We all have a little Steve Jobs inside us

I don’t think I can add anything to what has been said about Steve Jobs’ life. It is clear that he was a unique genius, and that his passing leaves a void in our world.

He was a man of ideals, and those ideals don’t have to die with him. While no one can fill the void he leaves, we can all take inspiration from his life’s work and step up our game.

We can all pursue our passions and our dreams a little harder.

We can all listen more closely to our inner voice.

We can all pick ourselves up more quickly when we stumble.

We can all think about design and aesthetics a little harder.

We can all focus more on our users’ experience.

We can all work harder to keep products simple.

We can all build something insanely great.

We can all make the world a better place.

When the team’s MVP goes down to injury, the rest of the team has an opportunity to step up their game. I think it’s what Steve Jobs would want us to do.

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An Open Letter to Hoover’s Employees

Many of you joined Hoovers with a mission to change the world, and you did just that in the late 90’s. However, in recent years your parent company has not fostered that original spirit.  Consequently, innovation and market leadership have been replaced by layoffs and business stagnation.

Meanwhile, at InsideView we have continued to invest in our products and our people, growing our business at over 100% year-over-year.  To keep up with our rapid growth, we need to find the most passionate, competent and innovative employees.  I believe that many of you fit that bill, and I’m writing this open letter to invite you to join InsideView. You will find a fun, vibrant environment with very bright people, and an open culture that fosters collaboration and innovation.

We are passionate about our products and our customers.  Last month’s data.com announcement made it clear to me that D&B has given up on Hoover’s in the critically important sales & marketing ecosystem, and that customers will need to look elsewhere to find sophisticated sales intelligence. I believe most of them will decide that InsideView is their best path to productivity, joining scores of Hoover’s customers that have already chosen to switch to InsideView.

We are looking for talent in every part of our business and in several locations.  The positions include Sales, Customer Success, Marketing, and Content. Locations are in the field, at our San Francisco headquarters, and for our soon-to-be-opened Austin office (I love Austin’s entrepreneurial culture, and I see the opportunity for Austin to become a main hub for InsideView).

If you have a passion for innovation, customer success and are looking for a vibrant work environment, please email us at beyondhoovers@insideview.com for a confidential conversation. We’d also be glad to have you talk to any of the ex-Hoover’s employees who now work at InsideView, where they have found new opportunities to grow and delight customers.

We have just begun in delivering our vision, one where customer intelligence makes all customer-facing employees dramatically more productive. If you share my passion, we’d love to talk to you.

Umberto Milletti

CEO & Founder, InsideView

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Data.com: Welcome, but not Enough

This morning Salesforce.com announced the much-awaited Data.com brand. This announcement signals the recognition by one of the world’s most important workflow automation (SFA, CRM) vendors that, by itself, workflow automation cannot deliver the full ROI that B2B companies are expecting.

In today’s fast changing “social” world, the success of customer workflows have less to do with automation (the realm of SFA/CRM) and more to do with employee knowledge (the realm of information).

Enter data.com, an information layer on top of automation, to provide the information that customer-facing employees need to be more relevant to customers and prospects, more knowledgeable about the customer’s business and about key events, target accounts and market dynamics. InsideView has been evangelizing the information ROI for the last 5 years, and it’s great to have the validation of a market leader like Salesforce.com.

But data is not enough. It is not enough because raw data (phone numbers, email addresses, names & titles, company revenues and employee counts) doesn’t give us the insights we need to be relevant. It doesn’t help us with conversations starters, understand the key events at that company, what the key decision makers are thinking and saying, or tell us that it’s not a company we should be doing business with because they are running short of cash. That’s the type of intelligence that our users leverage every day to decide whom they should call, and more importantly what they should say. And that intelligence requires powerful analytics and relevance filtering.

The introduction of data.com is a step in the evolution of customer intelligence, and for companies that need more than data, we are excited to continue to be unique in providing the intelligence that makes customer-facing professionals truly productive, for Salesforce.com customers as well as for those who have chosen other CRM platforms.

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My Thoughts on All About The Cloud

For those who missed it, a brief recap of the cloud marketing panel this morning at All About the Cloud – I joined Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez, Joe Payne, CEO of Eloqua, and Appirio CMO Narinder Singh, for a discussion about how (and why) new cloud-based technologies and services aren’t just re-inventing  old-school marketing processes to optimize sales growth, but opening up a fast-growing business category – revenue performance management, or RPM.  Jigsaw founder Jim Fowler sat in as moderator.

(Brief aside: Fowler opened by throwing a curveball at each panelist — asking each to share a haiku that best captured their vision of cloud-powered business. Outflanked by executives of competing cloud-marketing companies, I defended the sales-side perspective: Salespeople know best, It’s about the quality, Not the quantity.)

So just what is RPM and what is its potential? Payne, Fernandez, and Singh, not surprisingly, shared the bullish long view. “It really works,” Payne explained. “Companies adopting RPM are winning their markets. And you’re not doing this, you can bet that your competitors are.”

