• December 1, 1999

The 10 Most Influential People in CRM

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Selling has always been a game of high visibility, of winners and losers on a mythic scale, of epic road trips and legendary egos.

It's no surprise, then, that a business that sells selling tools to sellers should produce some legendary figures of its own. We've singled out ten of them as the Most Influential People in CRM.

A few are, if not household names, then certainly familiar to anyone who follows the business pages. Others have labored in relative obscurity but had a significant impact on the development and popularization of CRM technology. Some are still moving and shaking; others had a historical role but have since taken a lower profile.

But What About...?

Of course, with any list like this, far more people will be left out than are included. To keep the list down to ten, we limited our choices to individuals whose primary focus was or is on sales force automation or CRM. That meant leaving out some not insignificant figures:

  • Bill Gates of Microsoft. Gates and his company have become virtually synonymous with computing, and Microsoft's BackOffice and SQL Server products provide the backbone for many CRM installations.
  • Larry Ellison of Oracle. Oracle's databases have been at the heart of many corporate information systems; the company helped define modern enterprise software and continues to influence the direction of information management in the Internet age. And as Oracle pushes into CRM software, we may see Ellison and his company rewriting the book on CRM.

    Three other individuals were frequently mentioned as we prepared this list. We ultimately left them out because they've been closely tied to this magazine since its inception; it would have seemed a little incestuous to include them, despite their contributions to the industry:

  • Rich Bohn, premier CRM software consultant and reviewer.
  • Jim Dickie, who popularized the term Chief Sales Officer and is widely respected for his reasoned approach to CRM implementation.
  • Barry Trailer, tireless advocate of sales process as a necessary prerequisite to sales automation success.

    CRM Leadership

    One thing was clear in interviewing the ten individuals: None of them worked in a vacuum. CRM is about using technology to tie people together--salespeople, customer service representatives, accountants, shipping clerks, independent dealers and customers. By the same token, each of our 10 Most Influential People succeeded by building and leading a team of talented people, and this article is a tribute not just to those 10 people, but to the teams they led to success.

    --Larry Tuck

    Richard Brock: Pioneer of the Upper Tier

    Richard Brock
    Chairman and CEO
    Firstwave Inc.
    (formerly Brock Control Systems)

    First Job: Accountant, Price Waterhouse

    Richard Brock has always sought ways in which software could make a difference. After starting as an accountant at Price Waterhouse, then working for a large regional accounting firm, he founded and sold two successful software companies before hitting on the idea that made him a seminal figure in CRM.

    "I did acquisition work for several years," he explains, "and I got a good glimpse at the sales side of the world. Among other things, I realized that salespeople knew best how to do their work, but they didn't have time to write software that could support it. That's how I fell into the SFA industry. I didn't see anyone else writing comprehensive sales apps, so I seized the moment."

    In 1984, he founded Brock Control Systems, which immediately became one of the most recognizable brand names in the burgeoning sales automation industry. His product, the only enterprise-type application available at the time, was viewed as the premier telesales/telemarketing solution for upper-tier companies, though ironically, this wasn't the original plan. Brock initially developed his application as a sales and marketing solution--not one for telesales and telemarketing--and he aimed it at the midmarket.

    But, he says, the early adopters of sales and marketing automation happened to be those who worked by phone. As they increasingly bought his product, BCS gained a reputation as a tele-solutions provider. By the same token, midmarket companies bought his solution, but high-end businesses had bigger software budgets and got the most media attention when they purchased.

    Brock enjoyed several years of strong sales and a powerful position in the marketplace, but in the mid 1990s, a series of events sent business spiraling. After going through an IPO, the company shifted its focus to what Wall street wanted--big customers and new license revenues--leaving the company's midmarket clients in a lurch. "We didn't grow our services fast enough to keep pace with a growing client base," says Brock, "As the number of large customers increased, we became less effective at servicing smaller clients." This, plus a bumpy Unix-to-Windows transition and a surge of new players into the SFA arena, sapped the company's early market lead. As Brock hit on hard times, customers abandoned ship and analysts and the media turned their attention elsewhere. By the late 1990s, when the company changed its name to Firstwave, industry observers were predicting the firm's demise.

