Archives For January 2011

There has been a lot of buzz around the announcement this past week that SugarCRM will now feature a tight integration to IBM’s LotusLive product series.

The integration makes so much sense on a lot of levels, and is a great way to kick off SugarCRM joining IBM’s Global Alliance Portfolio as a cloud services provider. As one of the most scalable, flexible, open (oh, and one of the few truly cloud-based CRM platforms) – we are excited to work together with IBM to bring “smarter” CRM to enterprises around the world.

The first step? Making CRM even more fluid, social and a benefit for end users. We are so far past the days where CRM was a hinderance in the eyes of sales, marketing and support professionals. Now, we truly are an enabling tool – not just a way for management to keep tabs on employees or a point of entry for simple data dumps.

The possibilities with the SugarCRM and LotusLive integration are myriad: sales reps can launch meetings to better explain a product offering, while leveraging document sharing to negotiate contract terms in real time. Support professionals can get closer to the customer, sharing screens to solve problems. Marketing can launch personalized web meetings to the hottest prospects. Companies leveraging the power, flexibility and intuitiveness of IBM and Sugar are limited only by their imaginations. Really.

Interested in making your CRM more social?  Looking to connect in more meaningful ways with prospects and customers? Looking to add even more value and user-benefits into your CRM? Then check out the free trial of the Sugar and LotusLive integration HERE.

This is just the beginning of IBM and SugarCRM working together to make CRM smarter.

Implementing a CRM system will turn your sales organization into a smooth-running sales machine, jump start your marketing campaigns and help you drive down your customer support backlog.  But achieving CRM success takes organizational focus and an understanding of what to expect while putting your company on the path to that success.

We’ve covered previously the first three steps in the CRM Adoption Curve. The first step in your CRM journey is to recognize the chaos and lack of visibility that happens in your business when you don’t invest in CRM processes and tools.  The second step is all about centralizing your customer information into one system and defining repeatable processes for interacting with your customers.  The third step is where you really start getting leverage from automated customer processes and better collaboration across your different customer-facing teams.CRM Adoption Curve

The fourth, and not-so-final, stage is the “Optimized Stage”.  I say “not-so-final” because this stage is all about continuous process improvement.  This is the ultimate goal of a customer-centric company. You now have a dedicated team focused on continuous CRM improvement which is driving marked growth in the company.

Your customer processes are now highly efficient and set you apart from your competition in a unique way.  Your teams understand how to quickly adjust the way they communicate with customers and work with each other. The systems required by your CRM professionals are fully integrated for both data and process.  Management not only has visibility into the current efforts, but can predict future success based on the accuracy and consistency of the data. Your CRM solution is agile and able to easily meet the evolving business needs.

Achieving the “Optimized Stage” usually requires at least one year of continuous process refinement from when a company first adopts SugarCRM at Stage 2, the Managed Stage.  Again, your local SugarCRM implementation partners can help you chart a path to the “Optimized Stage”.

I hope this gives you a good view of where you are starting from and where you are going with your CRM solution.  Remember, there is no good or bad place to be on this adoption curve.  Some very large companies are in the manual stage and some very small companies are in the optimized stage.  The more important questions are around how you organize your customer-facing activities to create more and happier customers.  In other words, how do you wrap these stages, this evolutionary process of managing your customers, around the needs of your customers?

And this is where SugarCRM and its partners can help you.  We will work with you on defining and planning a strategy to move you along this adoption curve so that your company can optimize its processes to drive the best differentiation possible in the market place.  In the next installment of this blog series, I will share with you some lessons I’ve learned on planning a CRM strategy.

Many of you may have taken part, or at least seen the results of our recent Social Media Survey.

Some of the highlights of the survey were interesting, but not all that surprising.  Among them, these points stand out to me:

  • Only 26 percent of respondents said they currently integrate their customers’ social networking information with their existing CRM data.
  • 72 percent of respondents said they plan to integrate their customers’ social networking information into their existing CRM data within the next year.

When you put these two together – it would seem that ideally EVERYONE would be undergoing social CRM initiatives in the coming months. That is a huge opportunity, but also a bit scary. There is an amazing propensity for people to overpay “gurus” and point vendors with no real solution in place, and thus not see results because they did not properly align business goals with the IT work underneath. (Really, there is not much difference between the potential social CRM miscues we could see and the high-level “CRM failures” of the Siebel era.)

The plus side?  A lot of the tools needed to “get social” can be accessed (albeit in a more ad hoc or manual manner) for free. This certainly lessens a lot of the financial risk associated with a new IT initiative.

I had an online chat with InformationWeek’s Dana Blankenhorn and he gets it. In his write up on the survey, Dana points out that this need not be an expensive undertaking.

Overall, I think we can safely say that Social is here to stay…now, the real question is – how will you leverage social in your organization to better your business in 2011?

Ok, I know spreadhseets will always have a place in most small businesses. For finance and other teams, the spreadsheet is THE place to hold information.

