What should a powerful CRM consist of, and how should it operate?
As we move into our ever-changing technological future, it becomes clear that CRM has become vital as the virtual engine of an enterprise, the heartbeat of your business.
There are many CRM solutions today that are collections of applications, all from the same vendor, labeled as “platforms.” However, one thing that a truly robust CRM is not is a platform.
First, such vendors make claims for these platforms that could never be kept, such as “Get more qualified leads” and “increase sales by x%.” No piece of technology could stand up to a promise of increasing sales, including ours (we make no such claim). If it is worth its name, a CRM empowers sales teams to increase sales, but it could never increase leads or sales by itself.
Second, being a collection of applications (some number 50 or more), these platforms are attempting to be “everything for everyone” with applications for every possible need. One vendor makes a claim, “One app to replace them all.” This is not even possible, because no vendor can be an expert in all applications. This is why we have taken the “best of breed” approach, which I’ll discuss further on.
Pipeliner does not promise to take the platform approach. Instead, Pipeliner CRM is solely and only the company’s engine, and that’s what we’re experts in. This is much like Porsche’s 3.5-liter engine, one of the best car engines in the world. Porsche took 60 years to perfect this engine, and it’s still undergoing innovation. While we haven’t been around for 60 years (no CRM can make that claim), we, too, took years to perfect. Pipeliner CRM has been under consistent development for over a decade.
We have taken this approach because of the importance of CRM. It’s an absolute truth that no company today can survive without a CRM—period. It’s similar to another application that a company cannot live without today, a complete bookkeeping application. In today’s lightning speed of commerce, no company can keep close enough accurate track of its transactions without such a bookkeeping application. At the end of the year, such an application can interface with the IRS for precise tax reporting.
Because of CRM’s importance to an enterprise, we have put all of our resources into developing a single CRM that is, like the Porsche 3.5-liter engine, as close to perfect as possible.
While it’s a marvel of engineering, the Porsche 3.5-liter engine is not a fit for every vehicle. You’d never, for example, put one into a Volkswagen Bug. Similarly, Pipeliner CRM is not a fit for every business—it is made for businesses with a dedicated B2B sales process, for midsize and larger companies that need a sales manager with a dedicated sales team. And, like Porsche, we do it better than anyone else in our market.
As mentioned, the “platform” CRM approaches are trying to be everything to everyone. It would be like a car engine manufacturer also manufacturing the navigation, air conditioner, and sound system.
In motor vehicles, top manufacturers take the intelligent approach of “best-of-breed.” For example, Porsche installs Burmester’s high-end audio systems. Other car manufacturers, such as Lexus, utilize Bose systems. A car manufacturer has never put the serious research and development into sound systems that these others have—why try?
At Pipeliner, we have taken this same best-of-breed approach. Pipeliner CRM integrates with over 50 of a company’s most-used tried-and-true applications. We also provide two APIs so companies can integrate with their legacy applications where needed. We’re most definitely not out to reinvent the wheel.
Another seeming goal for CRM technology is the eventual replacement of humans with artificial intelligence. In the last few years, we have seen articles predicting that the salesperson would be extinct one day, replaced by such technology.
While it’s certainly fun to see portrayals of intelligent technology replacing humanity in feature films and television series, we don’t believe this can ever occur in sales—at least, in complex B2B sales, which is Pipeliner’s marketplace. AI might eventually be able to track a sale with one buyer or prospect, but in B2B, several stakeholders are often involved. For example, I was just in a meeting with one of my sales reps and three representatives from the potential buyer. AI could not possibly have kept track of all five streams of thought and consideration.
We are out to warn potential CRM buyers that they should fully investigate claims being made for AI in CRM before they invest considerable time and money into them. It is a dead-end.
AI can only support the salesperson—and for this function, it is very valuable. Our Voyager AI functionality, included in Pipeliner CRM, was developed for this purpose, and in this regard it is extremely effective.
Another seeming goal for AI is to replace human responsibility. We take the exact opposite approach and put humans in control. Not only do salespeople have their own responsibility, we provide them with the same responsibility as their sales managers. Unlike many other CRMs, Pipeliner does not hide data from salespeople—salespeople see the same data as their managers.
As a primary mission, we empower salespeople because the salesperson’s job is like none other in a company. A salesperson’s pay is dependent on the quantity sold. Other types of employees are paid by the hour or by the week, but rarely by production. Only a few jobs have such a risk factor.
I have pointed out for many years that a salesperson has qualities like that of an entrepreneur, because only entrepreneurs are willing to take on such risk. I call salespeople, for that reason, “entrepreneurs within the enterprise”—or a word that I coined, “salespreneurs.” Pipeliner CRM is designed to support every aspect of sales, reducing the risk factor as far as possible.
Sales requires a well-rounded understanding and education, which is another reason we believe that human salespeople will never be replaced by technology. A salesperson must understand how to read people, must learn how to interact with people, and learn to talk with them in a very different way. They must learn strategic skills.
Technology should support such skills, which is what Pipeliner CRM has been designed to do. Technology takes the place of repetitive and routine tasks so that the salesperson can concentrate on importances.
Our appointment scheduler is an example of technology we have created to support salespeople. Before its development, we utilized another calendar app from another company, paying to license this technology. Because salespeople are constantly making appointments, we realized that it made much more sense for us to program appointment scheduling into CRM so that it could seamlessly combine with workflow automation. In doing so, we created functionality far more efficient than Calendly, the app we had been employing.
Where should a salesperson be focusing attention? A salesperson—and a sales team—is there to win customers, to be competitive and create value. That value is different for every industry and even for various products and services, which is another reason technology could never replace human salespeople. Pipeliner CRM makes it possible to create value in any industry, based on human judgment.
Pipeliner CRM’s opportunity navigation is based on a heuristic, rather than an algorithm approach.
Traditional CRM systems have “decided” they know what direction a salesperson should go and what strategies they should take. These are then programmed into the CRM as known objectives, through algorithms. Pipeliner doesn’t try to use algorithms for navigation but takes the heuristic approach, as it is far more effective.
An example of a heuristic approach in sales would be developing a relationship. If a prospect responds to a salesperson’s email, the salesperson will take the next activity within the process, or the next step in the sales process. If there is no response from the prospect, the salesperson takes a different action. Each step is based on the previous step and ultimately results in a strengthening of the relationship.
Pipeliner’s technical superiority comes from the understanding that the world is radically changing. For that reason, over the last several years, we have released new functionality every single month—more frequently than any other vendor in our space. We do this because we aim to deliver the best possible tool for the sales manager and sales force, so they can keep up with today’s digital transformation.
Pipeliner will never replace salespeople. We will always create technology for the sales team to make their lives easier, but never replace them.
The Future of Sales
We see a very bright future for intelligent salespeople if they truly follow our theory and are the wealth creators and peace producers of our society.
What does that mean? We live in a networked society, the currency of which is recommendations. Therefore a salesperson’s reputation is everything. When they have created that reputation through intelligent sales and have provided real value for their customers, they will never be replaced by technology or anything else. They will be indispensable to their companies and even to society.
This series of articles will go further into detail as to why our approach is the most reasonable, effective and efficient compared to our competitors. We’ll explore how Pipeliner CRM is the only system that takes the real challenges of the sales team seriously, because we are laser-focused on the real problems that salespeople encounter from beginning to end.