    Richard Brock, however, isn't the type to sit around and lick his wounds. Last year, he came back on board full time and began overhauling everything that hadn't worked. He sunk several million dollars into the company, focused the company back on the midmarket, began rewriting the product to an Internet platform and pulled in some poster-child clients, including a division of Microsoft.

    "We've gone back to the basics--including a strong commitment to caring for our customers--and basics work," asserts Brock. "And though we've eaten our sand and gotten plenty of bruises, that's true of any long-term survivor in the software industry. Now, we're back on the surfboard with an Internet-centric product. We're rising fast, and sales are beginning to reflect that."

    --Ginger Kernachan Cooper

    Mary Coleman: The Gold standard

    Mary Coleman
    Baan Company

    First Job: Computer programmer

    Mary Coleman didn't found Aurum Software, an early sales automation leader--Susan Buchanan and her husband David did. But the Buchanans wanted to take their company public, and they needed professional management to do it. In 1993, they hired Coleman. Prior to joining Aurum, she was VP of marketing at Macintosh peripheral maker Radius, and it was easy for her to see the appeal of a set of tools that helped analyze the sales process. She was in charge of generating and tracking leads at Radius, but without a closed loop back to the sales force, was finding it impossible to measure which marketing methods were most effective

    A computer programmer with 20 years of high tech experience, Coleman is credited with turning Aurum from a bit player with bug-plagued products into a leader in the sales automation industry.

    By investing heavily in product development and sticking to a methodical growth plan, Coleman built Aurum's reputation, pulling off a successful IPO in 1996 and increasing the company's revenues for that year more than 163 percent to $27.6 million. Then came an even bigger coup: Coleman engineered a successful merger with multinational ERP software vendor Baan Company. She served as president of Baan and then became CEO in May 1999.

    Coleman's work is cut out for her at Baan. The software maker, founded in 1978 with dual headquarters in The Netherlands and Virginia, was mainly a back-office software vendor before the Aurum merger. Last year, the ERP industry was hit by a slowdown attributable, according to Baan, to Y2K fears, reduced capital spending, increased competition and uncertain global economic conditions. To shore up her company's sinking profits, Coleman launched a major restructuring program at the end of 1998, laying off nearly 1,000 employees, closing or consolidating 50 offices and selling off 10 subsidiaries. Revenues have since remained flat, but losses have come down, from $315 million ($270 million of which were attributable to one-time restructuring costs) in 1998 to $28 million in the first half of 1999.

    Coleman says Baan's continued progress on the financial front demonstrates that the company has regained customer confidence. The company continues to develop new products, launching its E-Enterprise Internet suite of Web-enabled software applications in June. "Investment in research and development remains a top priority for Baan Company," says Coleman. Stay tuned to see if her steady hand will be able to steer Baan off the shoals as it did Aurum.

    --Louise Bullis Yarmoff

    George Colombo: The Industry Advocate

    George Colombo
    Technology consultant

    First job: Computer sales

    In 1987, George Colombo had a problem. He owned a small New Hampshire-based computer store and needed to hire experienced sales professionals who could not only sell, but do systems configuration to boot. With VISA and MasterCard as his only venture capitalists, his pockets weren't deep enough to attract people having sufficient experience. At best, he could afford fresh-out-of-college graduates who were green but eager, and that left the challenge of ramping them up. Then he discovered Eighty/20--an early ACT!-like contact management program. By automating the contact management and configuration aspects of the job, he was able to hire inexperienced salespeople and substantially reduce their ramp-up time.

    Flash forward to 1992: Colombo was running a successful store and wondered why everyone else hadn't jumped on the SFA bandwagon. Certain that lots of salespeople could benefit from SFA if only they knew it existed, he became a man with a mission--to spread the word about what was possible with automation technology. To that end, he sold his store, hung a shingle and set out to make the sales world see the light.

    Colombo wrote what turned out to be a best-selling book entitled Sales Force Automation. When it hit the stores, Colombo became an overnight success and soon found his calendar booked with speaking engagements. He spent the next several years preaching to sales teams, managers and anyone else willing to listen and was a regular presence at user conferences, trade shows, sales meetings and a host of other events. At the same time, he evangelized on the many benefits of SFA in the numerous articles that he wrote for magazines, newsletters and a plethora of sales-related publications.

