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The shift from transactional selling to solution selling has turned business people into something akin to therapists. Today’s best sales people need to immerse themselves in their customers’ problems and create customized, long-term solutions to these challenges. They can’t just take orders for what they have on the shelf, but rather map their products to their customers’ pain points and unlock the value of their solution.

It’s the difference between saying, “Would you like to super size your French fries?,” and asking, “So you need French fries. Tell us more about the current lack of fries in your organization. Have you considered Belgian fries? If you had better fries, would you be better positioned to hit your goals?” Customer problems are far more complex these days, which means it’s your job to think through the in-depth answers.

Social selling tools, or “social CRM,” can help businesses understand these new and complex problems, and address them (and solve them) even before their customers can properly articulate them. By staying social with customers, you can identify and squash problems before they affect a business – something for which your customers may never stop thanking you.

Unfortunately, not enough companies make it possible for their employees to talk to each other in this manner, much less talk to customers: A recent study from IABC and Prescient Digital Media notes that 39 percent of companies don’t have any social tools on their intranets. On the other hand, research is showing that the benefits of this social interaction are real: An ongoing McKinsey & Company study is clocking such outcomes as increased market share and reduced time to market.

Social tools are a big help in gaining benefits like faster time to market and higher customer satisfaction, but they need to work in concert with each other to have any real impact. Random tweets and off-the-cuff blog posts that are not part of a larger customer relationship strategy will just become noise. Here’s a more cohesive, five step approach to creating an ongoing dialogue with customers and showcasing the good work that you do to ensure satisfaction.

Social CRM building block #1: Your social profile. If you haven’t done it already, create your LinkedIn or Xing (in Europe) profiles.  This is where you list your industry experience and tell the world why you enjoy selling what you sell.  You will be amazed at how often your prospects and customers look at your LinkedIn profile to see who you are, what you look like, where you went to school, how long you have been in the industry.  They want to know what makes you tick.  Why?  Because people buy from people.

Social CRM building block #2: Your blog. This is where you expand on the ideas you have been posting to Twitter and LinkedIn. Think of the blog as the online equivalent of giving a keynote speech at an event. You’ll profess your position on issues most important to your customers, and see if you can generate any interest (in this case, via comments on blog posts). Posting at least once a week will help your audience get into the habit of turning to your blog for guidance.  Starting your personal blog at is easy and free.  Figuring out what to post can be harder.  This is where you should focus more on being conversational than pontific and let your natural voice that you use with your customers come out.  What do you talk about with your prospects every day?  Well, write it up in a series of short blog posts.

Social CRM building block #3: Dialogue in the Forums. If your company doesn’t have a corporate forums site, it’s easy to start a Group in LinkedIn about your company or just your industry. Think of this as the Q&A session that follows your keynote speech. This is where the conversation really starts. Ideally, you and your team start these conversations with provocative questions, like: Why do we even need XYZ product? Why can’t anyone seem to solve such-and-such a problem? Then listen to the answers, and keep the dialogue going. Don’t waste everyone’s time with “soft” questions – you need to hear the dirt if you’re really going to uncover the customer problems you need to solve. For key members of the sales team, I’d suggest spending at least one hour a day on reading, developing, and responding to such questions.

Social CRM building block #4: Twitter: Here’s where you start getting the word out about the insightful conversations you’re having in the discussion forums, and the thought leadership that appears on your blog. Tweet out the best nuggets from the forums, engage in skirmishes (hopefully, polite ones) among the subject-matter experts and begin attracting attention for the community you are building. Posting at least once a day will entice your audience to connect and follow your online commentary. I suggest using HootSuite, a free social media tool, to help you monitor your social activity streams and quickly post to your social outlets.  I also like for automatically tweeting content on a daily basis that I find interesting.

Social CRM building block #5: Internal social networks: This step doesn’t involve direct communication with customers, but it does help you disseminate the knowledge you’ve gained to the rest of our team. And by the “team,” I don’t just mean sales. When customers aren’t happy, it’s not just the sales people who should be getting nervous – it’s everyone from the CEO on down. Therefore, when you think about connecting with customers and understanding what makes them tick, you need to think about giving everyone access to these conversations. You can use internal social networks like IBM Connections or Jive to make sure that your colleagues have a way to share customer interactions in an always-on environment.

