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Working with Salesforce experts in a post COVID-19 context

Interview with John Sas, Founder of Nexell GmbH, first Salesforce partner in Europe since 2002

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John, tell us a bit more about Nexell.

Nexell is a boutique type of business specializing in customer relationship management (CRM) and partnering with Salesforce for almost 20 years. We are a multilingual team of 25 people, all based in Switzerland, and our mission is to help our clients, businesses or nonprofits, to work differently from the inside so that they can make a difference on the outside.

How did COVID-19 directly impact your business?
Project-wise, some implementations have slowed down, others have continued as usual, but we have not seen any project brutally stopped in the middle because of a severe business slow down, which is really good news for us and for our clients. In terms of sales and business development, some new projects have been postponed / cancelled, for sure, but others have been accelerated because of the situation. We also noticed that the competition is harder on most of the new business opportunities, and the sales cycles are longer, but despite this, we were fortunate enough to not have any layoffs or having to put people on partial unemployment.

How did you and your team react to the situation?
People are used to working remotely at Nexell, and they have flexibility so it was not a hard transition for the teams. But some of our team members really struggled with this situation, not because of the home office, but more because of the lack of human / physical interactions. We immediately scheduled daily video coffee breaks just to stay in touch with the teams.
We had some recruitments planned for Q3 and Q4 to support our growth, and we had to play it safe until the situation gets clearer. But from a management perspective I must say that teams reacted well and kept being focussed.

Did you see this period of time as an opportunity for Nexell too?
It may sound a bit arrogant to say that, but yes, we took advantage of some positive aspects of the lockdown. On the human side we quickly noticed everyone in the teams were there to support, help and grow. On the marketing side, we took the opportunity and switched things into high gear. From day 1 at Nexell, we have always committed to support the community and help nonprofits through our NexellAngels initiative. When the COVID-19 lockdown happened, we launched a campaign to our network to offer our help and guide small organizations throughout the road of digitization. We are proud of having helped more than 10 organizations onboard to Salesforce with this pro bono initiative.

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We also took the opportunity to finalize our rebranding project with a new website and new marketing materials, so we can say that we had some very busy days and our marketing teams were busier than ever!

Is the current context easier for those who already have the Salesforce mindset / vision?
If you are in the Salesforce world already, you know that you never have one single day that looks like another one. It also means that you are very mindful of the following values:
  • Adaptability: keep moving and ban the status quo from your vocabulary, always try to transform and improve
  • Innovation: get the most out of a complex situation and focus on the benefits to prepare the future
  • Trust: be open and transparent on the situation with your client, partners and staff
  • Solidarity: support the ones who are in need, share knowledge and expertise within your ecosystem of colleagues, peers and clients
Standing out of the crowd in the job market requires soft skills and versatility more than ever, and people that wear a Salesforce hat already check some boxes.

Is Salesforce’s position unique in the IT market?
First of all, let me clarify something: Salesforce is not only about IT. Salesforce is becoming a proper industry with a wide variety of positions (sales, pre-sales, marketing, business analysis, consulting, development, support, etc.). But of course there is a technical component. And cloud-based solutions were absolutely key for companies that needed to switch to a home office mode. Low-management & quickly deployed solutions like Salesforce are now a must, especially when you need several days or weeks to manage all the devices centrally, implement a VPN, and so on. Some IT departments saw Salesforce as a threat before COVID-19 and they are now seeing it as a salutary option.

Will home office be the new normal as we tend to hear these days?
The option to work remotely has always been a key criteria for applicants who were looking for flexibility, and it has always been part of the Nexell way of doing things.. Now home office is accepted with less objections, but the question is more about the frequency of remote work. Being allowed to work remotely is one thing, having the right tool to work efficiently from home is another challenge. The way a company anticipates this kind of scenario can become a key differentiator when it comes to attracting candidates.
For sure, doing business with physical interactions / meetings will always be key in a lot of industries, and in many occasions Zoom / Google Meet / GoToMeeting will only be substitutes when there is no other option. Everything is a matter of balance. Companies that would say “let’s cancel the office lease and everybody will work remotely” would make a terrible mistake.

What would you tell someone who wants to launch a Salesforce consultancy business right now?
The potential is as high as the competition! No pain no gain as they say. This applies even more these days during the COVID-19 crisis. Make sure you know what being a Salesforce partner is about. Don’t forget that implementing Salesforce is not only about creating fields or automations in a CRM. Your role is much more strategic than that, and get ready to learn on a daily basis.

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