Inside the Ohana

Inside the Ohana: The Value of Trusted Customer Success

Episode Summary

In this episode, Robert Zimmermann, the CRO at Qualified, takes us on a journey through his career at Salesforce and beyond. We talk about how he has forged a path of success by adopting a customer-centric approach to his work and taking risks to avoid complacency.

Episode Notes

In this episode, Robert Zimmermann, the CRO at Qualified, takes us on a journey through his career at Salesforce and beyond. We talk about how he has forged a path of success by adopting a customer-centric approach to his work and taking risks to avoid complacency. 


“Don’t assume just because we believe it’s true, that it is actually true. You need to earn your customer’s trust and respect every single week, every single quarter, every single year.”

Episode Timestamps:

*(2:19) - Ohana Origins: Meet Robert 

*(10:17) -  What Does the Ohana mean to Robert?

*(13:28) - What’s Cooking: Robert’s Current Role at Qualified

*(20:20) - Future Forecast: What’s in Store for the Salesforce ecosystem?

*(24:14) - Advice for Aspiring Leaders

*(25:57) - Lightning Round!


Inside the Ohana is brought to you by, the #1 Conversational Marketing platform for companies that use Salesforce and the secret weapon for Demand Gen pros. The world's leading enterprise brands trust Qualified to instantly meet with buyers, right on their website, and maximize sales pipeline. Visit to learn more.


Episode Transcription

[00:00:34] Introduction: Hello and welcome to Inside the Ohana. This episode features an interview with Robert Zimmerman, chief Revenue Officer at qualified at Salesforce. For almost 19 years, Robert joined pre-revenue and led selling teams in the us. Asia Pacific and Latin America, and accomplished much more during his near two decade tenure.

[00:00:53] He walks us through his journey and shares how he forged a path of success by learning the value of customer success and building trust. But before we get into it, here's a brief word from our sponsor. Inside the Ohana is brought to you by qualified. Qualified as the pipeline generation platform for revenue.

[00:01:10] Teams that use Salesforce intelligently grow your pipeline by understanding signals of buying intent and having realtime conversations learn more over on So please enjoy this interview between Robert Zimmerman and your host, Dan Darcy.

[00:01:27] Dan: Welcome to Inside the Ohana. I'm Dan Darcy, chief Customer Officer at Qualified, and today I'm joined.

[00:01:34] My friend, my colleague, my confidant, Robert Zimmerman. Robert, how are you doing today? 

[00:01:39] Robert: Hey Dan, I'm doing really well. Excited to be with you for this next hour or so, , and really looking forward to us sharing some of why we have ended up working so well together through our Salesforce journey and to qualified.

[00:01:56] Dan: Definitely this is a special one today, everyone. So as you guys know, Robert is qualified Chief Revenue Officer and my partner in crime. So I wanna dive right into our first segment. Ohana, origins. Robert, how did you discover Salesforce and start your journey?

[00:02:19] Robert: For those of you who don't know my background or my history, I joined Salesforce pre-revenue as the 60th employee in March of 2000 and Salesforce through connections. And my prior network, which happened to be an Oracle network, and as many of you know, mark came from Oracle. Back in the day. I had a large number of Oracle friends who had joined Salesforce, and at that time I was looking to make a move.

[00:02:48] Oracle was going through a major shift where they were starting to. Buy and acquire a large number of companies. And that changed the nature of working at Oracle. And I decided I wanted to join sort of an industry leader who was gonna disrupt the technology space in such a way. And I had no idea that the journey was gonna end up the way.

[00:03:10] That it did. It was amazing.

[00:03:12] Dan: Well, I mean, so gimme the details. What was your job as the 60th employee and what was your title? Like what was your initial impression? I

[00:03:20] Robert: was running the West Commercial Sales Organization and we basically, Built a business that initially when we started, had no discounting, had basically everything was pay as you go.

[00:03:36] We would accept orders via email if you wanted to send something, if you could still believe that. Yeah, and it was the very, very early days of SaaS and we had this great concept of multi-tenant environment. I was very different than sort of what a lot of other companies were doing at that stage. And we won customer by customer, business by business.