The end result of these social CRM building blocks is that you can uncover more effective ways to connect people with problems (that’s your customers) to the people with solutions (that’s you). It’s also the best way to cut through much of the noise surrounding customer needs, and let discussions bubble up about the real challenges that need to get addressed – and that will drive your business success.






From the very beginning with Sugar 1.0 eight years ago, we have always designed the Sugar app first and foremost for the end users of the application. Simply put, the Sugar app needs to help our users get their job done.  From working with customers to monitoring key performance metrics, the purpose of Sugar is to help companies make the connections that matter.

“Users first” is our primary design focus because CRM applications have a long history of failed implementations due to a lack of adoption by the end users. Why is this? Because legacy CRM applications like Siebel and have been traditionally designed for the buyer first, i.e.  management. We think this is the wrong approach and has led to frustrated users.  Our first design use case is around a customer representative getting ready to contact a customer and needing to prepare for the call, meeting or tweet. By ensuring the Sugar application is highly useful and useable for their end users,  managers can then rely on the forecast, pipeline and issue resolution insight coming out of their Sugar application.

Sugar 6.5 User Experience
Brand New UISugar 6.5 became GA (generally available) last week for all of our customers and partners.  As the latest update to Sugar 6, the 6.5 release brings a continued focus on updating the Sugar user experience.  The Sugar 6.5 release brings us three major improvements in this area:

  1. Fresh Look w/ New Navigation Bar
  2. Fast and Simple Search
  3. Sub-Second Screens with More AJAX

But frankly this is just the beginning.  This past year has been an exciting one as we have planned out a series of updates to the Sugar UX over the next several releases.  Many of our customers and partners had the opportunity to meet our UX team at SugarCon 2012 and get to know Wes Moran and Omair Ali.  These two guys are currently leading a major redesign of the Sugar user experience and the 6.5 release is the first release where their latest and greatest ideas have started to really take shape.  If you had the chance to participate in the SugarCon UX Lab, you will have seen the exciting direction we are going with Sugar in the future.

One of the things I am most excited about is the fanatic focus on user-centered design that these guys have brought to Sugar.  Wes and Omair are reaching out to the Sugar Community and engaging key stakeholders in a dialogue about “who are the users of Sugar?”, “what are their expectations and requirements?”, “how can they be more productive?”.  These interviews are then translated into a series of interactive prototypes that then guide our developers through the development process.  With the 6.5 release, this design/build process really kicked into gear.

Meet Omair
Sugar 6.5 brought one of the first major contributions from our new lead Interaction Designer at SugarCRM, Omair Ali.  Omair joined us last fall and took on the redesign of the Sugar Navigation Bar as his first major project.

Here are Omair’s thoughts about this project:

After some initial observations of users late last year, one common usability issue kept repeating itself: too much scrolling. Our usability labs found our users constantly scrolling to find relevant data. Prime real-estate was not being used in the best possible way.

Learning from these observations, we focused first on the navigation bar. A prime strip of screen real estate was given to the quick create icons, but rarely utilized. Users had to traverse across two separate navigation bars and lost even more precious screen real estate.  This was the first thing I wanted to change (and get right). The navigation bar is the most crucial element in working in any application. It shouldn’t be a task or take months to master!

Since Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, etc were impacting so much of our users’ perceptions on how an interface functions, I had to take this into consideration when coming up with a design solution for the updated 6.5 Navigation. The goal was to combine three navigation bars into one.

By introducing layered menus, we were able to trim 3 inches of fat from the top. The end result was a much more lean, functional navigation bar. 100% of our UX survey (54 partners and customers) preferred the 6.5 bar compared to the previous one. The new navigation bar also enabled primary functions to stay in focus even when scrolling on a long page.

Search and Faster Screens Round off the Release

In addition, an entirely new Search engine has been introduced in Sugar 6.5 built on the Lucene open source project.  This new full text search capability will deliver even more accurate searches that can scan across more data than ever before.  Simplifying search will make your users happier than ever with their Sugar.

And of course, the performance improvements made in Sugar 6.5 will put a smile on every user’s face.  With performance optimizations at both the UI and database layers, 6.5 is fast, fast, fast.

We are excited to bring you all of these exciting improvements and more in the Sugar 6.5 release.  Watch the Sugar 6.5 Demo and see what Sugar can do for you today.

