Way back in 2002, my son was born. And Marc Benioff kicked off “No software” at Salesforce. Marc says his people hated it at first. It was negative. It would turn off their software-producing customers. And technically, employees said, it wasn’t true. People still say this. After all, Salesforce uses lots of software. They just don’t install it onsite.

What naysayers missed was “No software” really said: “As of today, the software world is different.Trust us to lead and we’ll take you where you need to go.” It’s worked out nicely. It cracks me up to still see a guy in a “No software” costume hopping around Dreamforce.

Let’s look at someone else who made a bold bet and changed an industry: Reed Hastings at Netflix. Reed effectively put video giant Blockbuster out of business. To celebrate, he turned his business upside down.

Reed and Netflix said: “No DVDs.”

Pundits said customers would drop their subscriptions. After a blip, growth accelerated. In hindsight, we might even say “No DVDs” saved the company. Do you really believe a generation cutting their cable cord would replace it with DVDs delivered by snail mail?

With competitors like Hulu and Amazon Prime, Netflix had to earn the right to say, as Salesforce did, “Trust us to lead and we’ll take you where you need to go.”

My bet? Data science will transform the enterprise.

Data science isn’t a feature. It’s a future. I don’t want to replace people. I want to make them — us — better. I don’t have to tell you the data explosion is real. It’s time to use that data to help employees and their companies.

Our entry point? Sales.

Why? Sales is a company’s most important function. It’s the growth engine. Improving sales helps every department. And without sales, nothing else matters.

What does data science for sales look like? Let’s go back to Marc and Reed. Marc said, “Customers don’t buy and deploy software. They turn it on.” Reed said, “Customers don’t drive to a video store. They click.”

In sales …

  • Execs don’t roll up, massage, and curse at spreadsheets. Their dashboard calls the number and highlights at-risk deals, letting them forecast with confidence.
  • Managers don’t spend hours on the phone asking reps to recite the play-by-play on big deals. They see an automatically-generated communication history and spend precious 1-on-1 time on selling strategy.
  • Reps don’t guess which deals are at-risk or which customers are overdue for a call. They get a mobile alert recommending next steps.

This is a big deal. Running a sales team is changing. Dramatically.

But data science in the enterprise is still really new. Even newer in sales. It gets better daily and the journey is long. So just like Salesforce and Netflix we’re saying to customers, “Trust us to lead and we’ll take you where you need to go.”

As part of earning that trust, I’ll tell you exactly what data science in the enterprise means to me:

  • Action oriented: data science predicts the future and offers advice to take action.
  • Death of data entry: data science finds meaning by reaching out to new sources. For example, email and calendar are the sources of truth on relationship strength. And if you need human input, make it easy.
  • No gurus: data science can’t change the world until “it just works” for end users. Making it useful is the developer’s job, not the customer’s.
  • Instant value: data science can’t take weeks to deploy or demand expensive professional services — well-designed systems wake up, connect to data sources, and go to work in minutes.

The challenge for sales leaders is data science is evolving. Fast. So they see the choice as ignoring the trend and being left behind — or picking a partner to trust. When they become our customers, sure, they demand immediate value. But they also know they’re with us on a journey. We’re inventing a new and better way to run a sales team … together.

Now you know my bet. Do you share it? Then join us. And if you think I’m all wet, tell me why. But bring data, because it’s going to be a hard sell.