With the swirl of what Ray Wang of Constellation dubbed “the SXSW for the Enterprise” having died down, I’m reflecting on my conversation with an old friend of Social Media Today’s, Mark Woollen, who now heads product marketing for the Sales Cloud at Salesforce. Since this barely twelve-year-old company (now worth $21 billion) cut its teeth on providing sales people with real-time collaboration and intelligence for sales people and managers, you’d think the answer to the simple question of “who owns the customer” might be biased coming from Mark. But no.

“Whether or not salespeople know it, we are having conversations about the customer, and the customer is having conversations about us, all through and even outside the enterprise,” notes Woollen. 

The key to listening to and, ultimately, to understanding these conversations is social media and social business, what Marc Benioff had led with the previous day in his three-hour keynote. With a litany of evidence, including a McKinsey study that said that 1.3 trillion in value can be unlocked by using social, and an IDC report predicting a 47% increase in spend for social and citing a growth of 123% in social interaction with customers, Benioff set the stage for a deep drill-down in how to implement this transformation (a word he used often) at the executional level.

Woollen believes that this will not be possible without the real-time collaboration offered by cloud-based tools, and in particular, by the acute integration with social platforms offered by Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud, reinforced by its acquisitions of Buddy Media and Radian6. In an incredible demonstration of the barely six-week-old integration with Buddy, Benioff was able to demonstrate live on the stage use of Buddy’s Facebook application to create real-time content supporting Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s social monitoring. 

“ To an obscene degree The Marketing Cloud is focused on the customer. The way this works is for the marketing cloud to send insight to to sales cloud, which then takes action.”  Based on the quality of the collaborative work it gets from Radian6, “sales people can take action that really nails it.”

As someone who himself sells in a B2B context, Woolen has a passion for the complex sale.  “B2B marketers now are drowning in leads.  They need scale and they need social intelligence from outside the enterprise at every stage as they scale.”

And of course, there is the mobile interface that puts the customer interaction into any situation where you can carry a phone. Or in a global context previously unrealized. “We feel very strongly that we are ahead [with mobile] ever since we developed the native app for Blackberry.  We have the history, and the present is complex, with the proliferation of so many devices, with different operating systems, but with the introduction of Touch, we have the ability to more easily reach more devices at greater scale and lower cost.” 

“We’ve moved from an era where the software had to serve the needs of the process,” says Woollen. “With cloud-based delivery and with closer collaboration within the partnership and across the enterprise, we can truly serve the needs of the customer.”

So who owns customers? It’s clear that who should own the customer is the person empowered within the organization with the fastest, best-informed path (or touch?) to reach them.