[00:04:00] We would take down five users. Eight users, 10 users. I remember the first 50 user transaction and then a couple of years into my tenure at Salesforce, I got tapped on the shoulder by Mark and he knew that I had dual citizenship with Australia, and he made me an offer to head down to Australia, set up our APAC organization.

[00:04:20] So had this incredible experience as working sort of in a startup within a startup. If you can. I mean, that sounds

[00:04:29] Dan: really awesome. Now, obviously you've been there, or were at Salesforce for a very long time, and I want you to brag a little because you've had such an incredible long storied career with Salesforce, but what would you say is one of the biggest successes you've had while working with Salesforce at Salesforce that you're really

[00:04:48] Robert: most proud of?

[00:04:48] One of the things I'm most proud of, and I discovered this at Salesforce, is I started to think about my career as these series of assign. And I think when you take that approach to your career, it takes you out of this. Position where every opportunity has to be a step up. It has to be something larger.

[00:05:10] It has to be something that is moving you up the that corporate ladder. And as you start thinking about a series of assignments, you can have an enormous amount of impact in a business and you take these different roles that if you know sort of what the charter and what the request is that you need to be able to achieve, and you go in and you achieve that, it tees you up for success.

[00:05:32] For the next role that you have. And if I think about one of the great experiences that I have and one of the great learnings is the reason I stayed at Salesforce almost 19 years was the fact I got to do something different every couple of years. But in doing that, I created incredible networks within the company as the company expanded, worked with some amazing individuals, many of which are still at Salesforce today in very senior leadership roles as.

[00:05:58] Now

[00:05:59] Dan: on the opposite side of the spectrum, what would you say was one of your biggest

[00:06:02] Robert: lessons learned? Don't assume just because we believe it's true, that it is actually true. You need to earn your customer's trust and respect every single week, every single quarter, every single year. One of the things that I really learned is Salesforce has a monthly focus.

[00:06:22] They're companies that don't have that same type of focus, and I think the people who struggled at Salesforce were the ones who didn't appreciate the fact that in the world that we live in SaaS with the revenue recognition that we have. We need to earn our customers trust in their business pretty much every single day.

[00:06:43] And I saw that, and it's the same whether you're in Australia, whether it's part of the Latin America business that I had been fortunate to be responsible for, whether it was launching some of the vertical businesses in the commercial segment within the us. Mm-hmm. , every one of those situations require that we ensure that.

[00:07:01] Had customer trust with everything that we were doing. The thing I would point out today is we're going through a really incredibly challenging time, the economic headwinds. It reminds me of, you know, what we experienced with the global financial crisis. It reminds me in my earliest days at Salesforce, we went through implosion.

[00:07:19] And you have a, you have to pivot back to this idea around operational excellence, pivot back to trust, pivot back to getting in front of your customers as much as you possibly can because they're all experiencing the same thing we are. And the great thing about qualified, and part of the reason I'm so excited to be a part of this company, which is a part of the broader Salesforce ecosystem, is we help customers.

[00:07:41] Incredible pipeline within their business. Yeah. I

[00:07:45] Dan: mean, you mentioned customer trust and earning that every week day. I mean quarter monthly. I mean, it was, it's, and that was what C R M did provide and still does provide, is that trust. And I think also as you like to call out too, with qualified, it's now bringing that connection more immediate, especially onto the website.

[00:08:05] But if you could go back and talk to Robert, that was just starting. With Salesforce, what advice would you give yourself? Oh,

[00:08:14] Robert: that's a great question. I do think that sometimes you can get a little complacent in a very successful company, and Mark talks about this beginner's mind that he brings to his business.

[00:08:27] And I think having that challenging yourself, not taking everything for granted, putting yourself out. Outside of your comfort zone and trusting in your own ability and those people around you to get something done. I would almost say I wish I'd taken some more risk while I was at Salesforce as opposed to less.

