For many salespeople, it's in their nature to impress. And some would argue it's part of their job. Their extra efforts to win over prospects are often reflected in their appearance, their choice of restaurants, and even their gadgets. And while it traditionally has been difficult to quantify the value of these investments, research shows that some of their technology accessories can actually improve productivity.
According to a Nucleus Research study, "The Value of Mobile and Social for CRM," a survey of CRM decision-makers found that organizations that provided their sales teams with mobile access to their CRM systems realized a 14.6 percent increase in productivity. Sales teams that used social CRM technologies like Salesforce.com's Chatter enterprise collaboration tool saw an 11.8 percent increase in productivity.
Organizations that couple social and mobile features with hallmark CRM functionality yield better results than those that rely solely on standard sales force automation systems. So it should come as no surprise that vendors and consultants are eyeing task-specific , role-, and vertical-based usage of mobile CRM data that extends beyond a simple pipeline update by a sales rep, the Nucleus report indicates.
While a slew of sales productivity tools have surfaced since the social and mobile revolution, here are a few that have the potential to significantly improve your company's bottom line.
- Product: Customer Insight for Sales OnDemand, a mobile sales intelligence app
- Price: Available for free when purchasing Sales OnDemand; $80 per user per month with tiered pricing and volume discounts
- Company: SAP
- Web address: www.sales.ondemand.com
Organizations are realizing that deals can be accelerated in collaborative environments, because more people have access to historical context, input from experts, and tools to gauge their personal performance.
Rieber is one of the leading providers of kitchen equipment in Europe. The German manufacturer has more than 28,000 customers, with transactions ranging from single-item household purchases to large-scale professional kitchen equipment. The company's sales leaders needed to have accurate insight into any project at any time and from any location.
Although Rieber was already using SAP ERP and CRM systems, in July, the company deployed SAP's Customer Insight for Sales OnDemand mobile app, which features a "sales cockpit" for visualized sales intelligence. Sales reps and managers can use the tool to alert them of upcoming sales meetings and customer news and updates. It can provide sales performance analytics and reports and offers sales professionals the ability to tag and "favorite" actions within Sales OnDemand accounts for easy retrieval.
Perhaps one of the product's most compelling features is its context-based social collaboration feed. Thanks to the ready-to-use social collaboration feed and integration with social solution SuccessFactors Jam, sales reps can call on internal experts or update colleagues on any client-facing activities.
"We said, 'Let's take the people-to-people concepts that exist on Facebook and Twitter and apply it to data objects within the enterprise,' so when updates happen on your account or…something changes on your leads or opportunities, you're automatically pushed a notification in your feed," explains Bill Hou, SAP's vice president for Sales OnDemand.
For strategic sales organizations, which are typically characterized by longer selling cycles, multiple meetings, and an evaluation process before purchase approval, the tool is designed to bring together multiple account representatives who are looking for a single view of a customer throughout the sales process.
"The problem is not that we don't have CRM systems on the market; the problem is motivating your sales guys to maintain the data," comments Rolf Schumann, general manager of Rieber. "There is [an activity] feed that is generated automatically when you do your normal work in the CRM system…. Your team and managers can see win rates and lead" with nothing more than a click in the app.
This enables Rieber to "make a better prediction about what we need in the warehouse or for preproduction," Schumann says.
- Product: Relationship Manager, an account news alert system
- Price: $99 per user per month
- Company: InsideView
- Web address: www.InsideView.com
For a mature company that deals mainly in the strategic account space, it's estimated that new sales generate only 10 to 20 percent of revenues, while the current install base generates about 80 to 90 percent. That's why sales intelligence software and solutions company InsideView, which currently counts 300,000 users across 1,000 client companies, launched its InsideView Relationship Manager. The product helps companies retain more repeat business and strengthen relationships by combining professional and social identity data.
"The Relationship Manager product is about allowing account and relationship managers to automate the process of monitoring their customer base and automatically notify them when something compelling happens with one of their customers," explains Umberto Milletti, CEO of InsideView.
A "compelling" scenario could be that a client company hires a new chief financial officer, which means the company may look for a way to cut costs. Or a company raises new capital or acquires another company, which could pose an upsell opportunity. Marketing automation provider Marketo, a customer of InsideView Relationship Manager, uses the tool to stay apprised of its strategic accounts and monitor executive moves that might affect a renewal opportunity.
"Relationship Manager provided immediate benefits," comments Amanda Schmidt, senior director of customer success at Marketo. "The product allows us to be proactive rather than reactive. In the past, it could take our customer success managers thirty to ninety days to track a customer when they left [a company] without our knowledge. Now, we can immediately know where they are going to maintain continuity with our customers."
Or, an account or relationship manager can use InsideView's Relationship Manager in conjunction with other tools, such as People Insights, to follow key customer accounts; social and corporate graphs link an account manager's connections to viable influencers and decision makers. Automated watch lists flag users when there is a competitive threat, and alerts can be set when a customer has a potential need for new products.
Socializing Travel and Expense
- Product: Concurforce, a mobile travel and expense product
- Price: Pricing is transaction-based (the more you use, the less expensive each submitted report is). The mobile app is free to individual users but must be tied to a corporate account.
- Company: Concur
- Web address: www.concur.com
For many field sales reps, the end of the month comes as both a blessing and a curse. On the up side, they can count on being reimbursed for travel expenses incurred on the road. But what happens if a sales rep loses one—or a few—receipts? And what if a company wants to integrate travel and expense costs directly into its total opportunity costs while keeping a paper trail of all the activity right in its CRM system?