But for sales and other departments (and yes, even finance in many cases) the spreadsheet is a breeder of inefficiency and a dark cloud where good ideas and information goes to die…

If you have one New Year’s Resolution for your business – make it to try to make the leap away from spreadsheets and into real CRM. By either making the first step in purchasing a CRM tool, or actually using the tools you’re already paying for – I guarantee* you will see a positive return before 2012 comes around. (Guarantee subject to many, many restrictions ;)…)

Not convinced? Take a look at these business cases – especially the case of the Utah Flash – where organizations ditched spreadsheets and saw their businesses bloom.

Also – SugarCRM is hosting a webinar with partner Loaded Technologies and joint customer Mastersoft  discussing how they were able to make the leap from spreadsheets to full service CRM in no time.

There is no time like the present to get started optimizing your operations and evolving past the dreaded spreadsheet!

I have always told prospects that it pays to deploy and open, flexible CRM solution…

Now, for businesses in Singapore it really PAYS!

The country has a long history of fostering the creation of well-run small businesses. The latest installment of Singapore’s benevolent attitude towards growing local businesses: SugarCRM is now listed as a certified solution under iSPRINT (Packaged Solutions).

So – what does this mean?

Simply put – any Singapore business that deploys SugarCRM is eligible for a credit of up to 50 percent of the qualifying costs, capped at S$10,000 of an initial subscription of a listed solution. So, that means deploying a best-in-class CRM system at half the cost. That is, seriously, pretty darn cool.

Imagine adding the ability to better manage your contacts, opportunities, activities etc. across your sales, marketing and support teams. Imagine having access to a full reporting suite to guide your business and gain predictability. Imagine empowering sales and support agents with their critical data on the go with mobile CRM access. Imagine identifying, converting and delighting more customers with social CRM tools.

Oh yeah, and all that comes at half the normal cost.

To take advantage of this insanely awesome offer – contact SugarCRM APAC partner iZeno today.

Editor’s Note: The Sapient Salesman began as a series of internally-focused sales coaching pieces written by SugarCRM team member Erin Fetsko. While initially focused on “selling Sugar,” Erin’s advice and wisdom have proven useful to Sugar partners, and well, anyone in the business of sales. Thus, we are happy to add her insight to the Sugar corporate blog. You can read all of Erin’s musings at The Sapient Salesman.

Have any of you ever seen Starved or even (my personal favorite) Better Off Ted? Overwhelmingly the answer I receive is no, and that’s a shame. Classic examples of major networks abandoning ship before a series ever really got off the ground. In the case of Better Off Ted, ABC didn’t even bother to air the final two episodes. I’m most bothered by the fact that, more often than not, the shows that get prematurely canceled have the best writing. Why don’t the networks understand that given all the crap they sling at us it might take the more refined segment of the public some time to pan for gold?!?

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our customers, even our partners, often behave with the same haste that modern media demonstrates. Today’s vast market provides so many similar alternatives it becomes quite easy, acceptable even, to simply dismiss a software solution, because you didn’t “get it” on your first try. So how we combat this knee jerk tendency to hate change, blame the tool, and save us from premature defenestration?

It takes 21 days to make (or break) a habit, so first we must gain commitment from our clients of a desire to change; confirm further that they have a desire to improve. We already do this during the sales cycle, but we often belittle the volume of effort involved to succeed with this plan. Why? It’s not as if people can’t relate to the struggles of breaking old habits. Ask them to recall when the last time a New Years Resolution of theirs made it out of February, then further encourage them to take advantage of services we offer to better their odds of success. But that’s only the first step.

Step two requires us to act like a sponsor and advocate for our customers success. This requires us to understand the best practices associated with CRM deployments and to bear them in mind during every interaction we have with customers. When a client reaches out to their account manager we can’t simply supply them with a superficial response when we both know the question’s roots run far deeper. Support should also take the opportunities they are afforded to review a customer’s implementation and steer the veering back onto the road of successful adoption and deployment.

So this year, let’s try to remember that we are in the business of renewals and consequently the selling doesn’t stop at the sale, and as we venture with our clients through the labyrinth of possible implementation paths embrace the lesson of Jim Henson: you can’t take anything for granted.

Many have probably seen that Salesforce.com has acquired web conferencing tools provider DimDim for $31m. (The rumors of this deal had been percolating since before Dreamforce so for many this was no surprise at all.)

The deal pits Salesforce.com in many ways against some big companies and very popular products – Citrix’s GoToMeeting and Cisco’s Webex, in addition to IBM’s Lotus Live set of offerings. With its recent platform buy in Heroku, and this new move, it is funny to see Salesforce continue to add competitive concerns and look to enter in large markets where it has no clout, rather than look to live above the competition in one market where it already does well. Confident move?  Yes. Smart move?  Well, we’ll just have to wait…

And while the DimDim acquisition clearly places SFDC in competition with the likes of WebEx and GoToMeeting, Salesforce would like to look at this differently. Salesforce instead sees this as a pocket acquisition to bolster its Chatter functionality – a tool it is already basically just giving away to gain some stickiness for its actual paid apps. So, if SFDC does not really see much future for DimDim save for part of what is now a free add-on, then the $31m price was not a huge price to pay to make a cool new collaboration feature a little more robust.