[00:08:48] Now when I look back, I did a lot of different things, but I know there's always could have been more that I could have achieved. It's, it was such an amazing experience being part of the Salesforce ecosystem. I mean, there are a lot

[00:08:59] Dan: of viewers out there and listeners that you know, love learning from other Salesforce execs.

[00:09:05] So when you say take more risk on, I mean, gimme an example of what that

[00:09:09] Robert: would be. Yeah, I think we're in a perfect situation right now where it's easy to not want to make a decision about whether it's a career, about whether it's pivoting into a new direction, whether it's thinking about getting involved with the launch of an additional product or part of the company.

[00:09:26] And I think anytime that. You have an opportunity like this where there are challenges in the business, rather than try to go back to what we did in the past. It's always a great opportunity to try and put yourself in a position where you can take a leadership role in something that's new. Rather than get complacent with what your situation may be and sort of rely on past experience, look ahead and try to position yourself in an area of the company or doing something that really excites you, that's new and y, that may require you to take a slightly different role.

[00:10:00] Maybe the span of control is smaller. Maybe you have less of a team reporting to you. Maybe you take a slightly different. Leadership role, but you'll find that sometimes those things open up incredible opportunities in front of you that otherwise wouldn't have become available. I

[00:10:16] Dan: love that. Well said Robert.

[00:10:17] So I wanna ask you about the meaning of Ohana. And I asked this of all my guests cuz I feel like everyone really does describe it differently in my gosh, 19 years at the Ohana. So I'm curious, how would you describe what the Ohana means

[00:10:30] Robert: to you? I think in a nutshell, It. It didn't hit me until I participated in the first COA Club and coa.

[00:10:39] For those of you who are at Salesforce or don't know that as part of Salesforce is really the group of 10 year veterans who have been part of Salesforce and I was obviously part of the, one of the original COA cruise and pulling together. Individuals who had been there from basically day one and now were across the globe in leadership roles, whether they were in Europe, whether they were in apac, Latin America, the us, everybody flew into San Francisco for that moment and that weekend, and it was a great get together.

[00:11:15] It was a great like for. People who had taken the company from zero to the first 10 million to the first 50 million to a hundred million, and then passed a billion to reflect on what we had accomplished and what we had accomplished together was really cool. And I love the fact that I'm on LinkedIn and I'll see announcements of somebody going to their first Coer celebration or their first COA club and just to see that continue for those who are a part.

[00:11:45] It's an amazing experience to really celebrate what you've achieved in that period of time and celebrate with others who have been achieving at a very high level as

[00:11:55] Dan: well. Awesome. I love it. Now, before we get into our next segment, are there any special story or O Ohana moments? And I think you just shared one, but is there another one that's a little behind the scenes?

[00:12:06] That you would wanna share ?

[00:12:09] Robert: Yeah. I think the, the thing that I, I still laugh about is we were in Australia and it was a very small team. What I realize, if you think about the times that we're facing today, my entire operations staff, everybody who I work with, if you want to, like, if you want to like process a, an.

[00:12:29] It was all still in California. And so I would work this day shift, and then I would start getting on email and start getting on Salesforce and getting all the things done late in the evening after I put my kids to bed. And I remember this one day that I think I, I. Forgot sort of what time it was and I look up, I think it was like four in the morning and at the time I was IMing back and forth between the operations folks back in the US trying to get something out for that next day.

[00:12:55] And it sort of reminds me when, when you're having fun, when you are working for a GA great company with great technology, it's feels like you're in this together. And as, even though I was around the world sitting in a different spot, it felt like I was much a part of a. Bigger thing. And my Ohana moment was really around that secret that the reason we were so successful is everybody had everybody else's back at the time.

[00:13:18] Yeah. And we got business done. And people really understood the power of taking Salesforce and what that meant to, to them in terms of really accelerating their business. Well, let's

[00:13:28] Dan: get into our next segment. What's cooking?Robert, you are now c r o at one of the hottest ISVs out there in the Salesforce ecosystem qualified. I want you to talk about how you got to where you are now and what your journey's been like to get there.

[00:13:53] Robert: Yeah. Uh, look, Dan, one of the, one of the obvious reasons I was really attracted to the company was working with.

