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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.

Does Santa Use SugarCRM?

Jan Sysmans —  December 20, 2010 — Leave a comment

I just wanted to share a little Sugar-themed holiday fun from our UK partner EnableIT.  This came from a listing on the SugarCRM LinkedIN group. I’ve also added a few of my own…

Signs that Santa Claus might be using SugarCRM:

  • Every year, without fail, he knows which leads to follow up, based on a selection criteria of naughty or nice.
  • His scheduling calendar ensures that he meets ALL his appointments on time and can plan the most efficient route based on those appointments.
  • His marketing schedule is bang on, meaning he doesn’t needlessly waste money out of season promoting services and products that won’t be taken up.
  • He has built up such a loyal customer base that THEY actually contact HIM well ahead of their deadlines to let him know what they want, to ensure he can get it rolled out on time.
  • Although he is meeting tight deadlines, his marketing methods are such that he can still find time to go out canvassing for new customers in shopping centres and other target areas.
  • He has streamlined the “letters to Santa” concept with fast, simple web-to-lead forms in Sugar.
  • He can check “Naughty or Nice” status of key contacts in real time, any time and anywhere using Sugar Mobile on his iPhone.

Would love to hear some of your own!

Santa Logs in to Sugar Pro to check real time updates to his Naughty/Nice Dashboard

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.

Remember the days when you vehemently opposed getting a smart phone? You hated how your husband couldn’t seem to leave it alone for a entire meal and you vowed to forgo the hyper-connectivity in favor of actual human interaction. Remember teasing everyone about how their blackberry was simply too big for your dainty pockets? Going on to preach how the last thing you need is to give your mom another reason to criticize your purse-free lifestyle. And really, who needs that much access anyway? You’re online all day, when you’re out, it’s because you need to put the Internet down!

… okay, maybe that was just me …

Well, 11 days ago I caved and got a smart phone and I’ll begrudgingly admit, I’m hooked. But not for the perpetual email access and reliable phone call reasons you might think. I’ve come to realize that despite their functionality border-lining on excessive, these phones aren’t themselves evil.

Okay, DUH! But many people have the same stick-in-the-mud attitude toward software. Even I, who generally advocates loudly for the excessive use of technology, found myself irrationally, passionately, cynically advocating for the status quo.

As technical salespeople, we too soon forget how scary change can be, but as they say: with great risk comes great reward. When you find yourself up against a prospect whose breezed thru the sales cycle, the guy who saw the demo – loved it, understands the value prop , and has the budget to buy, only to find them suddenly coming up with wildly off the wall objections at contract time, remember they might just be afraid to change. As soon as they sign, they get to start realizing all the great benefits you’ve promised and maybe they just aren’t ready to be home every day for dinner. Who knows “the wife” might be a sub par chef.

Remind them of the last time they took a technological leap that seemed excessive or risky or one that forced them to break a bad habit, and ask them if they would ever go back to the old way. You don’t see VCRs, answering machines or phone books  giving DVRs, voicemail and Facebook a run for their money anymore. So why should Rolodexes, spreadsheets and Post-it notes continue to blockade your prospects road to CRM success?

In fact, less than a week after seeing the shiny new world the flashlight app on my Droid illuminated, I’ve already talked my never-had-a-text-plan-in-her-life mother into getting one too. So I guess the moral of the story this week is: I’m a hypocrite. (Just kidding.) Seriously tho, you may find that once your most stubborn prospects allow themselves to try Sugar, they won’t only improve their own processes (and your bottom line), they just might turn into your biggest advocates.

Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in the UK-based B2B Marketing magazine blog series. And, since I think these are points worth repeating (and I wanted to get a blog post out this week!) I am reprinting my thoughts hereAlso note, while it’s true I am too lazy to change spelling back to American English – I think the British English stylizing gives my thoughts a bit of an air of respectability ;)

The explosion of social media over the past several years has certainly begun to make its mark in the business world. What started out as a primarily consumer-driven concept has become big business on many fronts: companies are marketing to customers via social networks; supporting customers and identifying trouble spots via Twitter; and leveraging these new social channels for market research and to qualify leads.

While social channels present an opportunity, companies must not forget the core foundations that actually manage the core data and processes within the organisation. New concepts like ‘social CRM’ are appealing for many reasons. But, ultimately, are not a replacement for traditional CRM. Rather, it is more important to augment existing CRM strategies and systems with social tools – because abandoning core systems could lead to chaos inside the organisation.

To best navigate your move into social CRM, it is useful to ask yourself five simple questions before spending precious time and other resources towards a social media endeavour:

1. Where are my customers and prospects aggregating online?

This seems fairly simple, but might be more complex than it seems.  For large B2C organisations, it may be enough to blast messaging across sites like Facebook. But for more niche markets and products, or more specialised B2B sales models – it may take some more research and listening to your customers before you begin any outreach via social channels.

2. How will this social initiative enhance the customer experience?

Just being social for the sake of being social is useless, and can backfire. For many B2B sales and support organisations, social media should be a means of adding convenience to the sales or customer support cycle – not an intrusive waste of time. Insure that your social interactions are a benefit, not a detractor to the overall customer experience.

3. Am I using social media to hide deeper flaws in my business?

Many companies are using social media as a “band-aid” to hide poor support processes or other problem areas. Customers who tweet about a bad experience get preferential treatment; but what does that really solve?  Before adding layers of social engagement, try to insure your customer-facing processes are already strong before exposing them to the hyper-critical social channels.

4. Who will be responsible for our social outreach?

This is a huge problem area for those looking to jump into social business. If you are going to generate leads, or attempt to handle customer complaints via social media – insure that a proper escalation path is in place. If a customer reaches out via social media and gets no response – it is almost worse than not having a social policy. Insure the right people are in place to quickly and consistently manage inquiries received via social channels.

5. How will I track and measure success?

It is very easy for a social media initiative to create even more data silos, with loads of data not providing insight. However, if you tightly integrate your social tools and data with well-structured existing systems like a CRM tool, you can more effectively track interactions and outcomes. Again, social CRM is not a new concept in itself – we are just using new technology to do what we have always done as  businesspeople: attract and manage customer relationships.

Many of the Outsiders readers might remember that last year we spoofed Marc Benioff’s book Behind the Cloud last year at Dreamforce. That stunt caused quite a stir, and this year we decided to make things a little less personal and a little more jovial, as it is the holiday season after all.

So, the marketing team got together and penned some “holiday carols” that tell our side of the CRM story, as well as throw some light-hearted barbs towards salesforce. All in fun, right? You can check out the complete carol book and lyrics here.

The main thrust of the campaign was to guarantee salesforce.com users at least 50% off their CRM subscription fees by switching to SugarCRM – and to make the switch seamless, we will waive the data migration fee.

To top it all off, we hired some professional “carolers” to sing selections from the song book outside the Moscone center as the attendees of Dreamforce piled in for the kickoff keynote. The crowd loved the carols, many chimed in, and tons of people snapped photos and videos and took home souvenir carol books for themselves.

Here are a few clips of the singers singing:

All in all, it was a fun event and we had a great time with all the singers and all the people who stopped by and chatted with us about SugarCRM.  Thanks to everyone who helped make the caroling such a fun and successful event!