For companies seeking a sales automation solution, Salesforce.com offers a system that is 100 percent cloud-based and can help companies make smarter decisions, Scott Holden, senior director for product marketing at Salesforce.com, told CRM Buyer.
Salesforce wants to bring contact management out of the ivory tower and create a more democratized system, he explained. “We’ve tried to make it easy for every person.”
Cloud computing represents a massive industry shift that is happening now. All Salesforce.com customers are seeking the cloud, Holden pointed out, and some of the largest banks, technology companies and security firms are using cloud software.
Companies are beginning to understand that cloud computing can be more secure than on-premises software because of the stringent security measures cloud-based companies like Salesforce.com have put into place, he said.
As is typical with cloud-based software, Salesforce.com uses a “per user per month” pricing model ranging from US$5 to $250. Different editions offer different functionality.
‘Poster Child for Innovation in CRM’
A lot of companies are now trying to move functionality to the cloud, and Salesforce.com is definitely a leader, said Brent Leary, cofounder and partner of CRM Essentials.
“The other companies are playing catch-up,” Leary told CRM Buyer. More companies are placing more emphasis on the sales process and data in the cloud. “I don’t see that as something going away any time soon.”
“Salesforce is the poster child for innovation in CRM,” Ray Wang, principal analyst of Constellation Research Group, told CRM Buyer.
Salesforce.com learned from the mistakes of other vendors and focused on the platform, ecosystem, mobility and the cloud, Wang said. The result is a highly intuitive CRM tool.
“You don’t go to Salesforce training for three weeks,” he pointed out.
The Clear Leader
“We’re the clear leader in the space,” Holden maintained.
Salesforce.com reached this pinnacle because of its ability to execute the most complete solution, he added.
Salesforce.com started by utilizing metrics based on customer surveys and using that information to create a tool that sales teams could use to manage accounts and contacts, provide visibility to managers, and perform all the basic functions very easily, said Holden, adding that it “worked really well.”
Social Networking for Business
Initially, Salesforce.com was tab-based, but with the advent of social networking tools like Facebook, the company decided to revamp its user interface, Holden said.
It created a collaborative application based on social media models such as Facebook and Twitter, which incorporated a feed rather than tabs, resulting in a more customized user experience that allowed customers to choose which people and deals they tracked, he continued. The company dubbed this new feature “Chatter.”
Chatter is a customized real-time alerting engine that displays updates automatically. Following data changes and having information pushed is the No. 1 trend in sales automation, Holden opined.
Salesforce.com’s Chatter, with the whole idea of Facebook-like functionality run internally behind a firewall, makes it easier for sales teams to collaborate and share information without making it public, said CRM Essentials’ Leary. “People are able to share information and collaborate.”
A social networking type of tool like this is superior to email for running discussions and helping to make the sales process more efficient, coordinated and effective, he added.
Social networking tools and techniques are impacting the way companies are selling, Leary observed. The shift to social media will require companies to think about how they leverage these tools.
Since getting the attention of customers is becoming harder to do, companies need to respond by making content stand out so they can better engage customers, he said.
On the Road
Another big trend affecting sales automation is the use of mobile devices such as smartphones, noted Holden. “That’s something where we’ve really focused.”
Apps are available for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android. Salespeople can take these portable devices and mobile platforms on the road. Companies are embracing mobile technology and equipping their sales staff with mobile devices instead of laptops, he added.
There will be more inroads with tablet and mobile devices, predicted Leary. More apps will be created for them, because mobility is becoming a big sales platform and customers are using mobile devices to shop and browse.
Crowdsourcing With Jigsaw
Another useful tool offered by Salesforce.com is Jigsaw, a community of sales people that has a good database, according to Leary. Salesforce.com markets Jigsaw as a data cloud service.
“It’s a company we purchased. It’s a great place to prospect,” said Holden.
Jigsaw, which is the largest online database for contact information, functions like a wiki because users maintain the contact information, he explained. In order to retrieve contact information, users are required to update contact information, which helps ensure that data is clean and up-to-date. This is especially useful because people change jobs more frequently than they did in the past. Consequently, contact information becomes stale faster.
File Management and Analytics
Salesforce.com also offers file-management capabilities, Holden said. Sales teams need to be able to upload content, data, presentations or sales collateral easily.
In the Salesforce.com integrated file management system, the file is attached to a record, eliminating the need to share information over email. The ability to attach files to deals and accounts is built into the system.
Salesforce.com also makes it easier for sales teams to run reports, noted Holden.
Business intelligence is broken because it is overloaded with analytics and sometimes difficult to interpret, he maintained. With Salesforce.com, people can customize dashboards and use drag-and-drop features to build reports, tables and charts, which can be shared with other users via a feed.
“It’s much more efficient way to keep track of what’s happening,” Holden said.