[00:13:59] The likes of, you know, Craig Swans Red and Sean White Lu I've known for over 15 years during their time at Salesforce. But then obviously getting the opportunity to work with you again and partnering with you as we start shaping this, this new way of thinking in terms of generating pipeline. That was a, an incredible reason I wanted to be here, but, The journey took me through, as I said, it was an incredible journey through Salesforce.

[00:14:23] I followed, actually I, I was fortunate enough to take a sabbatical and a little bit of time off in between Salesforce and my next role where I worked with George Hugh, who was the COO at Salesforce and had joined Twilio as coo, and I was there for a little over two years, setting up their mid-market sales organization for.

[00:14:41] North Americas and I came to realize I actually missed being in the heart of the Salesforce ecosystem. I missed being a part of this amazing company. Not that Twilio wasn't a part of that, but if I think about where I was in the stack, I wanted to get back into business applications back into a place where I really had made my mark.

[00:15:04] And I think you just called me at the right time where I had been thinking about the possibility of what was next. Didn't realize there was gonna be an opportunity to qualify, but I jumped at the chance once I saw the technology, the people, the tam, what we were gonna be doing in terms of really accelerating how marketing leaders and how marketing thinks about driving pipeline for an organization.

[00:15:29] We're doing something that. Is really the future in terms of how business to business companies are operating?

[00:15:35] Dan: Well, I can't tell you enough how happy and excited I have been that you took my call and here we are. So you and I can actually have a whole podcast on this next question, but what challenges are you seeing now and how are you applying what you learned at Salesforce to really help address these challenge?

[00:15:55] Robert: The the big one, in any situation, like what we are experiencing is you have to fall back on operational rigor. You have to fall back on inspection. You have to fall back to the things that you know are gonna drive the best outcomes. You have to take care of your customers. You have to position. New companies who are looking at qualified to help position help them understand what that future looks like and that future state looks like.

[00:16:25] The thing that I love most about working at Qualified is not just the fact that we have amazing raving fans in our customer base. Who advocate for a qualified in the Salesforce ecosystem, but we've got so much social proof. You just have to look at LinkedIn or G2 and you'll see these stories and hear these stories.

[00:16:44] And they're naming individuals at our company who are driving incredible results for their company. And I think the thing I took from Salesforce was all about customer success. And it was, it was outcome driven. . And I feel like if you fall back onto focusing on customer outcomes, return on their investment, making sure that they get value, the use of qualified, and then help them iterate.

[00:17:12] Every company's going through massive amounts of, uh, technical consolidation, application consolidation. We are a strategic partner to our customers and they view us that way. And what I'm most excited about is really being able to take the lessons that we've learned. Through these times of economic challenges and headwinds and focus on the things that we need to make sure that we get done.

[00:17:36] Look, there's no easy way to do this. There's no silver bullet. It requires really digging in to make sure that we are providing the right type of guidance, support, resources, and then you'll see customers continue to renew with, uh, with qualified in our technology. But I feel like we're in a great place.

[00:17:54] We continue to. I'm a big believer that incredible companies get to get built and created during tough times, and we're definitely one of those. Yeah, and

[00:18:02] Dan: I love, and I'll just attest to this, you and I speak on an hourly basis around our customers and helping continue to build the trust because obviously once we bring them on to qualified, it's around driving that customer success.

[00:18:15] And it's a true partnership between our sales organization run by you, Robert, and the Success organization run by myself. So I just wanted to say thank you for. So what's next for you and how are you shaping the

[00:18:28] Robert: future? Well, one of the exciting things that, for those who learning about qualified for the very first time is we've had so much innovation, even in the last, I would say year.

[00:18:39] I've been here a year and a half and we've come. from, I would say just been thinking about conversational for sales and marketing to now thinking about providing first party intent data that's happening on your website, to looking at research intent, to now thinking about, okay, how do we drive meetings really quickly in this?

