Partner and Chief Revenue Officer
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Every financier will be familiar with Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) by their monumental growth since listing in June of 2004, where the company raised $110 million. The company’s meteoric rise since then, with its current market cap currently sitting above $140 billion, is impossible to ignore.
As a banker browsing the company’s impressive results in their 2018 10K report, it might be difficult to understand how Salesforce would be a fit for your own business, considering that you obviously do not have “customers”, “sales leads”, or “price books” of products to sell them, which are all standard components of CRM. The verbiage of Salesforce’s marketing voice might lead you to believe that Salesforce is an excellent fit for a widget sales company, and even the industry-specific Salesforce Financial Services Cloud is clearly tailored towards retail banking, insurance brokers, and wealth managers. These professions’ use cases are still a far cry from capital markets deal-making or fundraising, and it’s difficult to conceive how a solution seemingly purpose built to manage leads, clients, policies, products, and financial accounts could be a fit for a hedge fund, private equity firm, fund of funds, investment bank, or REIT.
To understand why this is, you’ll need to first understand the massive reach that Salesforce commands. Despite marketing itself as a CRM company, Salesforce employs over 40,000 people and is the sixth-largest software company in the world, sharing rarified space with companies like SAP, VMWare, Oracle, Adobe, and Microsoft. Salesforce offers marketing, sales, service, e-commerce, analytics, cloud platform, system integration, and industry-specific products to healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, consumer goods, and nonprofit organizations. A company with so many products and industries cannot possibly pour the same marketing dollars into each one.
Coupled with the knowledge that the Salesforce basis of unit economics is a software license (or “seat”), it’s easier now to understand why Salesforce devotes a greater focus on verticals like retail banking, insurance, consumer goods, technology, and other industries where blue-chip companies employ tens or hundreds of thousands of people that represent potential license sales. Compare these numbers to Blackstone, one of the world’s largest private equity firms that employ just over 2,500 people, or Bridgewater Associates, who employ 1,200. This is why Plative has built our reputation in the Salesforce ecosystem around serving specialty finance organizations.
When we first speak to our clients, they are usually either graduating from Excel and implementing a formalized firm-wide technology solution for the first time, replacing a less robust CRM like SalesLogix or Microsoft Dynamics, or looking for assistance with an existing Salesforce implementation that was built poorly, without understanding the comprehensive needs of the firm.
In any of the aforementioned scenarios, the Plative approach is to forget the current implementation (or lack thereof) for a moment and focus our attention on the core processes and business units that are most important to systematize:
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Your firm needs a full grasp of existing investors, related investment accounts and entities, key contacts, distribution list associations, and third party consultant affiliations. Your firm’s system should be able to tell you which current investors are most likely to co-invest in a deal, invest in a new offering, or re-up on a current fund. Aside from fundraising, the IR team needs to have easy access to distribution lists for quarterly reports, as well as contact information and a full audit trail of activities, including emails, calls, and calendar appointments. Similarly, this system should be able to account for capital calls, distributions, and investment account management. This information can be manually uploaded, or even pushed from a fund administrator like Gen II or Morgan Stanley Fund Services.
Your deal team needs to be able to track all proprietary sourcing efforts including companies that are in your arena, deal alerts, warm or cold introductions through mutual connections, and friends-of-friends. Think of Salesforce as a visual relationship map in this regard. For intermediary coverage, it’s important to track your firm’s relationships with the Moelis and Houlihan Lowkeys of the world as well as some of the bulge bracket IBs that will send a teaser across your desk. Tracking where a deal came from is important, but even more important is the data that Salesforce derives from this information, such as deal execution by intermediary source, which deals were passed on, and which were down the fairway.
That process needs to be captured, repeated, and enforced by the firm’s technology system. It’s common for our clients to leverage Salesforce to track deals from teaser all the way through closing including NDAs, LOIs, due diligence steps, investment committee reviews, and deal room portals with file-share and e-signature functionality. Once the deal starts to materialize, you can even track key financial components of the deal to ensure the viability of the investment.
Perhaps you are doing this today with Excel and a series of pivot tables made possible by manual data entry. In Salesforce, this is all controlled and repeatable within the platform’s robust reports and dashboards engine. Want to pull a list of all SaaS portfolio companies by ARR? No problem. How about a matrix report of all portfolio companies by CAC and LTV of a customer? This is simple click-and-drag report building in Salesforce.
Maintaining a thorough repository of calls, emails, notes, and calendar appointments is par for the course for modern CRM technology (and bonus points if that CRM syncs seamlessly with Exchange and Office 365 like Salesforce does). The more meaningful application of this information however, is organizing relevant and recent activity with organizations and contacts directly where it’s important. For example, generating a tear sheet on an investor that contains all the deals we’ve ever brought to them, funds we’ve marketed to them, investments they’ve made, key contacts, and last ten interactions all in one document. This is the firepower that Salesforce brings to the table when implemented properly.
Although Salesforce chooses to market to its larger addressable market of companies with tens or hundreds of thousands of potential seats rather than specifically marketing itself to specialty finance firms, at Plative we have customized Salesforce for some of the world’s top alternative investment managers. If you’ve made it this far into the article, it’s likely because you’re either a financier interested to see how Salesforce can be put to work for your firm, or a Salesforce professional wondering how we’ve done it and who our success stories are. In either case, I’d encourage you to start a conversation with me and my team: Get In Touch or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salesforce for Alternative Investment Management: Your Firm’s Next Competitive Advantage