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The Emperor [CRM] is Naked

Authored by Ric Ratkowski on September 20, 2019

 

One of the things I like to track are stories I heard in kindergarten that persist through life.  The Emperor’s New Clothes is one of them.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in meetings, listening to what is being discussed and ideas explored and wanted to yell out, “THE EMPEROR IS NAKED”.

Today’s CRM solutions fit into this category.  Prior to purchasing a solution they promise to do everything, or promise that “everything” is in the next release.  Yet once implemented, IT Executives wrestle with purchasing additional applications on top of CRM and the need to rationalizing the data, data integration and the sales application stack to complete where CRM leaves off.  

While this maybe today’s state-of-the-art, the question is what can you do to optimize the situation?

Identify the Sales Application Landscape

First you need to identify the different sales application areas that you may need to implement additional solutions now or in the future.  It is important to understand the priority of each application and have a rough five year plan so you don’t work yourself into a corner.

The following table lists categories of applications found in a company’s sales technology stack:

Sales Technology Application Categories

Contracts

Territory Management

Forecasts Predictive

Proposal Management

Incentive Compensation

Guided Selling

PRM

Strategic Account Management

Forecasts and Pipeline

Gamification

Activity Management

Opportunity Management

CPQ

Sales Content

Coaching and Appraisals

Sales Info Services

Sales Acceleration

Sales Training

Pricing Optimization

Lead Management

Contact Management

 

To optimize the CRM/sales application stack, there are three areas to consider beyond the pain/feature/benefit matrix:

  • Application Embedding vs Data Integration and who is responsible.
  • Look beyond one-trick ponies.
  • Look at vendors and their strategic partnerships.

Application Embedding vs Data Integration

I recently attended the NetSuite User Conference and the founder of NetSuite, in his keynote said it best, “Data integration is chaos”.  From personal experience, it is. I used to run marketing for a SaaS company and we had 14 different marketing applications to perform some part of the marketing process.  It was chaos, the integration was fragile, it was hard to get one version of the truth and it took a team to maintain.

Even though it would be nice to avoid, sometimes data integration is unavoidable.  If that is the case, the onus should be put on the software vendor to handle it and/or prescribe best practices for the standard integration points.  If others are doing it, there should be a pattern to follow. Too often vendors leave it up to the customer.

In our case, we require data integration in certain areas but we manage it for the customer.  

However our preference is application embedding whenever possible..  

Application embedding is where applications can be executed from within our application or visa versa.  This goes beyond an i-frame interface and embeds their application widgets and controls on to our interface (or our widgets and controls on to their interface).  It presents their application functionality in context to our application functionality, or visa versa. Examples include:  

  • From within a TopOPPS sales opportunity screen you can press a button and review contacts from ZoomInfo and bring them in as contacts and assign them to the opportunity.   While you are “in the moment” of reviewing the opportunity in TopOPPS you can also search those contact personas and bring in the appropriate contacts from ZoomInfo without leaving the TopOPPS interface.  We further enhance the process by applying AI to past sales patterns to identify opportunities missing key buying team members and creating alerts to help manage the sales process. In this example, ZoomInfo is embedded into TopOPPS.
    ZoomInfo & TopOPPS example for embedded Integration
  • From within Xactly’s Incentive Estimator screen there is an added button to import the sales pipeline from TopOPPS.  Pushing the button brings up the TopOPPS Sales pipeline screen and the user can filter the pipeline for the appropriate opportunities they feel will close in this sales period and then with the push of a button they populated the fields in Xactly’s Incentive Estimator to calculate their forecasted commission, without leaving the Xactly interface, messing with CSV files, or typing in a bunch of information to calculate expected commission expense based on the sales pipeline and “likely to close”.  In this example TopOPPS is embedded into Xactly.
  • From within both TopOPPS and Brainshark for “in the moment” job aids in the form of content suggestions, insights, training and “how to”, based on where the opportunity is in the buyer/seller journey.  Both solutions are embedded in the other application so the complete set of information from both solutions are available wherever the sales rep/sales manager is referencing it. TopOPPS AI engine recommends training courses or coaching videos based on the individual sales patterns from sales reps.  Brainshark serves up the training courses and videos and measures compliance with the recommendations. In this example TopOPPS is embedded into Brainshark and Brainshark is embedded into TopOPPS.

 

Look Beyond One-Trick Ponies

When researching sales technology it is important to find vendors who provide solutions for more than one application area.  All to often sales teams focus on the single problem at hand, solve it and then move on to the next problem. This is how I had 14 different applications in marketing.  Looking beyond current pain and anticipating future pain helps reduce the chaos of many different point solutions being implemented into your CRM application.

From the list above, TopOPPS provides solutions in:

  • Guided Selling 
  • Forecasts Predictive
  • Forecasts and Pipeline
  • Coaching and Appraisals
  • Opportunity Management
  • Activity Management
  • Although not mentioned in the matrix we also do mobile

We have strategic partnerships to embed applications for:

  • Sales Incentive Compensation
  • Territory Management
  • Sales Content
  • Sales Training
  • Sales Info Services
  • Additional features to complete Guided Selling selling scope

Look at Vendor's and their Strategic Partnerships

All partnerships are not created equal.  

Some partnerships become very passive.  Maybe it is a cross selling agreement, maybe it is a license to use someone else's technology or maybe it is because both solutions serve the same customers even if there isn’t much synergy between the two solutions. 

In order to mitigate the complexities of data integration and not create a complex technology stack, it is important to find software vendors with strategic relationships with other software vendors in this space.  These relationships go beyond a passive partnership or merely a data integration solution. Strategic partnerships are created where there is an active partnership between the two vendors. This is a relationship where 1 + 1 = 3 for the customer.  Maybe one of the vendors white label the other solution and embeds it in their product or maybe they are just tightly embedded the application to solve the whole problem and not just part of it and they solve it “in context” to the partner’s application so action can be taken “in the moment”.  

Where Do We Go From Here

In the following blogs we will continue this blog theme regarding the “Sales Application Stack”. We will be reviewing specific examples where companies and vendor solution have taken an application embedding and strategic partnership approach and created an environment where 1 + 1 = 3 for the customer.   

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