[00:19:01] Time when timers of the essence, it's really important to have speed to lead. How do you generate more from your most important asset, which is your website? And then how do we help accelerate that? And so even in my time here, we've had this incredible amount of product launches. We've got a new product launch coming up with meetings that is going to allow you to create that opportunity to meet with that, that individual you've been targeting.

[00:19:28] The moment that. Land on your website, the moment that they interact with you, and not only be able to create that magic moment, but create it with the right account team using all the information that you've put in a Salesforce, all the account assignments, all the reading, the routing, the information that all as anyone who uses Salesforce and anyone who is on Sales Cloud, that's the castle that you want to build.

[00:19:52] And we. Directly from that. And so we're gonna continue to innovate. We're gonna continue to drive pipeline for organizations. We're gonna continue to focus on making sure that our customers get the most value from us. And now what I would say is just stay tuned and stay close to the qualified website because for those of you who wanna see what we're up to, highly recommend you jump on.

[00:20:15] And take a look at what we've been up to. I think you'll be, you're gonna be pleasantly surprised. Let's get into

[00:20:20] Dan: our final segment, the Future Forecast.Robert, what do you envision as the future of the Salesforce ecosystem?

[00:20:37] Robert: When I left Oracle and joined Salesforce, we were a Salesforce automation product, and I remember competing against the likes of Siebel, and there was on one individual with Siebel that actually called Salesforce and Mickey Mouse product, and we kept that voicemail from that Siebel executive for years because it sort of stoked our fire.

[00:20:58] And then when we surpassed Siebel left them behind it. We realized that what we are building is so much bigger. So when I think about the Salesforce ecosystem, at that time, I thought the most impressive ecosystem was really the SAP back office ecosystem and everything that had been built up around it.

[00:21:18] And I look today, and Salesforce has surpassed that in so many ways. Salesforce owns the front office of any company, and that ecosystem has allowed so many amazing companies to be built up around it, supporting that Salesforce initiative and that Salesforce effort. And I think it's only gonna go from strength to strength.

[00:21:39] I look at what's happening when their economy Today, companies are only gonna want to get closer to their customers are only gonna want to make sure. They're in a position to help their customers deal with whatever they're dealing with and create that close connection using technology and using the ability to interact.

[00:21:58] And it's great qualified. It's a huge part of that. We're funded by Salesforce. We're funded by an amazing team of venture partners of ours, like Red Point and Norwest and Sapphire. I think their belief in us is that we. Radically disrupting the way that companies do business on their website, and it's a really exciting time for us here.

[00:22:20] I think sa as Salesforce grows and succeeds, uh, we're gonna continue to do the exact same thing here at qualified too.

[00:22:27] Dan: Now give us a prediction of what Salesforce, the actual company looks like in the future. I know there's a lot of change that's been going on there, but. You know, what does this next year to two look

[00:22:36] Robert: like?

[00:22:36] I think from, I would say the short to the midterm, they've got a, an amazing operational leader in Brian Milam back in, in seat again. He's gonna drive the type of rigor. That the, uh, the organization has been known for and that like Salesforce is massive today. That takes a little bit of time. There are so many different product organizations.

[00:22:57] There's so many different sales organizations. They're gonna have to operate together in a highly matrixed, uh, environment. Uh, I don't think there's a better leader than, uh, than Brian to be able to bring that to fruition and make that a, an engine that really hums. I do think Salesforce will continue over time to acquire amazing technology.

[00:23:17] Into their product set. I do think that the lead that Salesforce has and the innovation that Salesforce has with things like Genie and things that they're focused on will only make Salesforce that much of a better partner in the future. I look at when I started and we were lucky to win our first hundred seat deployment.

[00:23:39] I think that's, uh, if I look at where Salesforce is today, And the future in terms of what we're experiencing. We're gonna, we're gonna come through this, like this, uh, slight economic downturn or these headwinds that we're experiencing. We've had this happen before, and what I've known is that Salesforce, through these type of situations, always emerges stronger and it's exciting to be a part of that and as part of that ecosystem.