Are you thinking about how to leverage “social” in your business?  Are you wondering how to use social collaboration tools to communicate better with your customers and your employees?  Are you preparing to become a social business?  Most SugarCRM customers I talk with are still at the front end of this journey.  Many are still trying to figure out why social CRM is relevant to their business.

Here are some thoughts to consider. The social business is the next step in how we, as a globally interconnected society, do business together.  A vibrant, energized social business is one that interacts with its customers everyday across every possible channel of communication.  From store fronts to telephones to Twitter, your customers want to know what you can do for them and they will engage in that dialogue in ways we couldn’t even envision in the past.

But why should your customers and prospects look to you instead of your competitor who is just one Google search away?  It’s simple.  Your best customers, your most loyal customers, will demand to have a relationship with you.  They want you to know who they are.  They want you to understand how your products and solutions can help them.  And once they identify with your solutions to their business problems, your vision for making them successful, you will gain their loyalty.

But how do you build that loyalty?  By building a relationship with your customers based on communication and trust.  The first step in creating a social business is to engage in a completely interconnected, actively engaged, “always on” dialogue around your business.  But once you connect, how do you build loyalty?  By building trust.  You must become an open business by embracing  transparency in how you interact with your customers, how you build your products, how you create an ecosystem around your business.

Customers want to know why you make the pricing decisions you make, how you are going to educate them on new products, what process you are using for creating and delivering your products and services.  Today’s “always on” customer has a world of data at their fingertips, but what they truly want is to buy from somebody truly knows their needs and gives them maximum value for the investment.

Here is a simple formula for creating a loyal customer base in this new age of the social business.  (Hint: it’s nothing you didn’t already know.)

Openness drives accountability.  Accountability builds trust. Trust is the foundation of a relationship.

An open, accountable and trusting customer/vendor relationship creates loyalty.

Because you are now communicating with your customers on a global stage with every word recorded, blogged, posted and retweeted around the world, you must approach your customers with openness and transparency.  By embracing openness and transparency in this “always on” dialogue between your customers and your employees, you will create a successful social business.    Because never doubt with Twitter one mouse-click away, your prospects, your customers and even your employees will drive force that openness whether you are prepared or not.


At SugarCRM, we have embraced an open culture since day one. The reason why we chose to build Sugar as an open source product was because we fundamentally believe in the ideals of the open source way. Openness allows companies to more readily connect and build a relationship with their customers. While building a killer app may put the gleam in our developers’ eyes, solving our customers’ problems is what keeps the people at SugarCRM focused and driven.

After all, the purpose of a company is to create customers. And companies do this by connecting people with problems (customers) to people with solutions (employees). And our employees (we call them Sugas) really like to solve customer relationship problems.

So how does openness help build a better CRM solution? In three simple ways.

1) Focus on Users First. From the beginning, we designed the Sugar app first for the end users of the application. CRM applications have a long history of failed implementations due to a lack of adoption by the end users. Why is this? Because legacy CRM applications like Siebel and have been traditionally designed for the buyer first, i.e. sales management. By embracing an open dialogue with our end users through the Sugar Forums, the SugarCRM development team is tightly connected with our end users and able to focus on solving their business problems. Our first design use case is around a customer representative getting ready to contact a customer and needing to prepare for the call, meeting or tweet. By ensuring the Sugar application is highly useful and useable, sales managers can then rely on the forecast, pipeline and issue resolution insight coming out of their Sugar application.

2) Built for the Open Cloud. The Open Cloud Manifesto is dedicated to the belief that the cloud should be open. The core tenets of the Open Cloud are that open standards and portability of applications across cloud platforms gives customers control and choice. Our customers demand control of their mission critical applications and data and require choice of their cloud platforms. From Sugar On Demand, a fully managed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application to running Sugar on Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud platforms like IBM SmartCloud Enterprise and Amazon AWS, organizations in over 80 countries around the world choose SugarCRM for the flexibility of deployment options. Control and choice means all companies can design a CRM strategy without having to make any compromises in their IT strategy.

3) Leveraging an Open Ecosystem. Today’s most vibrant technology companies are those that get the power of ecosystems. The amplification effect of a large ecosystem of partners gives companies like SugarCRM, Google, Apple, Amazon and others a massive boost in delivering value to customers. However, we are seeing two types of ecosystems emerging: closed ecosystems and open ecosystems. The mobile phone market is a perfect example of this. Apple has built a “walled garden” ecosystem with iOS. Google however has built an open ecosystem with Android. You will find a similar duality in the CRM world with creating a closed ecosystem and SugarCRM creating an open ecosystem. With an open ecosystem, our customers have more choices. From a wider and more varied choice of implementation partners to the power of, the largest collection of open source CRM solutions on the Web, SugarCRM customers enjoy the benefits of choice and control not only in their cloud options but also in their ecosystem options.

