Sean Whiteley of Salesforce & Live The Life of Your Customer

One thing is for sure, the world of social media has changed the way we do business, with some industries being affected more than others.  Sean Whitely, Senior Vice President of & General Manager of, feels that the “entire definition of CRM has changed as a result of social.” Tune in as he shares his thoughts and insights with Brent Leary on this timely topic.

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Sean Whiteley of Salesforce & DoSmall Business Trends: Can you give us a little bit about your background?

Sean Whiteley: I had a company in 2006 called Kieden, that integrated Google Ad Words and Salesforce CRM, which was acquired by in 2006. Since then I have worked on a variety of different initiatives at the company.  As you know, Salesforce has been growing by leaps and bounds and there is never a shortage of interesting things to work on.

Now, I am actually running a business of ours called, which is a social productivity platform that has helped people get things done.

Small Business Trends:  How have small businesses CRM needs changed over the years from when you first got started with Salesforce?

Sean Whiteley: I think that CRM and the entire CRM landscape has probably changed more than it ever has historically in the last couple of years. I mean, if you look at the way you live your life, and you look at all of the social, and the ubiquity of communications you have on your various mobile devices, you are always connected.  And you are always able say something or listen to something 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

That has drastically changed the relationship that businesses have with their customers.  In terms of the way they support them, in terms of the information they have about them so they can support them better, and also the way that they sell and market their services to those customers.

Small Business Trends: How are these new acquisitions addressing the needs of your small business customers today?

Sean Whiteley: You know is a social services support application and the whole approach is ‘you need to be where your customers are.’   You need to be on the social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, email and phone. You need to be on all of these places and you need to let your customers decide how they interact with you. So, a big part of it is listening and a big part of it is engaging.  That is what the philosophy is. is based on an acquisition that Salesforce has made. The whole idea of is that you can use it to get things done. It is a shared task list, project collaboration, sharing files, and taking notes. It is really focused very heavily on the utility that people need in their day-to-day life.  They are used to taking notes and then instantly translating that into a set of tasks.

It hooks up to email, you can forward emails into a task at  It automatically sits at the top of your task list so you don’t forget. The whole thing is really set and designed so that, from the first second that you use it, you already know how to use it.  You can use it for personal productivity or you can use it for collaborative projects.

Small Business Trends: You mention you are running as a small business within a big business. Can you talk about why you are doing that?

Sean Whiteley: We have a saying at that ‘we need to live the life of our customers.’  We work very hard to use tools and build for the user persona of a small business. We have a very small office, we are about 16 people.  We are not on the core main Salesforce campus, although we go back and forth a lot.

One of the things I think a lot of these small agile upstarts do really well is they focus on one problem.  They focus exclusively on that problem and they typically solve it very well. We are spending 95% of our time just building new features for the user, which is sort of ideal for a small business.

Small Business Trends: You mentioned Facebook. What are you guys doing together, if anything at all?

Sean Whiteley: Facebook is, of course, one of our great customers and we are customer of theirs as well. They are right down the road and we spend quite a bit of time with Facebook.

I think that Salesforce and Facebook are natural partners in the sense that Facebook has evolved their advertising platform. There are over 900 million people that are on Facebook and they are spending an inordinate amount of time on this service. It’s very natural that you want to be potentially experimenting with Facebook ads. You want to be using Facebook insights for analytics.

Salesforce is the place where, once you have engaged, you want to start to cultivate that customer relationship from a lead to potentially an opportunity, to potentially a customer. So how you market and sell and support customers in Salesforce, Facebook is, a lot of times, the place where you are going to find relevant prospects.  The people that are a good match for the thing that you are building or selling.

Small Business Trends: Where do you think small businesses are going to be with their needs for CRM?

Sean Whiteley: I think the entire definition of CRM has changed as a result of social.  I think that will continue to happen over the next couple of years. Next year, when you look at what is the CRM system, I think it is going to look very different.  I think there is going to be more utility.  I think it is going to be much more collaborative.  I think it is going to be real time.  And I think it is going to be a lot different than the CRM systems that you are used to.

This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.