• As companies face another year of uncertainty because of the pandemic, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff shared his advice for business leaders: Plan for multiple scenarios.
  • “We have to look at all the different potential outcomes here because we’re in a new pandemic world,” Benioff said at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference on Tuesday.
  • Companies should take a “digital-first” approach, he said, because that will allow them to be better prepared for a world in which some aspects of distributed work are permanent.
  • Salesforce itself experienced a tumultuous year, including executive upheaval and its blockbuster acquisition of Slack for $27.7 billion.
  • Benioff said that business leaders must take risks in order to make sure their company is positioned for long-term success.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As companies and business leaders likely face another year of uncertainty because of the pandemic, they’re looking for ways to be better prepared than they were in 2020 when the coronavirus initially upended everything.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who led the cloud giant through its own tumultuous year, has a key piece of advice for his fellow business leaders: Plan for various outcomes.

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“We can see where we are right now: We’re all at home,” Benioff said at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference earlier this week. “Will we be at home 6 months from now? A year from now? When will we really be back at our office? And when will we really be traveling the world again? I don’t know. So we need to plan for multiple scenarios. We have to look at all the different potential outcomes here because we’re in a new pandemic world.”

Companies should take a “digital-first” approach, he said, because that will allow them to be better prepared for a world in which some aspects of distributed work are permanent. That transformation goes beyond just setting up an ecommerce site for retail, he said, to broader digital transformation initiatives that modernize a business, like helping sales teams reach potential customers remotely or beefing up security.

“If we’re in an all-digital world, you need to get all digital,” Benioff said.

Salesforce has actually found that it can “sell more aggressively in a digital environment,” without the need to coordinate travel or in-person meetings, Benioff said. Organizations should continue to focus on ways to reach prospective customers and sell their products using digital tools, because they don’t know when in person meetings and travel will be allowed again, he added.

“You think about your whole organization: Are they enabled and empowered to make those sales calls?” Benioff said. “There’s never been a more important time to have a sales organization that’s able to do that.”

One reason behind Salesforce’s $27.7 billion deal to acquire Slack was to position Salesforce to become a more remote-friendly company, he said, with productivity and collaboration tools that integrate seamlessly with its sales and marketing software so it’s easy for users to get their work done regardless of location.

“Companies like ours have to take the risk to be able to amplify our core – like we’re doing with – so that we can deliver massive value this year for our clients,” Benioff said. His advice to other business leaders navigating the uncertainty right now is to trust their own decisions, even when they’re risky.

“We’re altering our company to prepare for the future, because we want to be well-positioned and relevant for our customers in the future. We have been this year, but we also want to be for the next decade,” Benioff said. “I think every CEO needs to look at that as a model.”

A leader should be able to define their company’s values and work through what prevented success achieving those values in the past in order to guide them on achieving them this year.

He urges leaders to ask themselves how they’ll know when they’re successful “in this new world.”

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