A culture of openness here at SugarCRM has led to better CRM solutions, solutions better aligned to your needs and better aligned to driving your CRM success.


There is something wrong with the CRM marketplace today.  Frankly, it’s getting left behind in the face of social networks.  The focus today is on social networks.  If that’s where the customers are, then eventually that’s where the business will be.  What does that mean for CRM?  Let’s first look at the world of today’s relationship management applications.

CRM is Vastly Under Penetrated

Facebook has 800 million users today. That means 800 million people (1/10thof the world’s population) are using Facebook to manage their personal relationships.  150 million business professionals use LinkedIn to manage their business relationships.  That’s a lot of people.

However, do you know how many people are using CRM tools to manage their customer relationships?  About 15 million total across all applications.  That means if you combine all of the users across SugarCRM,, Oracle, SAP, Act! and all the others, you have only 15 million sales, marketing and customer service professionals interacting and collaborating with their customers with CRM applications.  Compared to 150 million on LinkedIn alone.  Hmm, something is wrong here.

And here’s the simple truth of it.  After 20 years as a software category, CRM solutions are mostly a reporting tool for management at large, enterprise companies.  Smaller companies have mostly avoided CRM apps because they have been too expensive, too complex and not helpful for the average user.

How Big Should the CRM Market Be?

So if Facebook has 800 million users, LinkedIn has 150 million users and CRM as an application category has only 20 million, how many people should be using CRM today?  That’s actually pretty easy answer to find.  Look at what they are using now.  Email.

Research reports show that there are three billion email users in the world today and 25% of all email usage is in the corporate setting.  That means 750 million people globally are using the most basic of collaboration technology (i.e. email) at work to share ideas, communicate status, and ask for help and much, much more.

Now let’s say half of those workers are customer facing.  This is just a swag as that number is going to be different across different industries.  For instance, the manufacturing industry probably has something more like 10% of its workforce interacting with customers.  Whereas the financial services industry has a percentage likely closer to 100%.  But let’s just take a simple number, 50% of all corporate email users, as interacting with customers over email.  That means 375 million people globally are using email today to solve customers’ problems when they could (should?) be using a CRM application.

The challenge for the CRM industry is to turn 360 million people who rely on email (and spreadsheets) to work with their customers into CRM users.  Fanatic CRM users.   Loyal CRM users.  The kind of customers every company wants.

And that’s what SugarCRM is focused on.  Growing the CRM marketplace by 25x.  Turning a stagnant, under penetrated market into the fastest growing software market segment.  Turning 15 million users into 375 million users.

The Solution is “CRM Made Simple”

How will we create 360 million new users? As is usually the case with big problems, the answer is simple but will take a lot of work.  At SugarCRM, we are focused on delivering simple, easy-to-use CRM solutions that help users first and management second.  We are delivering this solution through a worldwide network of local value added resellers who know you and know your business.  Along the way, we will create a partnership with you (the best kind of customer/vendor relationship there is) by being completely open, transparent and trustworthy in how we solve your CRM problems.  We will earn your business every day and in return, we simply ask that you spread the SugarCRM word to your colleagues and friends.  That’s CRM made simple.

Yeah, it’s a big goal.  It might even be audacious.  But that’s why we do what we do.  We’re here to create successful customers and have some fun at it.


Are you thinking about where technology is going next?  We are.  Every day.  Name the top trends in technology today.  Go ahead, list them out.  They are all over the Web these days.  Every journalist and analyst is writing about them in some way.  Our customers are deploying them.  Technology companies are either leading the discussion about them or working hard to catch up.

Those technology trends are:  Mobile, Social, Cloud & Big Data

But wait a minute.  What about Open Source?  How come that isn’t in the list?  Is Open Source even relevant in today’s technology discussion?

You bet it is.  Open Source is more relevant than ever.  Let’s look at these top four technology trends in more detail.

