With 5 activists in the mix, Salesforce will report earnings Wednesday

It could be a pivotal report for the CRM giant

Earnings reports come and go; for the most part, they’re a fairly routine exercise, but Wednesday’s report from Salesforce could be a little different.

That’s because the CRM leader finds itself in difficult waters with five different activist investors — Elliott Management, Starboard Value, ValueAct, Inclusive Capital and Third Point — currently operating in the company. Third Point joined the fun earlier this month.

We use the word unprecedented a lot these days, but this is truly an unusual situation, and it makes the company’s upcoming earnings call all that more critical.

The presence of so many high-profile activist investors is stealing focus from Salesforce, with questions swirling around what they may demand to wring the maximum stock value out of the company and maximize their return on investment.

In an interview with TechCrunch earlier this month, Ray Wang, founder and lead analyst at Constellation Research, didn’t pull any punches when he called firms like Elliott “vulture firms.”

“The vulture firms do not have a good understanding of the investment levels in R&D that are needed for innovation to continue, nor do they understand what level of marketing spend Salesforce needs to remain top of mind for execs,” Wang said at the time. “They don’t add any value. They come in to just make money on the arbitrage and they leave the firms more damaged than when they were before they were taken over.”

All of these firms are pushing for less spending and more profits, but that could come at the cost of a marketing budget that Wang believes is needed for a company like Salesforce to stay on top of its game.

As we approach the earnings report, what metrics will be most meaningful, and how does this all fit together with what’s been happening at Salesforce over the last six months?