This is what online travel and expense management company Concur looked to solve with Concurforce, a mobile solution streamlining the travel and expense process. Concurforce also allows a rep to enter travel plans, receive dining recommendations, and share itineraries through an integration with Salesforce.com Chatter, and to turn TripIt itineraries into expense reports.
"If you know, for instance, that you're traveling to San Francisco on Tuesday, it automatically looks through all of the opportunities you're working on, and it goes, 'Well here are four clients you can see in San Francisco, and here are the prospects' and some details on them," comments Michael Fauscette, group vice president of software business solutions at IDC. "If you think about it, that's very useful from a salesguy's perspective—tying CRM and travel together."
One client, Cascade Orthopedic Supply, one of the largest independent distributors of prosthetics and orthotics in the country, needed a way to better organize and track travel expenses for its sales reps.
"Prior to using Concurforce, we had an Excel template and salespeople would have to scan all their receipts into a PDF or big-picture file that went to our accounts payable group," remarks James Mayfield, a business analyst for Cascade. "You'd have to try and match those receipts to the spend, and it was just a very, very slow process."
Cascade's accounts payable department manually went through and assigned transactions to the correct general ledger accounts, then hand-entered the information into the company's ERP system. The manual nature of the process did not provide a whole lot of visibility into the expense process, and there was no historical reporting. Using Concurforce, the company can tie a specific expense record to a customer account record in its Salesforce.com system, and sales reps can photograph their receipts with a smartphone and submit expense reports right from their mobile device.
"We wanted to design the solution around the heaviest business travelers and most frequent expense report filers—who are people in field sales and the client-service function," says Mike Hilton, executive vice president of worldwide marketing for Concur. "We built it in a way that was very similar to how you think about opportunities."
Crushing the Competition
- Product: Crushpath, a lead management and alert solution
- Price: $29 for standalone license, $49 for license for Salesforce.com integrated license user per month
- Company: Crushpath Systems
- Web address: www.Crushpath.com
Think of Crushpath as a personalized customer portal in which a salesperson also gets a visualized version of how a sales story has unfolded. Through Crushpath, salespeople can gain access to all of the activities surrounding their particular deal flow in chronological order, not unlike a Facebook timeline. When a rep makes a client call, the action appears in the Crushpath platform as a geolocated map. If there is a customer email exchange, that and other communication between sales reps and their team members show up in the Crushpath application.
Through a recent integration with Twilio Voice, Crushpath is able to transcribe phone calls when sales reps call contacts from the Crushpath application. An audio and text transcript of the call can also be pushed back to a user's CRM system.
"There is a play-by-play of [the call] as it's happening," says Sam Lawrence, cofounder and CEO of Crushpath, adding that sales reps can review phone conversations and email exchanges. "It's all there. It's searchable. You don't have to go back and record it for other people or take notes or anything like that."
Crushpath customers range from high-tech companies to ad agencies and financial services companies. More than 75 percent of Crushpath's clients transact with their customers using its collaborative customer-facing portal, which can be accessed via a mobile device. Here, customers get a personalized site, where they can interact with their sales rep and access files, case studies, and data sheets, as well as a form that lets them communicate and request more information.
Sales Training 2.0
- Product: Learn for Salesforce, a sales training platform
- Price: Pricing is based on an annual subscription model, varying by user bands or specific user counts.
- Company: Blackboard
- Web address: www.Blackboard.com
Although the name Blackboard has become synonymous with higher education tools and technology, it is perhaps the company's CRM-integrated sales training platform designed for businesses that has the most unique growth potential.
Announced at Dreamforce 2011, Salesforce.com and Blackboard teamed up to launch Learn for Salesforce, a platform that gives sales teams a social learning experience by integrating with Salesforce.com Chatter, and by tailoring dashboards and reports to sales performance and business objectives. "You can build social communities around courses and facilitate project-based learning," comments Heather Bennett, vice president of the Cloud Division at Internet Protocol phone systems provider ShoreTel, which started using Learn for Salesforce last January.
ShoreTel's People Team, which was developed to make training across the enterprise a social learning experience, gives the sales team peer-to-peer engagement, with implications for sales performance as well. "We've had great adoption, because we are adamant believers that a learning system needed to connect to the way we do business."
Because Learn for Salesforce provides key metrics and flags areas for improvement, there is more transparency. Bennett says the company had previously struggled with on-boarding sales reps, but as a result of empowering the organization's People Team with its learning program through Blackboard, the zero-to-quota target of six months has become much more attainable.
Lee Perlis, senior marketing manager for Blackboard, says that one Learn for Salesforce customer company is now on-boarding 20 to 30 new sales reps per week, with a resulting 12 percent increase in net revenue.
"It helps them to get people to stay within their training environment, too, having something right within Salesforce.com," Perlis says. "It not only increases their sales, but increases their completion rate for the number of courses that they're offering."
The New Normal
Whether your organization is using social, mobile, or collaborative applications to facilitate sales cycles, one thing is for sure: Today's consumer technologies are having a transformative effect on businesses.
"Frankly, when it comes to social, being able to interact collaboratively either with colleagues or your prospects and customers is just critically important," says Carter Lusher, chief analyst for enterprise applications at Ovum. "The old way of doing business—the 'I'll give you a phone call, or we'll exchange emails'—is just as necessary, but inadequate because of the consumerization of IT. People's expectations are being changed by their everyday interactions."
Associate Editor Kelly Liyakasa can be reached at email@example.com.