Mobile is powered by Open Source
Mobile phones and tablets are changing the way we live.  From mapping your next route on Google Maps to friends poking you on Facebook to becoming mayor of your favorite restaurant on Foursquare to conference calls with others around the world, your smart phone has become your 24×7 link to everybody.  Between the iPhone and Android, the giants in smart phone technology are driving one of the most profound changes in how we connect.

Not surprising to anybody, open source plays a big role in the mobile world. The open source vs proprietary lines have been clearly drawn.  Apple has their proprietary iOS and Google has their open source Android operating system.  Both have built impressively large ecosystems.  One open.  One a “walled garden”.   One clearly open source.  One clearly not.

Or is it?

What you may not know is that every Apple iPhone runs open source.  Go ahead, take a look at the open source libraries included in iOS.  In fact, Apple has their own Apple Public Source License because, like every other major software company today, they too create open source software.

No matter how you look at it, the top mobile technologies are powered by open source.

Social is powered by Open Source
With Facebook and Twitter causing thumbs to fly non-stop across mobile keyboards, social technology is quickly becoming the glue of our modern Web 2.0 society.  Humans are social animals. We like to talk. We like to know what’s going on.  We like to stay connected.  Whether its social networking, social media or social CRM, highly interactive and hyper-colalborative social technology is connecting us in ways that only Sci-Fi authors could have thought of just 10 years back.

But what is powering social technology?  You guessed it.  Open Source.

  • Facebook creates and uses open source in their software. That’s 800 million users using open source everyday to stay connected.
  • Twitter creates and uses open source in their software.  They have 450 million users.
  • LinkedIn creates and uses open source.  Another 150 million users.

Cloud is powered by Open Source
If mobile and social are changing the way people connect, the cloud is how software companies are delivering that change.  And like mobile, two types of cloud ecosystems are developing.  A proprietary ecosystem in Amazon AWS and open source ecosystems in OpenStack, Eucalyptus and CloudStack.  Again, one side open source.  The other side proprietary.

Or is it?

If you’ve looked under the covers of Amazon AWS, you know that open source powers AWS.  Amazon RDS is powered by MySQL, an open source database.  The Amazon Linux AMI is one of the most commonly deployed virtual machines on Amazon.  And of course SugarCRM runs on Amazon AWS.

Big Data is powered by Open Source
Big Data brings a big promise.  It enables data warehousing, data mining, data analytics and much more at a significantly reduced cost.  In a world where storing terabytes is no big deal, Big Data is how you find answers in a sea of data.  Whether you look at the commercial open source Big Data vendors like Cloudera or Neo Technology or the open source projects behind Big Data like Hadoop and MongoDB, open source is powering Big Data in a big way.

So is Open Source still relevant?  You bet it is.

When I think of great customer relationship management (CRM), I think first of customer service. In a global marketplace that brings you incredible brands like and Coca Cola or fantastic products like the iPhone and Lexus GS (I own them both), your products alone don’t set you apart from your competitors any more. The way you treat your customers, the relationship you build with your customers is what sets you apart from your competition. In today’s information overload world, customer service is marketing. Just ask Zappos or Rackspace. It’s in their logo!

In the early 90’s I studied for a year at the University of Heidelberg. My lifeline back to home in California was the local Deutsche Bank office where my parents wired me funds every month. I remember that bank office fondly, not just because that was where I picked up my bar money each month. I remember how friendly the bank tellers and the bank manager were. Even though as a university student I had very little money, they always treated me like their most important client. From greeting me by name at the door (it was a small branch), to thanking me for my business that day to wishing me well as I left, great customer service was clearly the mantra of that branch office.

Years later after starting my own business, I have learned that great customer service doesn’t just happen by accident. It’s a philosophy that must be part of a company’s culture. Managers must be relentless in demanding it, employees need to be enthusiastic in delivering it and your customers will quietly smile and come to expect it.

I have found that the philosophy behind great customer service is a simple one. I call it the “Golden Rule of Customer Service”. Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated.

We all enjoy and appreciate it when we are treated well and get the product we are looking for. Certainly if a company can deliver great service with a smile, it will earn my continued business quickly. If the company can consistently deliver high quality service and high quality products, I will become that company’s loyal fan and recommend them to everybody I know.

At this year’s SugarCon on April 23-24 in San Francisco, you will learn all of the latest tips, tricks, techniques and tools for treating customers they way you would like to be treated and how to create a legion of loyal fans. Join us for the fun and you will walk away with the knowledge you need to accelerate and grow your business.