    By 1997, the sales automation industry was beginning to lose its luster, at least from Colombo's perspective. "I started to feel like I was doing the equivalent of selling people on the benefits of VCRs," says Colombo. "They knew what SFA was, and they no longer needed someone to convince them of its importance." He shifted his focus from pure SFA to sales and marketing technology in a more general sense. In recent years, he has begun hosting two TV shows, Spotlight Microsoft and The Cutting Edge, both with a high-tech focus; has done a Web-based audio interview series for Lotus (see Lotus.com/conversations); conducted a series of training videos for Hewlett-Packard; and continues to do multi-city speaking tours with Merisel.

    Now it appears that things are coming full circle. "With the advent of the Internet and a new focus on customers, the CRM arena has once again heated up," says Colombo, as he reveals that he's about to hop back into this niche of the software industry. Indeed, under the umbrella of "capturingcustomers.com," he's working on another book (due out in mid- to late 2000), setting up a Web site, putting together a newsletter, and even looking to host a series of four one-hour TV specials.

    "I'm focusing on how companies are connecting with their customers in this new wired environment--what's working, what's not and how they must change their business models to accommodate this new reality."

    --Ginger Kernachan Cooper

    Ken Dulaney: The Thinker

    Ken Dulaney
    Vice President, mobile computing
    Gartner Group

    First Job: Cable designer, Illinois Bell

    When Ken Dulaney joined the Gartner Group in '92, sales force automation programs abounded, but sales reps were loath to use them. "Adoption rates were low," says Dulaney, "because most programs were designed to deliver information to management. No one was focusing on the needs of the reps."

    Dulaney set out to change all that. Indeed, he had been focused on the needs of reps for more than 10 years. As director of marketing in the mid '80s for Grid Systems--a pioneering manufacturer of laptop computers--he was the one who came up with the idea of selling laptops to sales reps. Dulaney got to know sales software, as well as hardware, because sales force automation vendors showed up at marketing seminars he ran for Grid. At the time, he says, those seminars were some of the best places software vendors could go to find a critical mass of buyers.

    Dulaney took a break from sales force automation in the late '80s while working on the development of the pen computer and got back into the field in '92. "Nothing had changed," he says. "Sales force automation programs were still being used mostly to process paper. Sales reps didn't want to use them because they didn't put money in their pockets."

    As vice president of Gartner's Sales Leadership strategies Group, Dulaney began talking with vendors about what needed to change. He authored a series of white papers and reports that developed a common SFA terminology and a universal architecture. He coined the phrase "opportunity management," to describe a system that would help a sales rep assess the value of a deal, guide the rep through the steps needed to close the deal and manage all the people involved, while also calculating forecasts and commissions. "Reps are focused on revenue generation," says Dulaney. "You have to tie it to the money."

    SFA vendors subscribed to Gartner's reports and used information developed by Dulaney's group as the initial foundation of their software. "The industry was looking for leadership," says Dulaney. "As an independent third party, we could give it. No vendor wanted to copy another vendor, but they didn't mind copying our architecture."

    Since then, Dulaney has turned CRM industry analysis over to others at Gartner and has gone back to mobile computing issues. But CRM is never far from his heart. "I'm pretty proud because I know I had something to do with the development of sales force automation," he says. "That's the thing I'm most proud of in my career."

    --Louise Bullis Yarmoff

    Norm Francis: Champion of the Mid-Market

    Norm Francis
    President & CEO
    Pivotal Corporation

    A visionary and a leader, Norm has extensive senior high-technology management experience, including twenty years at the forefront of the software industry. In 1979 he co-founded Basic Software Group, which scored an early PC software success with EasyWriter II; a word processing application that became one of the top-selling applications for the IBM PC soon after it was introduced. Later, BSG became well-known as the creators of ACCPAC, which became the top-selling line of PC accounting software in North America. After the enormous success of ACCPAC, BSG was acquired by Computer Associates International.

    Francis co-founded Pivotal Software in 1994 to pursue the emerging CRM market. "I saw a pretty dramatic change happening," he says. Companies were recognizing the need to focus on the customer relationships."

