I recently caught up with Scott Farmer, CEO of Salesnet, and found that the company is growing nicely thanks to major infrastructure and product improvements in the past year.
But first, for those who haven’t heard of Salesnet, here’s a quick refresher. You might be surprised to know that Salesnet was one of the true pioneers in on-demand CRM. It was founded in 1997, around the same time as Salesforce.com, RightNow and Netsuite — which have all gone on to considerably more fame and fortune as public companies.
Salesnet’s positioning in the beginning was around sales process and improving sales effectiveness. And still is, to this day. That’s nice, but Farmer admits that only about 20% of sales organizations are mature enough to really appreciate the value of well engineered sales processes — which can be supported by Salesnet’s robust workflow capabilities.
To make a long story short, RightNow bought Salesnet in 2006 as part of a ill-fated attempt to shore up a weak SFA offering and enter the B2B space as a full-functioned CRM vendor. In other words, to compete with Salesforce.com. But not long after that (2007 if memory serves) RightNow decided to focus on B2C customer service/experience, and de-emphasized marketing and sales. That left Salesnet twisting in the wind.
Meanwhile, Farmer says Salesnet customers remained loyal and many didn’t want to move to RightNow. So the product languished for a couple of years until 2008, when RightNow funded a major infrastructure overhaul to add capaciy for growth and improve performance, security, etc. Farmer claims they can now support 100-fold growth without additional investments.
The “New Salesnet”
Salesnet also invested in a major product update release earlier this year, with a revamped user interface, improved analytics and workflow improvements. To my eye, the “New Salesnet” UI is nicely done and will compete well with SFA solutions from Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Microsoft. And Farmer says the UI upgrade and other enhancements have helped ignite growth this year.
More recently, Salesnet added a new mobile product in August. In September, look for more UI enhancements and an improved marketing communication module. It’s nice to see Salesnet investing in regular product improvements again.
Salesnet is not a big company, with around 200 customers and 5K users. I think it’s worth a close look for those seeking a process-oriented solution and the more consultative relationship you’re likely to get with a smaller vendor.
At one time Siebel was the “safe choice” and Salesforce.com was the innovator. Now Salesforce.com is the dominant player, but with that perceived “safety” is a risk of being just like everyone else that is using the same SFA tool.
Which leads me to the key question that stimulated this post…
Do sales tools matter?
The short answer: It depends on what you do with the tools. In my view, most SFA solutions do pretty much the same thing. They manage contacts, accounts and pipelines. And give nice looking reports to sales managers.
But automating these basic processes is not a source of competitive advantage. However, the lack of these tools may be a disadvantage. Said another way, you need SFA to keep up with everyone else using SFA, but you can’t get ahead.
So where is the real leverage in improving sales performance? Here’s what I learned in my research study a couple of years ago:
- Make sure your sales force is working on higher quality leads. That’s a shared responsibility of marketing and sales leaders. Marketing automation systems increasing have lead-scoring to help identify more “sales-ready” leads.
- After you’ve got better leads in the sales funnel, consistently execute a well-designed sales process against those opportunities. This is where consultants and sales training companies can really help, and vendors like Salesnet shine.
- Finally, give your reps practical tools they can use in the field. Like mobile devices or smart phone and tools to manage a variety of communications while a rep is out of the office. In other words, not SFA at all.
If you’d like to dig deeper into these issues and learn how to improve sales performance in the world of “Customer 2.0,” join us for our virtual Sales Edge Summit in early October.