The “Appification” Of Sales And Marketing


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It seems to me the best business to start these days is an App business focused on sales or marketing.   I wrote about the Proliferation Of Marketing/Sales AppsIn the past year the number of Marketing Technology Apps have gone from 947 to 1876, in 43 different marketing technology categories.  Sales Automation, Customer Experience and related apps are going through a similar explosion, with dozens of new apps appearing every month.

Sales and Marketing Executives have a huge appetite for these technology solutions, spending $10’s of billions each year on these (just the apps, not implementation, integration, etc.).  But it makes you wonder where it’s going and what it means to the victims, I mean users of these apps.

It’s kind of easy to see how we’ve gotten here.  There’ve been two major factors that are driving this trend.

The first has come from the giant Sales and Marketing Automation vendors themselves.  They built great tools.  CRM systems, as an example, didn’t tend to be very specialized.  They were designed to do an adequate job against a breadth of requirements, lead, opportunity, contact, pipeline, activity management.  They provided general purpose reporting, analysis and other tools.  They didn’t pretend to be the deepest, best tools for Major Account Planning, as an example.

To complement this, enabling customers to get richer functionality in various areas, they created partner programs and App Stores, to enrich the basic function of the base systems.  The CRM vendors created powerful integration frameworks to help make the integration of these specialized apps easy.

Smartphones and their App Stores drove the demand for highly specialized apps through the roof.  There are literally millions of very specialized, focused, niche apps.   For example, you never know when you will need to say “Where’s the bathroom,” in Klingon, so it’s very useful to have an app for that.  (By, the way, it’s:  nuqDaq ‘oH puchpa”e’?)  (It sounds just the same as it’s spelled)

So these two factors have converged to drive an explosion of highly specialized Apps for sales and marketing people, with thousands currently available, and dozens of new ones being launched every month.

But with this hyper specialization of Apps for sales and marketing, one wonders what it looks like from the point of view of the sales/marketing professionals and managers.

I can imagine a sales call, the sales person has her trusty Tablet, starts the call with the Rapport Building App, pauses the conversation to switch to the Insight App, pauses again to switch to the Qualifying App, then moves on through the Discovery App, Open Ended Questioning………  After the call they use a Debrief App to score the call, report on it to management, then they update CRM (lest we forget).  I also wonder what it’s like to be a customer on the receiving end of the sales person using these apps.

Some of you are saying, “Dave, we know you are prone to exaggeration, aren’t you overstating things?”

Actually, I don’t think so, if anything, I may be understating the case.  As an example, over the past several weeks, I’ve had conversations with a number of people trying to solve the “coaching” problem — I’m really excited about many of the solutions I’m seeing.  But I’m also worried.  All of them provide similar things, tracking and reporting on something a sales person does, provides coaching prompts/discussion points, provide feedback and follow-up.  All great coaching principles.  All of them are also incorporating gamification, leaderboards and other tools to drive utilization.  Again, very powerful concepts.

But here’s the difficulty.  One outstanding App focuses on helping the manager coach training.  We know follow-on coaching and reinforcement is critical.  There’s another app doing a similar thing, but it’s focused on coaching the sales person in developing their account plan.  Then another on the territory plan.  Then another on deal strategies, another on pipeline management, another on prospecting, another on call planning/execution, another on general time/activity management.

Each of these, by themselves, are well thought out and truly outstanding.  They have strong customers, great references, sound business justification.  All the things you would expect.

The problem is, in the world in which we all live, you really can’t take each of these separately.  You can’t coach training in a certain way, then coach deal strategies in a different way, then…….  It doesn’t make sense, it’s confusing to the sales manager implementing it, confusing to the sales person who’s trying to learn, develop, improve.  This specialization of applications doesn’t align with the way things get done.

I can see how it happens, though.  For example, managers want to get a return on their investment in training, they want tools to help them coach and reinforce the skills.  So when the sales person selling that App says, “I can solve that problem for you today,”  it’s hard not to buy–especially if it’s only $30/month for you and each of your sales people.

Then you start running into another factor–investment.  Each of these apps are packaged at attractive prices, $20-30-40-50-60…. per month per person, and each person in the organization needs a subscription.  But soon, you have people using 10, 15, 20 apps and you find yourself spending thousands a month  for each sales person.  Then there’s the integration of those apps, you need a system integrator to integrate the data and work flow on your and platforms (let’s not forget the base investment in the CRM system that’s hosting all of these).

Whew, I’m worn out just thinking about all of this!

I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not.  Look at the referenced post on Marketing Technology and the forecast for explosion in Apps.  Visit your favorite App Stores.  The “game” is to develop highly specialized apps, solving a very specific problem.  These are smart people, developing great solutions, because they know people will spend tons of money on them.

Sure, over time we will see significant consolidation, but only after billions are spent, and worse, sales people and sales managers have to figure out how to use this stuff, “Which app do I use for this part of the sales process, for this type of coaching, …..”  Think of the lost productivity–even though we are chasing increased productivity.

Well, I for one, have decided to jump on the App bandwagon.  I get the idea of very focused niche apps–both to provide very deep, rich solutions for a specific sales issue–and to differentiate my app from someone else’s.  I’ve invested in developing a whole family of Apps.  The first one goes into Beta in the beginning of February.  This App focuses on “How to establish rapport with a Type A, Millennial CFO in the Enterprise Data Integration Software Market.”  When it comes out of Beta, it will be $10/month.

I suspect you can see the dozens of spin-off and derivative Apps I can create from this first one.  Be sure to email me if you want to subscribe, don’t forget to include your credit card information.


(Postscript:  My apologies to those companies/people I’ve spoken to about some of the Apps discussed in this post.  I’m actually very excited by the work you are doing, problems you are solving for sales and marketing professionals, and the potential of your solutions.  I just think, we–the industry needs to start looking at the real impact in how sales/marketing professionals/managers live their lives and how your solutions integrate smoothly into they way they work.)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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