Editor’s Note: Last month, as we published our Everything Guide to Choosing the Best CRM Solution for Your Business, we became acquainted with a terrific resource — TechnologyAdvice. TechnologyAdvice is interested in CRM vendors like Pipeliner — and other providers of business software — because their business is to create quality connections between buyers and sellers of business technology. They help buyers make well-informed purchase decisions through comprehensive product listings, industry analysis and user-generated reviews — improving product awareness by placing matched solutions in front of their ideal customers.
They asked to interview our CMO, Eric Quanstrom, about the current and future states of CRM. Here is that interview (video highlights and podcast download available below):
The Entire Interview:
TECHNOLOGYADVICE: Pipeliner is one of the most visual CRMs you’ll come across. Why is a visual CRM so important?
ERIC: One of the things we believe here at Pipeliner is that the human brain processes images so much faster than text. It’s so much easier to work in a visual workflow, right? A picture worth a thousand words isn’t just a petty cliché. It actually helps you organize where to focus your time. Frankly, if you can build a software tool around the visual, then what you’ll be is more productive, more efficient and more effective with your work. TA: What are you using right now with social CRM software, and how do you utilize social CRM in the pipeline from start to finish? ERIC: The CRM market itself is growing and aspects of it like social CRM are growing exponentially. I just read a study that claims the global social CRM software market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 38.1 percent over the next five years …. The reason is simple: ultimately sales is so much a part of just about every business that you have, especially if you’re a B2B company, regardless of your stats.
What’s key is to be able to organize your sales activities so that you can affect your own bottom line, right? Because at the end of the day, if you’re not making revenues and you’re not increasing revenues, then where are you? You’re nowhere. So the point here is if you can have a best-of-breed tool like a CRM guiding your efforts and organizing your sales organization, you’re going to be a better company for it.
TA: CRM software sometimes has a bad reputation. The stats are still very high on failed implementations, which results in lost money and lost time. How is Pipeline responding to that?
ERIC: I couldn’t agree more with your assessment that CRM is still a dirty word, unfortunately. I think it’s a confluence of events, where CRM is so important to a business and to a sales organization, but at the same time there’s been an evolution of vendors that has pushed products forward that, frankly, salespeople haven’t loved using.
One problem that has plagued CRM for a long time is creating software that is very antithetical to making a sales rep’s life easier. So if I have to do a lot of data entry, if I have to waste a lot of my time living inside of a database that wasn’t really designed by salespeople for salespeople, then I’m going to go crazy. Ultimately, I’m going to throw my hands up and say exactly what you just said earlier: would you rather have me out there selling or have me playing the role of data-entry clerk with the software?
We think that there’s a path forward that basically responds to sales reps’ complaints by saying we want to make a system that’s intuitive, easy-to-use and more importantly helps them focus on what’s important—largely because what’s important is visually referenced. It’s easy to see and therefore easy to guide your own activities.
So that’s exactly why the vast majority of what happens within Pipeliner happens on one’s screen. It happens within your sales pipeline, and your sales pipeline is built to where you can control through drag and drop, and then through easy hover states, and in drilling into various deals—everything that you have going on.
So if I’m a sales rep and I’m managing 50, 75, or 100 deals at a time, I still can keep my head above water and really focus on that what makes sense using my own company’s sales state as a methodology. So what we’re talking about is backing in into a sales process. It becomes natural. It becomes seamless and easy to execute over and over again because the tool has supported that effort but hasn’t dominated it.
TA: Is there a disconnect between marketing and sales? Why do so many companies have the same problem of sales reps being buried in activities that aren’t in line with what they’re best at?
ERIC: That problem is really a fundamental one: most CRMs have been structured on top of databases …. There’s a natural inclination to have multiple numbers of deals spread out across an entire team. It’s much more than any one human being can keep track of, right? A little on the sales manager, or sales leader, or VP of sales. Ultimately, the vexing tension is trying to throw a database at a human interaction problem.
Salespeople want to be on the phone, or they want to be live and in a demo. They want to be in person. They want to be interacting with their prospects to build relationships, cement trust and ultimately close the deal, which creates a win-win for their prospects. That to me is the highest aspiration of sales.
We spend a lot of time at Pipeliner thinking about that type of construct because we believe that sales should be an admired profession. Sales should be creating win-wins. Sales should be rather aspirational. Unfortunately, it’s still not quite there.
Ultimately, the problem we face is even bigger than the tool itself. It’s ultimately bringing organization and professionalism to a job that for a long time has been very unstructured. To that end, I think there’s a lot we can all be doing to advance sales in this country and around the world.
TA: What do you see for the future of the sales role?
ERIC: I don’t think that that human nature or capacity to want to connect and deal with people on a human level will ever change. But at the same time it’s fraught with peril because nobody likes to be sold to ….
And what we’ve seen in the digital space is that the buyer’s journey has actually changed a lot. If you listen to leading research—and thank goodness for friends like TechnologyAdvice, who are helping provide a roadmap in cautious thinking on how to buy—that makes the buyers’ journey change.
The stats say that before a salesperson enters the scene now, the buyer’s already 60–70 percent of the way through their journey. In a sense, what we’ve done is deputize ourselves as buyers, especially in a B2B context where oftentimes the purchases that we make are even more emotional than in a B2C environment ….
They’ve done their homework. They know about you and your competitors. Now the best role that you can play is someone who is consultative, someone who is advisory, someone who can empathize and understand what they’re trying to accomplish and then ultimately make a recommendation and create that win-win. If you try to get unidirectional and basically say, “Hey, it’s my solution and all of theirs you should ignore.” Where’s the trust going to go? It’s not going to happen. And guess what? You’re going to lose that deal and you cost your company that deal in the ninth inning, right?
TA: What number-one piece of advice would you give someone when they’re trying to find the right CRM software for their business?
ERIC: The number one thing that you have to have in any buyer’s journey is to know yourself. Your company is unique. Your needs are unique. Understanding what those needs are and being able to articulate those to vendors is so very important. Frankly, an ounce of planning is worth a pound of cure, so to speak. Spending some time going through and creating a checklist will ultimately save you so much time in the future.
This highlight video sums up the issues all businesses face as they look for the right CRM solution that fits their sales strategy needs:
You can download the podcast here to listen later. Subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud in order to get alerts about new episodes, or subscribe to just the CRM category here. The podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner