SugarCon is just around the corner – and that means it is also time for another round of the SugarCon App Throwdown! The App Throwdown – always an attendee favorite – is a showcase of some of the coolest, most useful, and most innovative extensions of the Sugar platform. The fun, sometimes manic, atmosphere of the final judging session at SugarCon not only promises to entertain, but also give Sugar users some great tools to advance their own CRM initiatives.

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While App Throwdown is always a blast – we wanted to make it even better this year. How? Well, for starters, we’ve opened up the submission eligibility to EVERYONE! That’s right – anyone who wants to submit an extension, connector, custom app integrated to Sugar, etc. can apply. Simply fill out this ONLINE FORM to be part of the processes.

Submissions will be accepted until March 27! So get your submission ready – all you need is a cool app/connector/customization, a short video of your app in action, and a completed form to enter!

Also, we have created some categories to help guide your submissions, and the category winners will be the ones to battle it out for “Best in Show” on the main SugarCon stage in April.

This years categories include:

Category Description
Mobile Help your customers see i2i, wherever they are. This category will be judged on the best mobile customization, or mobile extension of Sugar in marketing, field sales, field service or other customer-facing scenarios.
Best Seamless Integration Sugar provides virtually limitless ways of integrating with virtually limitless apps and data sources. This category will focus on applications that follow the best practices of our UI/UX and show creative use of the Intelligence Panel, Dashlets, Activity Streams, and other key areas of the Sugar UX best in class user interface.
Data, Information, & Analytics Getting the right information at the right time is a critical part of creating extraordinary customer relationships. Understanding business insights is an important tool for optimizing your selling and go-to-market strategy. Entries in this category will be judged on how they help Sugar users make better decisions and execute faster based on having better information at their fingertips.
Customer Experience and Engagement This category will look at integrations and customizations that optimize the customer experience and increase levels of engagement. These can include workflow-based customizations and extensions to better align with the customer journey; embedded call center or other real-time employee-to-customer communications; or tools to help agents close more deals or resolve more cases faster.
Beyond CRM The openness of the Sugar platform means that developers and users’ only limits are their imaginations.  Entries in this category will focus on the “edge cases” of CRM. So, if your application interfaces with the real world through the “Internet of Things”, or you’ve added game mechanics to motivate the right behavior, or tied into today’s powerful social tools, this category is for you!

The judging process this year will be a bit different as well. An all-star panel of SugarCRM staff and some special industry influencers and observers will judge all submissions to determine the category winners. These will be announced here on the blog in early April.

At SugarCon, the category winners will compete on stage for the “Best in Show” award – in front of an expert panel of SugarCRM executives including CEO Larry Augustin, and some guest industry influencers. But as in past years – the audience will vote on the category winner they think deserves to be Best in Show!

So, all you Sugar partners, developers, tech-savvy customers with a cool custom module or integration – we invite you to submit ASAP and join us in making the 2015 App Throwdown the best yet!

More and more, the B2B world is talking about the “customer journey” – and how companies must re-focus on the customer. CRM can play a vital role as the technology that enables this transformation. It can give all customer-facing employees a comprehensive understanding of the customer, and coordinate all the complex interactions between many key customer and supplier stakeholders.

Integral to this increasing focus on the customer is making CRM work for the individuals who serve and interact with customers. SugarCRM is committed to delivering a completely transformed, individualized customer experience that is intelligent, immersive, engaging and affordable. We are at the center of this universal shift in CRM, the shift towards connecting individual to individual – i2i.

So, how can you be a part of this shift and enable extraordinary customer experiences?

You can start by attending SugarCon 2015

This April, a record number of attendees will gather at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for SugarCon 2015, to share best practices for next-generation customer experience and business optimization. There’s no better place to discover the rich community of SugarCRM customers, developers and partners who are transforming business by using SugarCRM to build extraordinary customer relationships.

HERE ARE THE TOP 5 REASONS TO ATTEND SUGARCON 2015:

1) LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

Insightful keynotes, informative general sessions and interactive panels from the world’s leading experts on business transformation and CRM will offer great opportunities to learn how to drive dramatic improvements in business performance.

2) FIND THE ANSWERS YOU NEED

Multiple breakout session options allow you to customize your schedule to fit your needs. Topics range from best practices and proven success stories to product updates, training, emerging trends… and more!

3) EXPAND YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK

Share best practices with industry colleagues, thought leaders, partners and trend spotters from around the world.

4) TRAIN WITH THE PROS

Learn how to optimize the Sugar products you’re already using, test-drive demos of our other solutions and get an exclusive sneak peak of upcoming enhancements.

5) HELP US HELP YOU

Meet with SugarCRM executives and product development teams and provide feedback to help shape product and service direction.

SugarCon is the premier event for SugarCRM customers, users and partners to experience a glimpse into the future of CRM and witness the universal shift in CRM, the shift towards connecting individual to individual – i2i.

If you are looking to excel at creating extraordinary customer relationships and connecting with your customers through the entire customer lifecycle, then look no more. SugarCon 2015 will be three full days dedicated to helping you do just that.

What are you waiting for? Check out the agenda here and register today.

channel-cheifs-2015-400.jpgAnyone familiar with CRN’s “50 Most Influential Channel Chiefs” list knows it’s a distinction of honor. So when the announcement came this week that my name was among the most highly accomplished channel executives, I was proud beyond measure for both our channels team and our channel partners. We have a top-notch channel program at SugarCRM and the success our partners are enjoying illustrates how well that program is working.

SugarCRM has a long history of being a channel publisher (that’s “inside baseball” jargon for being a company that sells through channel partners). We started the company 10 years ago and within days of releasing our first version of Sugar in July 2004, a CRM consulting firm named Synolia in France reached out to ask about our channel program. That was the beginning of a very powerful set of partnerships between SugarCRM and over 200 CRM consulting and reselling companies around the world.

Over the course of the last two year years, I and my team have worked diligently to up-level the channel program and add significant new structure to enhance it. We brought our value added resellers (VARs), system integrators (SIs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and independent software vendors (ISVs) under one department and executive leader. This means every partner who represents SugarCRM, embeds Sugar in their own products or integrates with Sugar is now managed by one, fully integrated department. In that time we have also rolled out partner scorecards so each partner can continuously measure their success, established an OEM program and team to work with other software companies that want to embed Sugar in their products, and launched a revamped reseller program with program tiers based on training certification minimums and sales attainment. We also moved our channel partner program up-market, focusing on larger customers and larger partners.

The results speak for themselves. Now, over 60 percent of SugarCRM’s recurring revenue comes from our global channel partners and almost every customer leverages one of our partners, whether a reseller, SI, ISV or OEM partner. We have more than 200 VARs in over 30 countries around the world. We have expanded our channel program to include an OEM partner offering for regional- and vertical-specific solutions with partners like Project Pipeline. And, we’re on track to grow our channel partner program even more this year.

For me, the Channel Chiefs title is validation that the SugarCRM ecosystem of partners continues to be a significant component of the company’s success and our customer’s CRM success.. The implications are just as important for the CRM marketplace itself. Of course, SugarCRM has already proven its mettle as a disruptive player in the CRM market by virtue of its focus on the individual as key in creating extraordinary customer relationships. But just as important, every company that uses CRM must look closely at what differentiates them and implement the right CRM solution that enhances and illustrates those differentiators to their customers. That’s what our partners do for our customers.

From starting the company in 2004 to driving CRM success through our partner ecosystem today, I love every day here at SugarCRM. From the product to the people, SugarCRM is in a league of its own, bucking yesterday’s technology and setting new standards in the industry. This Channel Chiefs accolade is indeed testament to the great success the SugarCRM team and our channel have achieved due to perseverance, innovative thinking and a singular focus on highlighting the customer experience as what’s really important in CRM. I’m proud to share my title of “Influential Channel Chief” with the entire team at SugarCRM and our channel partners, and look forward to our continued success.

As today’s marketplace becomes more and more competitive, it becomes harder and harder to compete based on the old standards: price and product features. Customers today simply have more choices, and are more knowledgeable than ever thanks to the web and social media. The best way to stand out in business today is by offering a superior experience for every prospect and customer.

But, how can you ensure you are providing the best possible customer experience? One method is to align your internal business operations with the typical lifecycle of your customers. This can be done through what is called a “customer journey exercise.”

By mapping the customer journey, any organization can identify how a customer typically goes about making a purchase decision with the company. And, these exercises can help identify internal gaps where the organization is not meeting the expectations of the customer. But how do you turn your customer journey map into the actions that will transform your business?

Join us on February 18th for an informative webinar from SugarCRM and Phil Winters, the head of CIAgenda and a “Customer Perspective Champion,” and “Data Whisperer” with decades of experience helping hundreds of organizations better align their operations with the customers’ perspective in mind.

In this webinar, Phil and SugarCRM Vice President of Product Marketing Karen Hsu will outline the reasons why mapping the customer journey can have a huge impact, illustrate some basic steps to get started, and provide some success stories of organizations which have effectively mapped their customers’ typical journeys.

If your organization has customers, and it has yet to undergo a customer journey exercise – don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the experts! To join the webinar, simply click HERE to register.

Last week, we highlighted three fast, simple integrations that can turn your sales team into a deal- closing powerhouse. Today, let’s focus on marketing and customer support and discuss how they, too, can amp up performance in the New Year. Here are three more tools designed to help your marketing teams improve customer support and increase both the volume and quality of leads.

Act-On: Boost Your Marketing

It’s no secret that salespeople crave more –more leads and more insight into the leads they already have. Fortunately, Act-On marketing automation software can help on both fronts. Act-On can make it easier for your marketing team to generate quality leads, and it seamlessly embeds into the Sugar UX, providing better visibility into lead history, behavior, etc. This integration with SugarCRM can be a huge advantage when your sales reps first reach out to qualified leads.

Gain more insight into lead flow and lead behavior by integrating Act-On directly into your Sugar instance.

Gain more insight into lead flow and lead behavior by integrating Act-On directly into your Sugar instance.

 

Callinize: Streamline Support (and Sales) Communications

A CRM system makes customer support professionals more effective. When issues arise, it provides a support agent with the customer’s basic information, purchase history, etc. However, if your CRM and phone system aren’t integrated, your support rep may have to wade through step after step to ID the caller, establish a follow-up plan, etc.

Callinize solves this problem by making it super simple to connect your inbound and outbound calls right into Sugar. With Callinize, your agents will know who is calling, so they can immediately jump to the most relevant records. What’s more, Callinize helps agents populate follow-on tasks –a feature that’s useful to your sales reps, too, because they can use it to create follow-up reminders and tasks after any call.

Quickly and easily integrate your phone system to Sugar with Callinize

Quickly and easily integrate your phone system to Sugar with Callinize

 

Get Satisfaction: Turn Your Customers into a Community

Companies are always looking for ways to cut the cost of customer support. One way you can do this is to promote a culture of self-service using “customer communities” focused on your products or services.

A customer community is made up of customers (and some employees) who know your products well and can help others by creating content and/or communicating on your behalf to those who have problems. Your customer community can help customers solve basic or common problems, without the need for a costly call to your support center. In addition, your customer community can be used to generate new product ideas or features.

Get Satisfaction is a customer community platform that blends right into Sugar. So, while your customer community grows, the solutions and ideas that are generated within can be quickly turned into knowledge articles in Sugar. They can provide solution suggestions for the customer support teams using the Sugar support modules, as well as populate self-service portal articles.

These are just a few ways to leverage the power of the Sugar ecosystem to improve your marketing performance and boost customer satisfaction. For hundreds (literally!) of more ways to drive value from your Sugar deployment, check out Sugar Exchange.

And remember, it’s never too early (or late) to turbo boost your CRM and make 2015 the best year yet for your business.

 

 

 

Your SugarCRM system is the workhorse of your sales organization. It centralizes customer data and processes, empowering users to better understand and engage with consumers –wherever they happen to be in the pipeline.

But are your users making the most of what the SugarCRM ecosystem has to offer?

Here are three simple tools to drive productivity, shorten sales cycles and improve overall CRM adoption and ROI. Before we turn the calendar to the New Year, resolve to optimize your SugarCRM deployment by adding on these fast, simple integrations:

Electronic Signature – Speed the Sales Cycle

One of the most tedious phases of the sales cycle is the seemingly endless back-and-forth around sales proposals, quotes and contracts. Typically sales agents need to email or (gasp!) fax quotes and contracts to prospects and customers – which delays the close of a sale, and adds unnecessary friction into the sales process. However, with e-signature tools like DocuSign integrated with a CRM system, reps can fire off quotes right from the CRM that are signature enabled. All a customer needs to do is digitally sign, and viola! – the deal is done. No more emailing, printing, signing, scanning, emailing, etc. And, closed deals are inputted right into the CRM system, so reps can immediately see the effect of the deal on their path to quota.

D&B for Sugar: Improve data quality and agent productivity

Sugar is great at managing the flow of leads to sales reps. However, there is an ocean of information available about every prospect and company that is likely not immediately available to a sales rep inside Sugar. By leveraging the breadth of data in D&B for Sugar, sales reps can seamlessly access and consume myriad data points to ensure they have accurate and timely information that can help them be more prepared along every stage of the sales cycle.

D&B for Sugar empowers sales agents with a number of valuable data points around millions of companies, including:

  • The company’s latest financials
  • Recent changes in locations, leadership, regulatory filings
  • Unstructured data such as social media, news and market insight
  • Corporate linkage information
  • Accurate contact information for decision makers
D&B for Sugar makes it easy to quickly create new records from D&B data, and increase data quality in your Sugar instance.

