• January 1, 2012
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Yahoo! Search Yields a Better Sales Tool

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It's no secret that Yahoo! has had its share of financial troubles lately, and the Sunnyvale, Calif.–based Internet search firm continues to struggle to breathe life into its online advertising and search business.

Poor financial performance ultimately prompted the company in September to fire CEO Carol Bartz. Before she left, Bartz blamed the sales team for Yahoo!'s disappointing revenue figures, saying its sales technology was far outdated.

She was correct, up to a point. What Bartz failed to mention was that the company only a few months earlier had taken steps to begin streamlining its sales processes, policies, and systems. In March 2011, Yahoo! introduced an entirely new enterprise sales collaboration portal that it calls The Source.

The new sales data repository is built on Salesforce.com's Force cloud-based platform for building and running social, mobile, and real-time employee apps, and the Chatter social networking platform. Content includes internal company news and statistics, industry reports, market data by vertical and geography, content from subject matter experts, a photo carousel, and a host of other information to help salespeople do their jobs more effectively. Users can customize their homepages with alerts and messages, favorites, links, contacts, personal profiles, and status updates.

"The home page pushes content to the user based on who he is and where he is," says Kristen Sanders, former director of global sales operations and sales enablement at Yahoo!, who recently left the company to start her own consulting firm. "A sales agent in Taiwan gets different information than someone in Brazil."

Also included are file-sharing and collaboration tools centered on the Salesforce.com Chatter internal social networking and collaboration platform. Users can create public or private Chatter groups and track dialogues by users or around topics or groups. A Chatter Plus license gives users access to additional custom content, including dashboards, reports, workflows, calendars, tasks, and events.

As a whole, "The Source makes it easy for salespeople to get information when they need it," Sanders says. "In about four minutes, [a salesperson] can get back to a customer with information that used to take up to three weeks to get."

In launching The Source, Yahoo! was able to eliminate what Sanders calls "several disparate digital landfills" loaded with old information. "We had some content that was ten years old and some that was ten days old and we couldn't distinguish between them."

Having this kind of data availability is crucial, according to Sanders, who notes that Yahoo! sales reps require a lot of information to properly sell advertising for its digital properties, which monthly attract about 500 million people. "It's not just about looking at data on a page, but bringing in real-life usage data and sharing it across borders," Sanders explains.

With the help of Appirio, a Salesforce.com partner, the new platforms were implemented in about 60 days. The rollout started with the account management and sales support teams and quickly spread to the entire global sales force, made up of 3,000 people.

The Source has been so well received it is being expanded to a broader audience within the company, which has about 14,000 employees in 25 countries.

The Source, Sanders adds, was not about revenue growth but productivity gains, and it has certainly delivered.

The Payoff

Since launching the Source sales platform, Yahoo! has been able to do the following:

  • eliminate 9 sales data repositories and reallocate the resources dedicated to them;
  • improve internal communications;
  • increase sales force productivity;
  • reduce software licensing costs; and
  • eliminate 20 full-time administrative positions.

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