    Other companies like Brock, ACT!, GoldMine and Maximizer were selling contact management software for individual users and small workgroups. Siebel had started selling client-server systems for larger organizations. "We came in with a fresh idea of how CRM systems could be done," Francis says. "We felt that NT and BackOffice would provide a better management platform than previous systems, translating into rapid time to success and lower total cost of ownership."

    Pivotal targeted the high end of the mid-market, medium-sized companies and divisions of larger ones with between 100 and 500 user seats--a class of organizations that had largely been neglected by other front-office automation vendors. Perhaps more significant, Francis says, was a vision of extending systems beyond simple sales force automation. "From the very beginning I thought that it was about the complete relationship with the customer. ... Businesses need to merge internal and external information resources, tying together customers, partners, employees and channels." Pivotal's answer is what it likes to call eBusiness Relationship Management.

    The first Pivotal Relationship customer was installed in the fall of 1995. As of June 1999, the product is in use at more than 470 companies, with more that 38,000 total users. There are currently more than 550 users at the largest site. Pivotal's customers span a number of industries including healthcare, financial services, high technology and utilities. Pivotal customers include Hewlett-Packard, UNOCAL, Kimberly-Clark and Siemens Electric. The company went public earlier this year.

    "We're all about providing our customers with technology that helps them communicate more richly with their customers and compete in the global economy," Francis says.

    --Larry Tuck

    Barton Goldenberg: The Daddy of DCI 

    Barton Goldenberg
    Information Systems Marketing

    First Job: Salesman, Monsanto

    Fresh out of grad school in 1979, Barton Goldenberg took a sales job with chemical giant Monsanto, and it wasn't long before he won a Master Salesman award as a top seller at his company.

    When his boss approached him one day in hopes of learning his secret to effective selling, Goldenberg proudly demonstrated the pricing application he'd created using VisiCalc. With it, he could quote prices to European customers--once a tedious and time-consuming task--in a snap, meaning he had lots more time to sell.

    His boss, having viewed the new tool, scratched his chin and said in a puzzled tone, "Well, that's nice, but why don't you just use a slide rule?" Goldenberg had an insight just then. "At that moment," he attests, "I knew I wasn't going to get along well with that guy. It was time to head elsewhere. Fast."

    Head elsewhere he did, taking a management job with the state Department, where he once again put his software savvy to work, developing several trade information systems that tracked country-by-country data on businesses, products and services. "From my first job," says Goldenberg, "I learned that computers could be used to save time. From this second job, I saw how they could be used to facilitate the sharing of information. Those are two powerful benefits."

    In 1985, he left his job at the state Department to start his own company, Information Systems Marketing (ISM), and he took on IBM and CitiBank as his first two clients. "In a sense, this was a lonely time," says Goldenberg, "because there was no true SFA industry then. I remember going to a sales trade show in New York in the late 1980s, and there were only three tables at which vendors were selling contact managers. We've certainly come a long way since then."

    By 1990, Goldenberg was publicly pushing, in magazines, in speaking engagements and in his own book--The Guide to Sales and Marketing Automation--for products that linked sales, marketing, customer service and executive information under one roof. It wasn't surprising when, in 1991, he was approached about speaking at DCI's Mobile World show. "It's a funny story," recalls Goldenberg. "Mobile World was floundering at the time, and when they contacted my PR firm to ask if I'd be a keynote speaker, the president of the firm--Jean Young--took the call. She told them that I only took chairmanships, even though that wasn't entirely true, but they called back and offered me the chairmanship all the same."

    Though Mobile World itself was doing poorly, one feature of the show was extremely popular--the sales force automation tent. "We realized that the SFA section was generating more and more interest at each show," recalls Goldenberg, "so in 1993 we decided to simply have a standalone SFA show sponsored by DCI." A year later, DCI's first Field & Sales Force Automation Show was born, and Goldenberg has been co-chairing the event ever since. In addition to the U.S. shows, he's also co-founder and co-chairman for the Canadian, British and German ones, and he's currently setting up shows in Japan and France.

    Goldenberg continues to write for a host of publications, speaks at various conferences, publishes The Guide to Sales, Customer Service, and Marketing Automation, teaches at Wharton and other well-known schools, conducts executive seminars, and consults for a host of large clients, including Lucent Technologies, Xerox and Mobil Oil. Quite a track record for someone who was once advised to stick to a slide rule.

