This week we will be co-presenting at two sessions at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco. We’ve built a sales app on the AppExchange called ASPEC for Salesforce. Our development team has used the latest Canvas technology from Salesforce to integrate ASPEC’s graphic and gamification design features, to make sales automation fun and easy to use.
Our vision, here at SalesWays, is to make our ASPEC technology as widely available to as many salespeople as possible, whether solo users, small teams, or large enterprises. To make this happen we had to consider the different technology platforms that are currently used. As I write this today, ASPEC itself by our own definitions at SalesWays is not CRM—we prefer to call it sales automation (SFA). There’s been a fair share of discussion on the SalesWays HUB about the differences between CRM and SFA and, in my mind, the blame lies somewhere in the past with the software industry itself and its mixed up marketing messages.
The latest version of ASPEC to be released this month, has had a couple of important CRM features injected into it, but still remains a tool targeted at putting some automation into the sales process. I think sales automation as exemplified by ASPEC, works best when it has a CRM wrapper. I also think that sales is the functional group closest to the customer and deserves a place at the core of a CRM system. The phrase “sales-centric” comes to mind. Sales automation in its most fundamental form is about the salesperson and not the customer. The customer doesn’t need to know how many interactions it takes to close a deal, or whether the sales cycle is in its probe, prove or close phase.
Salespeople on the other hand must know who the customer is and everything else about them—the account, the industry, the revenue, the needs—especially the needs. This information is best stored in the database at the heart of the CRM initiative. Salespeople should share it with all the other interested parties such as finance, service, development, etc. This is the CRM deliverable—customer information. Which can be used to build better customer experiences and lasting business relationships.
For us, it makes the most sense to put sales automation into the CRM system, or at least link it for synchronous exchange of information. SFA and CRM working in synergy provide positive return to the sales team and encourage adoption. I should say, that in our experience, although this is the accepted way to use sales automation, not all organizations do it (or can do it) this way. Large global organizations may use one CRM vendor, but find it tough to enforce the enclosed sales methods rigorously across the entire sales force.
Sales managers have preferred ideas on selling and often resist the corporate sponsored tools. They often find workarounds to automate their sales processes independent of their CRM. Ultimately some interchange of information has to occur, but probably in this instance not in real time. Top management often over look the regional renegade managers own efforts, as long as the sales are flowing in. Sales automation used outside of CRM is really sales opportunity management – focusing on valuing opportunities and ensuring focus is applied appropriately across the opportunity portfolio. Here at SalesWays, we recognize the need for dedicated SFA and provide product flavors that deliver in this way.
Therefore, the CRM wrapper is the best way to go, and our first ASPEC add-on is for the ubiquitous Salesforce.com. The standard sales method that Salesforce uses in its product is based on the common stage based sales cycle, with the probability tied to stage. Some sales teams make this work, but there are ways to do it better, and Salesforce, by providing a nice way for third parties to integrate their apps, has provided some alternative choices for their users.
Salesforce’s Canvas technology has provided SalesWays to tightly couple the ASPEC engine into the Salesforce framework. ASPEC provides some nice graphic visualization of the sales cycle and dare I say it? . . . is more fun to use. Test it yourself with a free download from the SalesWays site or see our CTO, Sam Henechowicz, present the ASPEC technology at Dreamforce next week. For more information about our Dreamforce sessions, click here.