But again, if Chatter is basically free at this point, why buy DimDim? The product was open source under the GPL. Couldn’t SFDC simply create an integration to the free tool and offer up that integration along with a simple installer to add video and screen sharing tools to Chatter?

I think the answer here is two-fold. One, I have not yet seen SFDC do anything that resembles open source. Yes, they have opened up their toolkits and platforms for developers, but everyone does that. There is just not that type of culture alive at SFDC in my opinion. This is a company steeped in the grand history of proprietary software.

The second reason (which is definitely intertwined with the first) is that due to SFDC’s multi-tenant model, adding DimDim-like resources without wholly owning the code would be problematic. As we know, in order for SFDC to really have a tight handle on anything its users touch, it has to run on its monolithic platform. This makes upgrades and other things easy, but does set limitations on how SFDC can go to market with technology it doesn’t own.

It will be interesting to see if the nature of a GPL licensed piece of software sitting inside a huge multi-tenant database has any effect on the way in which Chatter users are empowered to make, own and redistribute changes.

All in all, this is chump change for SFDC, and while it plots them theoretically against big names like Webex, I can’t see Salesforce actually making any huge headway into standalone video conferencing with the DimDim technology – most likely Salesforce.com will only relegate the functionality as a nice add-on to Chatter.

Deploy Sugar 6.1 in the blink of an eye with the new BitNami stack installer for Mac OS.

Check it out HERE.

Thanks as always to the folks at BitNami for making the worldwide SugarCRM Mac contingent more content ;)

I really like talking with CRM journalist and all around smart guy Chris Bucholtz. Whenever we have an interview – it always beings around one topic and very quickly tangents off into a great conversation about what we as an industry could be doing better (as well as some side stops discussing WWII aircraft and strategy).

I especially enjoyed Chris’ take on one of the roadblocks to CRM success – Executive Fear – that he describes in his CRM Buyer piece. These are all great ideas. The notion that too many executives are afraid to take chances is a scary, but all too often true, situation. In a shaky economy, I believe this problem gets amplified, as top-level execs are too frightened to lose positions etc. – and simply go the “safe” route.

So – in your organization are you a CRM leader, follower…or just in the way?

As Chris so eloquently notes in his article – “Best practices are made, not born.” I love this statement. The sales and marketing leaders in your organization have to know what is important (lead generation, pipeline, the bottom line etc.) but cannot be afraid to shake things up a little. Instead of “if it ain’t broke, don;t fix it” mentality, a great CRM initiative should always foster a “how can we continually make this better?” mentality.

There are very few “turnkey machines” in the business world. More often than not, we are not in an organization with the luxury of ubiquity or near total market share – what I’m saying is that we are not all Google basically.

It is not always bad to “follow the leader” in terms of taking on proven CRM best practices. Startups and entrepreneurs can learn from larger, successful organizations while finding their identity. But, once found, companies need to differentiate and create their own killer experiences for their customers, develop new ways to pull in new leads, etc.

In the past, the technology supporting a CRM initiative was expensive and time consuming to deploy, configure and change over time. So, it made sense that a conservative approach won out more often than not. However, with today’s less expensive, ultra-flexible web and cloud-based CRM tools – there is far less excuse to take the safe route.

The tools are here now to better align the imagination of sales, marketing and customer service leaders with the actual technology solutions in place to make it happen.

Some interesting New Years preview articles and blog posts have been written over the past several weeks. But one that really strikes a chord with us at SugarCRM is Denis Pombriant’s recent post for CRM Buyer that discusses how the rising costs of fuel and other issues are affecting how we will execute our businesses in 2011 and beyond.

Denis makes great points – we are simply not going to be making as many “face to face” meetings in the future because the costs are simply to prohibitive. What does this mean for sales and marketing agents? Well, for those sales agents that rely on “close relationship selling” and “spit and a handshake” type deal closing, there are some new challenges coming.

For one, how do we more effectively close when we do not have a captive audience? When all a prospect needs to do is hang up – well, you have to continually provide strong value points to keep the conversation, and the deal, alive.

How does CRM fit in? Pretty simply, the ability to prioritize activities, accounts, contacts etc. – especially if your data is aided by real-time updates from social networks and other sources – can help turn the “face to face” agent into a killer telesales pro in no time.

In addition, greater frequency (and more important – relevancy) of marketing messaging through email campaigns, drip campaigns etc. can help marketing teams keep close tabs on prospects and customers even from afar.

Simply put – while we may not get to see our target prospects as much in the future – that does not mean our sales productivity should diminish either.