    --Ginger Kernachan Cooper

    Jerry Johnson:Heartland Hero

    Jerry Johnson


    First Job: Farm Equipment Sales

    As a farm equipment dealer in the early 1980s, Jerry Johnson knew the value of technology. Automation had helped make American farmers the most productive in the world; why, Johnson reasoned, couldn't it also help him explain the benefits of the machinery he was selling? 

    But while computers were commonly used for back-office processes like accounting and inventory, they were rarely seen by customers. That may have been partly because the minicomputers of those days were far too bulky to bring along on a sales call.

    Then Johnson came across a device that changed all that. The Timex Sinclair hardly qualified as a computer by today's standards, but it was small, relatively cheap, and could be programmed to perform simple but useful tasks like calculating the cost of a tractor with a particular set of options, or generating a payment schedule. Johnson began carrying one on sales calls--hooking it up to the TV set in his customer's living room since the Sinclair had no built-in display. Sure enough, it saved time, shortened the selling cycle and helped him close more business.

    A few months later he moved up to the latest, greatest computer technology, the Commodore 64, which boasted color graphics and a single floppy disk drive. Since the Commodore consisted of several cabled-together components, he built a nicely-finished oak box to carry it in. "I still have that box," he says.

    Other equipment dealers admired his application of computers to selling, and asked him to put together similar systems for them, and in 1983 he founded a business he called Clear With Computers.

    "It's the job of the salesperson to make things crystal clear to the customers," Johnson explains. "And our vision was to use computers to help them do that.

    "Other companies making sales force automation products were focused more on calendars and contacts," he continues, "and they wondered why they had a hard time getting salespeople to use them. The fact is, those things are useful, but they don't really help the salesperson to close more sales.

    "We always talk about customer-facing activities, because I feel that if you do that well, it feeds the rest of the company."

    CWC, as it became known, became a leading provider of sales automation systems that focused on product configuration, with an especially strong presence in the heavy equipment and automotive industries. Johnson was president of CWC through 15 successful years of creating state-of-the-art sales systems for blue-chip companies like General Motors, John Deere and Freightliner.

    In 1997, he recognized that the market was changing and brought in a new management team. Johnson retains the title of Chairman of the Board and is still active in providing strategic direction.

    The company changed its name to FirePond and has shifted to a greater emphasis on the Web--a natural extension of its product configuration expertise. "To make e-commerce successful we need to find ways to give customers just the information they need, rather than overwhelming them with this 'wall' of information," Johnson says. "That's always been the salesperson's job--to act as a filter for that wall of information. We're looking for ways to use technology to do that."

    --Larry Tuck

    Paul Selden: The Buyers' Best Buddy

    Paul Selden


    Performance Management Inc.

    First Job: President,
    Performance Management Inc.

    Know anyone over 45 who works in the software industry? Sure, you say. But how many of them have held the same job ever since graduating from college? At least one person fits the bill. 

    Now 48, Paul Selden has been heading up his own company, Performance Management Inc. (PMI), since receiving his Ph.D. in behavioral psychology in 1978. "Unlike most everyone else in the industry, I've held one job my whole adult life," says Selden, "and it's as interesting as it ever was."

    That job--providing computer documentation and training--has opened many doors for him over the years, and it enabled him to get familiar with sales automation in its earliest days. His benchmark reference work, The Guide to Implementing Sales Automation, first published in 1991, quickly became the bible by which numerous project directors walked their companies through selection and implementation of SFA systems and helped many to avoid costly mistakes.

    But overall failure rates for SFA remained high, and Selden wanted to do something about it. Aside from publishing books and articles, he wanted to pull people together in a neutral environment where they could share experiences and help educate each other about how to do SFA right. That led him to found The Sales Automation Association, which immediately became the de facto trade association for the SFA industry.

    "Our message," says Selden, "was to let the buyer beware. The members of SAA were people who wanted to make a difference, and I think we succeeded in many ways." Indeed, SAA members claimed much higher success rates for their implementations than did the public at large, and the Sales Process Engineering & Automation Review, a quarterly publication sent to members, was for years one of the best sources of information to be found. The SAA sponsored numerous workshops and seminars to help steer people through the SFA process, and in many ways, the organization helped improve the image of the entire SFA industry.

