CEO Benioff Says Former Oracle Sales VP Doing 'Phenomenal' Job At Salesforce


Salesforce.com's hiring of Keith Block, the former Oracle North American sales vice president, is one of the three most "mission-critical" things the company has done this year, according to CEO Marc Benioff.

Block's hiring in June ranks with Salesforce's launch this week of Salesforce1, its API-rich platform for mobile developers and ISVs, and its $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget in June, Benioff said during Salesforce's third-quarter earnings call Monday.

"We have been after this guy for a long time and we were very, very fortunate that he became available," Benioff said of Block, according to Seeking Alpha's transcript of the event.

[Related: Salesforce And HP Team Up For Dedicated Cloud Service]

Salesforce just reported its first $1 billion quarter and said it's on track for $5 billion in revenue in fiscal 2014. But Wall Street thinks Salesforce has the potential to be much bigger. In a note to clients in September, Wells Fargo analyst Jason Maynard said Salesforce could be a $10 billion company if it can attract more enterprise customers.

Salesforce wants enterprises to buy solutions that span its marketing, sales and customer service offerings. And it's betting that Block, who spent a lot of time selling to enterprises during his 27-year career at Oracle, can help it reach this goal.

Block joined Salesforce in June as president and vice chairman, and he also has a seat on the San Francisco-based vendor's board of directors. In the past four months, Block has hired several dozen executives as part of what Benioff described as an effort to "rebuild" Salesforce's customer facing organization.

One of these hires was Anthony Fernicola, a 17-year Oracle veteran who joined Salesforce in September as president of global enterprise sales.

In a Q&A during the earnings call, Benioff was asked if Block will be driving the kind of large enterprise deals that he did while at Oracle. Benioff's response shows that in his eyes, Block is already one of Salesforce's rock star executives.

"He is doing a phenomenal job and I couldn't be more excited about the having him as part of our Salesforce management team," Benioff said of Block. "I mean it's been really a joy and I think he's [absolutely the best] customer facing-executive [that's] ever worked within our industry."

Benioff is a big fan of Block, but Oracle partners told CRN in September that neither he nor Fernicola did much in the way of channel advocacy during their time at the company. Their departures, sources told CRN, have coincided with a concerted effort on Oracle's part to work more closely with partners.

"Oracle has been repairing and rebuilding what was left in Block's wake," one longtime partner told CRN.

Block left Oracle in June 2012 shortly after instant messages he wrote to a colleague surfaced during Oracle's legal battle with HP over Itanium servers. "Nobody talks about Sun, even the Sun customers ... it's dead dead dead. ... Nobody wants to sell Sun ... it baaaalllllooooooows. ... pig with lipstick, at best," Block said in one of the IMs.

PUBLISHED NOV. 20, 2013

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