[00:24:06] So really excited for these next few. What advice do

[00:24:10] Dan: you have for aspiring sales and marketing leaders? I think it,

[00:24:13] Robert: it goes back to some of the lessons learned that I had at Salesforce, I think. Don't be complacent. I do think everybody is gonna have to do more with less technology. Consolidation is going to continue to happen.

[00:24:24] I will say that sometimes people become risk adverse and they want to sit on their hands and they basically say, okay, good enough is good enough for now. And I would challenge that and I would say, look, if you are using a product that is not. Delivering what it should be delivering. And we see that a lot of, a lot of times, even in our pursuits with our competitors, we convince the companies that we would like to partner with that why That they should be looking at a company that's gonna take them out of where we are today.

[00:24:56] Build for that future. Become a strategic partner with the few companies that can really drive change in your business and really leverage the knowledge that we have here. We have so many incredible people who have been doing so many qualified deployments, and really we are there with you through the duration of your relationship with us.

[00:25:15] We have these, uh, this amazing program as part of your team, Dan. Qualified solution, A architect team, no other company in our space does anything close to what we do. We become an extension of the teams and the companies that we work with, and we're shoulder to shoulder. And I think I w as I said earlier, have a look at what you read in G2 about what people say about qualified, and I don't think there's any, there's any comparison out there.

[00:25:44] Dan: Now before letting you go, let's have fun with a quick lightning round. Are you ready for this? 

[00:25:57] Dan: Okay. Argentina or France? 

[00:25:58] Robert: Uh, Argentina is seeing messy lift that. That trophy was amazing. He's been the best footballer for a decade running. Yeah. And it was great to be able to see him lift

[00:26:09] Dan: that 1000%. It was just awesome to, to witness it. So, favorite Salesforce product, that's gotta be

[00:26:15] Robert: Sales

[00:26:15] Dan: Cloud favorite Salesforce character

[00:26:19] Robert: Cody.

[00:26:20] Dan: Favorite brand of anything besides

[00:26:23] Robert: Salesforce? Oh, you know this Dan. It's gotta be a Porsche .

[00:26:26] Dan: Yes, of course. Secret skill that is not on the resume. Oh, wow.

[00:26:31] Robert: That's a tricky one. Secret skill that's not on the resume and that I can actually share publicly. Is that what it is? ? Yes. Look, a lot of people don't know that.

[00:26:39] My, my mom's Colombian, my dad's German. I was born in la, grew up in Australia. I, my secret skill is I haven't lost my Australian accent. Even though I moved here almost 30 years ago, that

[00:26:53] Dan: that is definitely a skill. So you just won front row seats to your dream event. What is it?

[00:26:59] Robert: Well, I we're trying to convince Craig to sponsor F1 in Vegas if we got front row seats to that F1 event in va, in Vegas.

[00:27:06] That's coming up, up on the really. Really happy. I don't think our investors are gonna support that investment, but if I want, wanted it to a dream event through some special, uh, partnership with sponsorship, that'd be

[00:27:20] Dan: great. Yeah, that'd be awesome. So Robert, I mean obviously this has always been so much fun just spending time with you, but before I let you go, let the listeners know where they can find you and is there anything else you'd like to share or plug

[00:27:31] Robert: today?

[00:27:32] Anyone who wants to connect with me, find me on LinkedIn. I am always happy to. If anybody has questions about their experience, if they're looking, make a move into technology sales, I'd have this amazing situation where my daughter just started working in technology at a great technology company based outta New York, attentive Mobile.

[00:27:52] Lots of friends in the network. I would say the Salesforce network is wide. It's deep, and if there's anything I can do to help anyone assist as they're thinking about their career or what they're doing, I'm more than happy to. So please connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also reach, and also highly recommend just come to our website and look forward to seeing you there.

[00:28:18] Yeah.

[00:28:18] Dan: Robert. Well, thank you so much for your

[00:28:19] Robert: time. Thanks, Dan.

[00:28:22] Outro: Inside the Ohana is brought to you by our, the conversational sales and marketing company that's on a mission to transform the way B2B companies sell. Go to to learn more. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to read and review it and tell a friend.

[00:28:39] Thank you for listening.