Salesforce Signals the End of Cushy Tech Sales Jobs

It’s been a pretty brutal year at Salesforce. Or a great one, depending on whom you ask. If you’re one of the 8,000 people who have been laid off since January, it’s probably the former. If you’re one of the activist investors watching stock prices soar, it’s probably the latter. 

Bloomberg interviewed over 40 people at Salesforce for a recent article, and the general sentiment was that the “golden age” of sales, which began in the 2010s, was at an end. It used to be the philosophy at Salesforce that you couldn’t have too many salespeople. And when the company hired 30,000 workers during the pandemic, (most of them in sales and marketing), it really drove that point home. But the company expected the pandemic culture of remote work to continue, and instead, many people went back to in-person work when it subsided. This took a toll on the company that had just nearly tripled its staff and spent $28 billion acquiring Slack. The tech industry at large was no longer growing the way it had been, and the easy money from renewing contracts with growing companies was starting to dry up. The sharp dropoff in in-person meetings made closing deals harder, too. When the company found itself in excess of thousands of salespeople amidst slowing growth last fall, a series of layoffs began, and the workforce has since been slashed by 10% this year alone.

In the boom times, multiple people could make commissions off of the same sale, a practice that forged camaraderie among employees, Salesforce COO Brian Millham told Bloomberg. Now fewer people can claim commission from one sale, forcing colleagues into fierce competition. Over the last decade, social media influencers have built up sales as one of the most lucrative and exciting types of work, and the solar sales culture is a testament to that. Sales, TikTok and Instagram personalities promised, was a job where you could make a lot of money while wining and dining high-profile customers, and the most important qualities for the job were simply affability, charisma, and charm. 

Now, the remaining staff at Salesforce is experiencing harsh and often unattainable quotas and the threat of PIPs (performance improvement plans) that herald the pink slip down the line. Managers are keeping a closer eye on performance, publicly ranking every salesperson’s results, and using AI to catch those who are fudging numbers by overestimating leads or discounting prices for clients too easily. 

Many younger people in the sales industry have only known the boom times, but Salesforce is entering a different era — “ohana 2.0,” as Benioff told Bloomberg, or, put another way, “performance culture.” Meanwhile, job satisfaction at Salesforce has declined significantly since the tech downturn, according to data from RepVue Inc. “Now it’s just another big tech company,” Bloomberg concludes. 

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