Putting the Pedal to the Metal with Sales

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Tell us about the company you founded, Sales Engine International (SEI).

SEI is a Sales 2.0 digital agency. Our unique prospect engagement program integrates advanced CRM, Web video, outbound campaigns, social media, and Web analytics to create your own “sales engine.” SEI clients enjoy more effective demand generation and faster sales cycles, and we help them:

  1. Find prospects: They’re shopping without you on the Web. If you don’t find them before your competitor does, it may be too late.
  2. Connect with prospects bombarded with marketing messages: You must deliver the right message at the right time in the right format. 
  3. Engage prospects: Unless your business has a one-call close, you must engage prospects over time to make the short list when they’re ready to buy. 

You founded SEI after two decades at Ceridian. What about Ceridian’s culture stood out?

An outstanding sales culture. Its distributed, direct-sales model was a breeding and developing ground for dozens of very successful sales leaders. They invested wisely in developing and equipping the sales teams to compete effectively. 

You spent your Ceridian career using installed CRM—what changes did you make when choosing a CRM for SEI?  

SEI is in the cloud and we have customers all over the United States, from departments within large companies to small and midsize businesses. We now have 30 customers, but are growing very rapidly. We use Salesforce.com—for ourselves, but also for our customers to run their campaigns. About two-thirds of businesses that use our services also use Salesforce.com. It’s the runaway favorite right now. It’s easier to not force people to change. We found there’s a reason it’s so popular.

In a way, it’s a threat to [the] world where you used to need consultants to get a large-scale implementation up and running. With something that big, you had to. [Ceridian’s consultants] helped me negotiate and knew where people landed on prices. 

How has CRM changed in the past decade?

A lot of people are in their second and third versions of CRM. It keeps getting better. CRM was not a requirement 10 years ago—it certainly is now. Now, for even the smallest of companies, there’s a price point where anybody can afford it. And it’s easy. Having CRM was one thing. Now it’s all about going way beyond CRM with additional applications and custom development delivered by platforms like [Salesforce.com’s] Force.com. 

I think CRM has come a long way. In the days of Pivotal it wasn’t a Web application; it was a wide-area network. In Salesforce.com, there’s the AppExchange where you can do anything—it’s a whole ecosystem. In my days with Pivotal, you couldn’t really stray from that. Relative to today, the costs to customize were onerous. These days, with Web apps, it’s remarkable. The vendors have demystified and simplified it for both administrators and users. They have expanded their thinking beyond their core product offering, even those outside of sales, marketing, and customer service. Speed-to-deployment is dramatically shortened, analytics and interfaces are simple and effective. Subscription-based pricing lowers the barriers to entry for almost everyone. It’s the “new normal.”

What’s the biggest challenge in getting a CRM system up and running today?  

Making sure you address the needs of the various stakeholder groups. The key to success is user adoption, and it’s important to provide the stakeholder groups with the “wins” they seek. Otherwise, they’ll view it as a “management reporting tool” and will use it lightly and begrudgingly. If they see that their participation helps them to sell more—for example, automated campaigns—then they’re more willing to adopt it as their own.

Is a good CRM system enough?  

CRM is a means to an end. That’s where SEI comes in, providing customer-facing videos. Between the broad campaigns and the targeted, specific campaigns we do for our customers, reps feel blessed. Also, if you’re a sales rep, if you’re trying to sell the old way—cold calling, “dialing for dollars”—it just doesn’t work anymore. 

The key is in producing “wins” for your stakeholders. Show them the economic value it produces for both individual and company. Otherwise, it will become an expensive name-and-address book.


Customer base: We have 30 customers, most small and midsize businesses and some departments in large firms.

Adoption tip: Make management the watchdog. Nearly 80 percent of implementations fail because management is not steadfast enough. 

Best takeaway from Ceridian: Creating a robust sales culture, sales scorecards, and cascading goals for all employees. 

Best CRM innovation: Web applications and custom development platforms such as Salesforce.com’s Force.com. Anything you want, there’s an app for that. 

Best advance in sales: Social and multimedia to better engage customers and prospects. Cold calling just doesn’t work anymore. 

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