Archives for category: market trends

The traditional sales pipeline model no longer holds in the new socially networked sales pipeline. What was once a well defined funnel of prospecting, needs evaluation, and solution selling has now become a networked sourced sales activity within many companies today prior to initiating contact with vendors. This had lead to both shortening of the sales cycle and a disconnected sales, sometime frustrating, interaction for both parties. For those companies not understanding the new networked customer and engaging where the conversations are occurring externally, the traditional pipeline building activity of buyer and seller alignment has collapsed.

Combined with the current global economic environment, this loss of forecast predictability only adds to uncertainty in sales management.

The net result of this trend has implications for both buyers and sellers. Companies that cannot connect with the new socially driven sales process will be in a poor position to respond to perceived ‘last minute’ customer inquiries when in fact due diligence has been completed on the buyer side. As the networked customer has assumed more aspects of the traditional sales cycle than has been the historical precedent, businesses must also adapt. Those companies that can bridge the current disconnect and engage the customer wherever the social sales conversations are happening, will be best positioned to win.

I attended SugarCon 2010 last week, with the helpful support of Focus. I won’t cover overall conference recaps as they are captured herehere, and here.  Overall, the attention and time investment SugarCRM gave to to the latest trends in Social CRM was great. I will save feedback on that piece as the Salesforce.com $142M Jigsaw acquisition today trumped the news.

Jigsaw CEO Jim Fowler presented last Wednesday on “DaaS is the new SaaS“. The indirect, horizontally integrated sales model has been the norm in the technology industry, but analogs can be applied to many other sectors, such as the dealership model in insurance or automobiles, franchise in retail, or social service delivery in the public sector.

In all these sectors, a key historical issue has been on how best to integrate, segment, and collaborate sales and customer data with business partners and regain control of the end to end customer experience. Its a very complex business issue on its own and has not had an adequate technical approach until recently. The emergence of B2B Platforms, with an assumption of some level of core data model standardization via a Cloud option, has potential to address many of the prior issues. Extremely complex and costly middleware rule customizations, or worse, point to point solutions, were the options pursued earlier with the end result of, usually, zero adoption.

For an example of how that went in the auto sector a decade ago, feel free to lookup the story of Commerce One.

As a second pillar, the exponential growth in Social Networking can address much of the unstructured data at the customer conversation end point, empowering not just Marketing with new tools, but Service and Sales as well. The real pressure is on integrating across all front office functions, not just Marketing. There is a danger in viewing the trend in Social CRM as a Marketing only led, or “Twitter” led initiative, leaving the cross-unit strategy and planning phase behind. This phase is now more important than ever, with any missteps being highly visible (look up the Walmart “fake blogger” story). If left to a single front office function or group, the results will likely be zero ROI or worse, loss of customer trust. There are signs this is already happening.

That perspective was resonated loudly in the conversations last week at SugarCon. More on that later.

It was interesting that the SugarCRM conference was followed with Chirp, the Twitter developer conference in SF. Its very clear that Salesforce is investing heavily in both trends, with Chatter covering the social side, and Jigsaw as one piece of the B2B platform play. But this story is just starting, and is not about a single CRM vendor.