We seem to have a different concept for Pipeliner CRM than other developers and vendors have for their CRM offerings—for we believe that CRM in itself should empower salespeople. It doesn’t make sense from a financial or any other standpoint to have a “Sales Enablement Platform” (SEP) in addition to CRM. We have therefore placed our solution into the SEP category, for it is totally a sales enablement solution and belongs both in that category and the CRM category.
Promoting the misconception that companies must have a whole other tool in addition to CRM also creates confusion and uncertainty. Only effective execution of the right strategy, and efficiently working on becoming better at it, brings real productivity. And productivity, of course, leads to profitability.
What is the actual future of sales enablement, then? In which direction should it go?
Some CRM or SEP solutions orient themselves on their particular sales communication or company. In my opinion, this is a wrong approach—the orientation of a solution must be on the automation because this is what makes sales enablement impossible. Automation is the intelligence itself.
As an example, a company could have multiple product lines. One is for a complex product, and the other is a consulting line, a service. It is the core technology that makes multiple pipelines possible. It is the technology that supports the methodologies, and each of these pipelines would have very different approaches. “Methodology” could be defined here as the various processes, and their precise steps, that salespeople should take as they sell.
Methodology requires a technology that is, at any time, constantly easy to adjust. This requirement exists for no other reason than this: we are in an age and time in which everything is constantly changing. No one can accurately predict what changes will occur even within 6 months. Therefore any technology must be flexible, agile, easy to adopt, must have the capacity for information to be easily exported and for changes to be instantly communicated to users. Any system that is unnecessarily complicated results in decreased sales production.
Old and New CRM Concepts
There are 2 distinct concepts when it comes to CRM, which could be labeled “old” and “new.” The “old” concept is the traditional approach of SAP CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, or Sugar CRM. It consists of heavy, overloaded technology in a large framework, with which you can perform an enormous array of functions. It requires an expert, often a consultant, to analyze the application for a company, adjust it for that company and its users, and constantly adjust it for any changes. To make a humorous analogy, you could say that you’re going to have this consultant virtually sitting on your lap as long as you have this solution, and earning a great deal of money for doing so. Once a company has bought into such a platform, they not only pay a premium price for licenses, but they also pay handsomely for these consultants.
Adoption is another major problem—it can take anywhere from a couple of months to over a year for these traditional CRM solutions to be adopted and learned by sales teams.
The new concept is that salespeople and administrators instantly and easily learn precisely what they need to know about a CRM, as they need to know it because it’s designed that way. These systems are agile and can have adjustments and incremental changes rapidly made whenever they’re needed. You no longer need to have a consultant “sitting on your lap.” In fact, one of the major benefits for today’s CRM solution is that the middleman—this consultant—is totally removed.
These 2 concepts can be compared to old and new concepts in software development. The “old” is the waterfall development method, in which code was created as one giant block, and as development went forward it could not be changed at all. The “new” is scrum development methodology, in which individual teams create iterations of the software.
Another comparison could be made for old technology is Microsoft Excel. While it is the best-selling business application in the world, it has so many features that no one ever comes close to using them all. In fact, it is said that 95 percent of Excel users use 5 percent of its functionality. Excel, though, is relatively inexpensive compared to one of these behemoth CRM platforms—and it’s a sad statement that a company’s users will only use a fraction of the functionality a company pays so dearly for.
What Is Really Needed?
The world is moving and changing at lightning speed. Today companies need to stay on top of everything, adapt, and change as rapidly as commerce changes. One highly efficient CRM solution—such as ours—will allow enterprises to do that. It makes no sense to introduce complexity by insisting that another solution must be entered into the fray. Why, when salespeople can be perfectly enabled with the right single CRM solution?
The right CRM application makes intangible factors tangible. It also makes it possible to embed intelligent automation and documentation into processes, truly guiding salespeople through each stage of the sales process, so that they can take appropriate activities in response to buyer actions.
The Artificial Intelligence Myth
There is a considerable difference between the kind of automation we’ve been discussing and the “artificial intelligence” being promoted by a number of CRM vendors today.
In order to be effective at all, AI requires massive amounts of data from which to analyze and learn. Most companies don’t possess this amount of data or even have access to it, which means that AI is going to be fairly useless. This promotion of “AI-enabled CRM” is, for the most part, another effort to confuse buyers and users. We at Pipeliner have incorporated AI (called “Voyager) as one feature, but it has a specific use and utilizes the data easily available from CRM.
To further confuse the issue, Salesforce has branded its AI offering as “Einstein.” This is truly incorrect, as Albert Einstein, for whom this functionality is named, was a theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, among other things. Yes, he was a genius, but he had nothing to do with computers, cybernetics, or the development of AI. This is truly a misnomer and another way to confuse customers.
Honestly, I feel this kind of promotion and marketing is an effort to mislead people. It’s not a smart thing to do, as people in the current environment are already suspicious of information they receive through the media. For example, just try and make sense of covid19 statistics—they are conflicted and confusing.
What people need is clarity. Only when information is clear and can be easily understood can information be properly absorbed and utilized.
Clarity is the reason airports throughout the world all utilize the same symbology, the same icons, to guide and inform travelers speaking all different languages. No matter where you land in the world, you can always follow the symbols to the baggage claim. Can you imagine what a calamity would ensue if every country used different symbology in airports? Luggage would be forever lost everywhere.
Coming back to sales enablement, clarity must be utilized in all applications so that salespeople—and others in sales-related roles—can easily use applications, and clearly communicate with each other.
As regards clarity, we could draw a comparison to open source programming. I have been an advocate of open-source programming since long before it was fashionable. I worked with the government in my home country of Austria, showing how open source could positively benefit. Microsoft publicly spoke out against my efforts back then—yet now they have purchased the
world’s largest open-source community, GitHub, which means they turned completely around from their misconception. Open source is a perfect example of transparency. If it weren’t transparent, one programmer couldn’t tap into the work of another and contribute to it.
You could even say clarity leads to safety because with clarity in data you can be safe in your decision process.
The Core of Every Company
For the future, the core of every company—its operating system, if you will—is CRM. Why? Because without highly accurate customer data, every company is dead. As we discovered in the pandemic, if you have no customers, you shut down. But even with a digital company, if you don’t know who is interacting with your product and when you’re also dead. CRM is key.
At Pipeliner we certainly know this. We’re not trying to put ourselves in every business—we’re concentrating currently on companies that have in-house salespeople and sales management. Not every business requires a sales staff, such as businesses that sell straight to the consumer. We’re even supporting those kinds of businesses conceptually, though, through our online multimedia magazine SalesPOP.
CRM, when its data is properly arranged, provides clear insight into the customer. That means a business can (as it must) be customer-centric and service-oriented.
The Power of Salespeople
Such clarity means that a salesperson can be what they were meant to be to the society—wealth-creating and peace-producing. In the broader view, salespeople, in strengthening the economy, help to strengthen the middle-class, which is sorely lacking today.
A salesperson is free to choose what products or services they are going to sell. They can sell destructive products or decent ones. When they sell products that actually help people, they create a safe society.
Such choices are made with sales wisdom. What is that wisdom? In a network community, which is what we live in today, wisdom is altruism. It means that the person you sell to, while they may not be your best friend, is at least made to feel like your friend. You’re not dishonest with them. You’re working for today’s sales currency—a recommendation.
Honestly, I believe that it won’t be the politicians who finally bring peace to our society, but the salespeople who understand they are the game-changers, the agents of happiness.
In the end, a salesperson’s product is the creation of an environment in which we can all live together, where our kids can grow, go to school, and we can all, once again, have a decent life.