D&B for Sugar makes it easy to quickly create new records from D&B data, and increase data quality in your Sugar instance.

 

CPQ – Simplify Complex Product Sales

Configure, price, quote (CPQ) tools help automate the arduous tasks around configuring product bundles, optimizing pricing, and building compelling sales quotes. Modern CPQ tools like EndeavorCPQ are fully mobile, and highly intuitive – making it easier than ever for sales reps to use. EndeavorCPQ’s system launches from a Sugar quote and guides the sales person through the quoting process, making recommendations and ensuring that all product and pricing is 100% accurate. It saves all quote data back to Sugar and provides the ability to generate a PDF, Word, Excel or email quote for immediate delivery.

EndeavorCPQ embedded into Sugar allows sales agents to quickly and easily configure product offerings and create compelling sales quotes that optimize profit margins.

EndeavorCPQ embedded into Sugar allows sales agents to quickly and easily configure product offerings and create compelling sales quotes that optimize profit margins.

 

These are just three of the myriad tools inside the SugarCRM ecosystem designed to boost sales reps’ productivity, close deals faster, and cut some fat out of the sales process. To see more cool integrations and connectors for Sugar that your team can use to their advantage – check out Sugar Exchange.

So, how will you resolve to optimize your SugarCRM deployment in 2015?

How should marketing automation and sales automation come together in the future? What is the difference between CRM, marketing automation, sales automation, and customer experience management?

Find out by listening to this exciting podcast series with

  • Clint Oram, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, SugarCRM
  • Chris Wong, Vice President, Strategy and Product Management, IBM ExperienceOne
  • moderated by Laurence Leong, Senior Director, IBM Alliance from SugarCRM

Clint_Oram_HR Chris Wong pictureBio Picture

In parts 1 & 2 of this podcast series, Chris talked about the SugarCRM and IBM partnership, and how IBM is not only a partner but also a customer. Chris also talked about how he deployed and managed the marketing automation system within IBM, and his views on how to use the marketing automation and CRM system to build relationships with customers. Clint discussed the evolution of the CRM market and how it has grown to be not only sales force automation, but also include marketing automation and all technologies that interface with customers in all stages of their sales cycle.

In part 3, the discussion turns to how marketing and sales can come together more cohesively – not just limited to marketing passing leads to sales, but how sales can leverage the marketing department through the entire process of selling to an individual prospect. Tune in to learn how companies can improve productivity for their sales teams and also be more relevant to the customer. You’ll also hear about some of the integrations available today with Sugar and IBM ExperienceOne.

Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity):

Chris Wong:

  • “It’s now about sales-driven-marketing vs marketing simply passing leads to sales: how do marketing and sales come together more cohesively?”
  • “There is an opportunity to improve productivity for the sales team and also to be more relevant to the customer. Nothing trumps the data more than a sales person sitting down with a customer and understanding what their needs are. What marketing needs is to bring that intelligence back into the marketing systems to make sure that it’s putting the right next content in front of that customer. Done properly – that can help both improve productivity and actually shorten the sales cycle.”

Clint Oram:

  • “Organizations want tighter integration with marketing automation software so the sales person can leverage the marketing department through the process of selling to an individual prospect.”
  • “Sugar is an application for sales people as well as customer service agents that sits in front of literally tens of thousands of customer service agents. Sugar can integrate with IBM ExperienceOne and make real time recommendations to put the right next content in front of the customer.”

Click here to listen to part 3.

In part 4, you’ll hear how technology can be a catalyst for a different relationship that a company can have with their customer and that inside sales reps can have with their marketers. You’ll hear about the rise of the Chief Customer Officer. Finally, you’ll hear how this applies to drive lifetime value of a customer- not just a single customer transaction.

Clint Oram:

  • “The prevalence of Chief Customer Officer / Chief Customer Experience Officer roles is growing. Analyst firms are talking about how the idea of a Chief Customer Officer is now in vogue and is the new way thinking about managing your business and engaging with your customers. What’s driving the rise of the Chief Customer Officer is the move to a digital way of doing business and is why people need to look at that role now.”

Chris Wong:

  • “Technology is a catalyst for a different relationship that a company can have with their customer, and that inside sales can have with the marketer. Many companies are still putting in marketing automation systems for the marketers and sales automation systems for the sales teams. Companies need to step back and look at the whole relationship management process across the organizations.”

Click here to listen to part 4.

How do you see marketing and sales automation coming together? Add your comments below and share your views on twitter by referencing @SugarIBM.