    "I was very passionate about the organization," claims Selden, "but there was a physical limitation as to how much I could do while still having a life outside the SAA." He stepped down from his role as president in 1997 to devote more time to other interests. The organization has since changed its name to the Customer Relationship Management Association (CRMA).

    Selden continues to run Performance Management, along with another business entity, The Paul Selden Companies. PSC conducts sales process analysis, among other things, and it's where Selden now focuses most of his efforts. In addition to recently publishing a book entitled Sales Process Engineering: A Personal Workshop, he works with clients such as GE Capital and is conducting full-time research in the area of process analysis. Selden says he plans to publish his findings in the near future. "In a way, I've gone underground for a while because I've been deep in research, he says. "But the work I'm now doing is very gratifying. I believe it will have enduring value. And in that light, while I've been behind the scenes, I'll definitely be back."

    --Ginger Kernachan Cooper

    Thomas Siebel:The King of the Hill

    Thomas Siebel

    Chairman and CEO

    Siebel Systems

    First Job: Publishing
    Customer relationship management owes its current notoriety in large part to Siebel Systems' Tom Siebel. Investors love the return they're getting on the company's stock, whose price has gone up 120 percent over the last year. Industry insiders run into him everywhere--as the keynote speaker at trade shows, magazine and newspaper interviewee and the invited guest on CNBC, CNN and ZDTV. Siebel Systems is the fastest growing company in America, according to Fortune magazine. It topped the Deloitte & Touche list of the fastest-growing technology companies in Silicon Valley with a five-year revenue growth rate of 782,978 percent, a new record. And along the way, Siebel has found time to author two books on cyber selling. Thanks to Siebel, CRM may actually become a household word. 

    After earning a bachelor's degree and two masters' from the University of Illinois, Siebel started his career at Oracle in 1984, where he was employee number 50. Just a year after joining, he was named the company's top salesman. He stayed on for another five years, finally departing in 1990.

    Shortly afterward, Siebel was hired as CEO of a small database company called Cayenne Systems. He changed the company's name to Gain Technology, developed an alliance with Sybase, and executed a merger of Gain with Sybase 18 months later.

    With his earnings from the merger, Siebel started Siebel Systems in 1993 with 4 employees. "By the early '90s, information technology had already transformed a wide range of business functions, including manufacturing, accounting and human resources," says Siebel, "but sales, marketing and customer service were still not fully automated. We thought it was unlikely that these areas would remain untouched."

    Revenues for 1994 were a paltry $50,000. Four years later, in 1998, he had 1,600 employees, revenues had grown to $391million and, what's even more unusual for a Silicon Valley start-up, net income was $42.9 million.

    Siebel took by storm what, at the time, was a fragmented sales force automation market lacking in clear vision. "We did a great deal of market research to understand customer requirements," he says. His company then set about building a product that would meet those needs. Siebel Systems mainly targets the high end of the market, and its customer list includes companies like Bell South, Chase Manhattan Bank, Citibank, Honeywell and Ford. The secret to his success, says Siebel, is his company's commitment to customer satisfaction. What else would you expect from the leading seller of CRM software?

    --Louise Bullis Yarmoff

    Pat Sullivan: The First and Foremost

    Pat Sullivan

    Chairman, President and CEO

    SalesLogix Corporation
    First Job: Salesman, Karl Printing Company

    Pat Sullivan gets the credit for inventing--or certainly popularizing--contact management software, one of sales force automation's basic building blocks. In 1984, while selling computers in Dallas, he grew frustrated at not being able to find usable software for automating the routine tasks he did every day. A less-than-stellar computer student (he got a D in the only programming course he ever took), Sullivan nevertheless figured out how to create a contact management template in Lotus 1-2-3. Two years later, when the computer retailer he worked for went out of business, he struck out on his own, founding a company called CSI--with $100,000 borrowed from a friend of a friend--to sell a professionally programmed software product modeled after his original template. He named the program ACT!

    "We said ACT! was the first product of its kind," says Sullivan. "But there were actually over 200 other products."

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