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SalesMethods: How do you sell the tail of CRM, not the dog?

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4th Sep 2013
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For all its growing dominance of the CRM market, one area that Salesforce.com has left untouched to date is offering an integrated sales methodology to provide a collaborative environment in which to drive the sales process.

That's the gap in the market that SalesMethods is addressing and targeting firmly at the Salesforce.com CRM community.

Research house Ovum reckons that over 40% of companies don’t use any formal sales methods at all. It notes: "The difficulty of adoption and high fall-off rates in the use of formal methodologies contributes to the fact that sales teams often view Salesforce.com as a management tool for reviewing their performance, using a 'what we have done?' approach rather than an active collaborative environment to assist with the 'how to do it' to win business."

SalesMethods embeds its existing sales methodology into a suite of software applications and tools that integrate natively with SFDC.

MyCustomer.com caught up with Steve Bale, an Oracle veteran and one of the co-founders of SalesMethods, in London last week, where he explained the ethos behind the firm. "We say it's not about the methodology; it's about the value perceived by the sales guy in using that methodology," he argued.

"This is a software framework that allows you to define your methodology virtually. If you don't have a methodology, then we have one you can use but that's not the nub of the conversation - all methodologies end up doing the same thing. In our view it's all about delivering a framework that allows organisations to personalise though non-development means, then you can put in your own processes and methodologies."

A different way of thinking

This is about a different way of thinking when it comes to sales methodologies - and training of sales people. "We're really talking about accommodating change," suggests Bale. "Everyone else says 'Here's a methodology and it's the best in the world, but you've got to rip out your own first.

"We say you're probably already doing good and bad things but you need to evolve to excellence. We have the approach of 'keep what works, stop what doesn't and start what needs to be done'. So you don't have the hiatus of stopping everything while you put in a new methodology.:"

It's also about about getting more iterative and real time when it comes to training sales teams. "If you look at the people we really want to influence, our approach is not about sending sales guys away on training courses, but about training sales managers in tools and approaches and how to coach their own sales forces properly," said Bale. "When you review the account with the sales guy, you're also coaching him. It's all about the on-the-job experience using a SaaS environment."

SalesMethods' fortunes are inextricably linked to those of Salesforce.com. If you're not a Salesforce.com CRM user, then you're not going to be a SalesMethods user. It's a conscious decision by SalesMethods, stated Bale, adding: "You can't use us without Salesforce.com CRM."

"This was always going to be the tail of the CRM environment, not the dog," he explained. "We wanted to focus on the most accepting market in CRM and that was Salesforce.com.

"At the time of the launch, Salesforce.com was not the largest company out there but it was where people were buying and investing. Salesfore.com itself was also accommodating and welcoming and ready to let us use their platform at a very reasonable rate.

To date, SalesMethods is of course a young company with around 44 companies - some good names, half in the US - piloting parts of the offerings. It is a land and expand model with customers not yet engaging with the overall suite, but trailing aspects and then turning attention to the wider suite.

"We see ourselves as working in partnership with a customer to take them on the road," said Bale. "There are varying degrees of how we take them along that road. The larger customers don't come and buy thousand of users in one day, they buy a hundred for one part of their organisation and then expand."

It all seems a remarkably simple idea - as the best ones always are - and one that has genuine applicability to almost every organisation.

Ovum calls it "the most complete methodology that we have seen in the Salesforce.com context and we believe that any organisation that understands the potential value of adopting a sales methodology should give it serious consideration."

But that does of course beg the question: why isn't Salesforce.com doing it itself? Or the second question: will Salesforce.com decide it could usefully add SalesMethods to its core functionality at some point via an acquisition?

Or, in this turbulent time for the Cloud and CRM landscape, could the changing competitive market in which the likes of Salesforce.com, Oracle and Microsoft are born-again BFFs mean that SalesMethods needs to rethink that Salesforce.com-only selling point?

For his part, Bale clearly thinks there's plenty of time to worry about things like that. "There are 120,000 corporate customers of Salesforce.com; we have a presence in 44," he noted. "There's a long way to go."

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