimes be a little overwhelming for small businesses. There’s a lot going on here as you can attest to. The idea behind this lodge we’re sitting in right now is that somebody hears about a new product like Salesforce Essentials, for instance, wants to learn a little more, wants to get hands on; they can come here. We have a theater right here on the other side of us that’s constantly going with content for small businesses, specially just for small business content.
Behind me, we have an entire lodge set up where we’re doing consultations, one-on-one consultations which are one of the most popular things that we do for small businesses. They can ask any question they want, talk to one of our engineers, not sales people, one of our engineers. How do you do this? How do I build a nurture program? How do I follow up with my leads? How do I make sure my forecasts are accurate? Very common questions we get from small businesses. They can sit down, ask an engineer, see it in the products.
Then, obviously, we’re introducing Salesforce Essentials this week, which is our brand new version of our CRM which is built for small businesses to get started easily. We’re demoing that over behind us and also featuring some of our great launch partners for that.
Small Business Trends: There’s a session going on that talks about how to do your own events. Salesforce is known for great events and having a lot of people at them. So it’s not just about learning the product, it’s actually about learning to do things that will help you build your business in general.
Eric Bensley: Yeah, absolutely. I think, over the years, Dreamforce has become more and more of that, going beyond just how do I use my CRM and more into best practices and thought leadership. Just like you mentioned, we were sitting here just a moment ago watching a session about how you can use events to drive pipeline. And, of course, you need a CRM to capture the information, but a lot of that stuff is about how do you plan an event? We have a lot of experience with that and so part of this event is not just telling people about how to use a CRM, but how they can be a better marketer, how they could be a better sales person, how they can be a better customer service person.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the hot areas that people are looking for advice around? Is it around sales, marketing service, specific things?
Eric Bensley: I think, specifically here, people are interested in artificial intelligence  because it’s the new thing and they’re trying to figure it out. In small businesses, I think it’s a lot of questions about practical advice on how to use it as opposed to just this big concept of artificial intelligence. We’ve done a lot of sessions. We show how Einstein can help do predictive lead scoring, look at fields associated with a lead and start to predict which leads are most likely to pick up your call, stuff like that.
In the small business area, we’re getting more into the practical stuff like how does it actually impact my business? How can I use it versus this big amorphous concept that might be too much for some people? Like getting right into the details, that’s what people are looking for here in the lodge, is practical advice.
Small Business Trends: And how does Trailhead fit into the helping? Great hands-on here, but what happens when they leave? How does Trailhead help with that?
Eric Bensley: For those viewers who don’t know, Trailhead is the online learning platform from Salesforce. It’s all free. I think what’s really powerful about it is, especially for small businesses, it’s completely free and it’s self-paced. People can go on and just learn whatever they need to learn, whether it’s how do I import my data into Salesforce, a simple task, or we have trails on things like creating a workplace of equality. That spectrum of content is pretty big.
The idea is just a place where people can learn, a friendly place where people can learn for free. Especially with small businesses, it’s hugely impactful. A lot of owners of small businesses don’t have time to fly out and take an in person class and learn Salesforce. They need to use it and then learn on the weekends, or whatever it might be. I think, at least with the small businesses I talk to, that’s the most compelling part of Trailhead is, it’s free and you can do it on your own time, two big benefits for small businesses.
Small Business Trends: It looks like there’s another session about to kick off. The [lines] are starting to form. So we’re going to end it here, but where could people go to learn more about all the things around Small Business Essentials and other things that SMBs may need help with?
Eric Bensley: Absolutely. I would recommend salesforce.com/essentials . Easy for you all to remember and that’s where we’re talking about this brand new product, especially people that are just getting started with CRM, maybe using spreadsheets, God forbid, sticky notes to manage customer information, but it happens. We see it every day. That’s a good place to learn about how they could use a CRM in Salesforce.