I had one caveat: For RPM services to live up to billing, they need to better integrate sales teams and processes and avoid tilting towards the marketing sides of any organization. “Sales and marketing are far from being aligned in RPM. One of the worries I have is that while marketeers love intellectual things and data, most of our B2B revenue comes through our sales team. It’s easy for marketing people to get excited about things like lead scoring and other things without ever forcing themselves to talk to salespeople. So [RPM] really does have to be not just a marketing thing. More technology coming from the marketing side has the potential of distracting from the sales side.”

So what should traditional companies be doing to optimize revenue streams using some of the new tools? Fernandez went first: “Realize that the world has changed. You need to start to see the world through the eyes of your buyer – not your vendor – and your buyer doesn’t care about the cloud. They only care about a great customer experience.”

I followed up with “We talk too much about systems and data. The key thing is, buyers have changed their behavior. Are they picking up the phone for more cold calls and emails? No. You have to focus on what you’re doing to engage buyers in a relevant conversation. Give up the idea that you’re going to succeed with more calls and email blasts – it won’t work. Coversion rates will go down and down. Engage your prospects, earn the right to have that conversation. There has to be a shift here – and a realization that the old ways aren’t going to allow you to be successful.”

Last, the panel shared predictions about how the business models in this nascent category will likely evolve – I am seeing more freemium-based services having a clearer path to growth. “Pricing is changing”. “More freemium models will emerge. People expect to try and experience with stuff for free before they make a big financial commitment, and services with models like Box.net and Yammer I think will go forward. We should all think about what that means for us.”

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B2Bs need to increase their social intelligence

Social technologies are breeding a new type of savvy marketing pro, tasked with reaching a more fragmented audience of customers, prospects and brand influencers than ever before. While B2C marketers have started to significantly crack the code, established B2B companies (as well as start-ups in the space) still have to catch up and embrace the “world of social” and reach their customers through channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

For many start-ups and young companies, the real-time buyer information that is shared and accessible across social channels – aka social intelligence – is the “golden ticket.” This data source delivers valuable insight about what customers want and need, but may not explicitly state as such, in their personal or business lives.

Deeper understanding of customer requirements not only helps sell existing products and services, but also provides a new perspective into industry voids for start-ups to further develop products and differentiate from the (often more established) competition.

While the social business tactics are alive and conversation within the “social business” trade is abundant, enterprises and many B2B marketers are embracing these tools at a glacial pace. This opens a door for start-ups to quickly react to market demand, customer feedback and investor or advisor expertise by adopting new – and socially-focused – tactics to drive strong lead pipelines, customer satisfaction and overall brand success.

For early-stage companies, this social savviness typically starts with the CMO, since community managers are too expensive to bring in house, sales professionals are fully engaged in selling and the CEOs are busy driving business strategy.

Social intelligence provides a deeper understanding of prospects’ buying cycles.  These new insights increase sales team productivity by minimizing the time sales reps spend on “cold” prospects – and accelerate the sales conversion for “warm” candidates, leading to higher close rates.

Social media is moving beyond the B2C world. As big B2C brands like Southwest Airlines and Ford Motor Co. mastered the art of social marketing, B2B organizations must also recognize the fact that customers and prospects live hours of their daily lives online, conversing across social channels.

However, B2B social intelligence is more fragmented and niche than a “sexy” consumer brand, which makes the modern CMO’s job more reliant on listening and engagement tools (such as Social Media Monitoring and Social CRM), which provide the much-needed “personal” touch that notoriously lives within small businesses.

Since outbound marketing is deemed interrupt-driven and considered less effective by the customers, companies must find a way to improve the timing and the relevance of their messages. Want to know how to increase your marketing budget as a CMO? Show greater ROI through more targeted outreach.

For example, HR services firm TriNet found that talking to prospects at times of business change – i.e. new management, funding, expansion, etc. – drove unusually high response rates.  Social platforms gave the company timely and in-depth knowledge of these “times of change” windows. The result: An incredible 70 percent conversation-to-appointment rate for the sales team, simply by listening to and engaging with prospects based on social intelligence.

The social revolution is an important part of the ongoing transformation in the way marketing teams learn about, engage with, sell to and sustain relationships with customers and prospects. As savvy marketers are leading the adoption curve, recognizing social intelligence as a key driver to marketing productivity and business success is a critical characteristic to modernizing not only the CMO’s department, but also the business at large.

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Why Sales Is Still Missing From Social CRM

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We’ve all heard the stories about the big deals closed on the golf course or at the steakhouse, but these tales are starting to belong more in episodes of Mad Men than in today’s business environment. Today’s sales professionals operate less from the fairway and more online and by phone. Indeed, CRM, email, and web conferencing have become the ubiquitous productivity portals for all customer-facing professionals. However, with the efficiencies and cost effectiveness of such virtual work platforms has also come a dramatic reduction in the actual relationship time needed to conduct the inherently interpersonal business of selling.

In the past few years, while sales has mostly ignored the social media revolution, the marketing and customer service functions have led the way in adopting and demonstrating the power of social media in engaging customers, especially as part of the social CRM movement.

What has taken sales so long to catch up, and what now needs to be done?


Learning From Marketing and Customer Service


Leading social CRM expert Paul Greenberg describes the socialization of business activities as “the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.” Indeed, social media builds a two-way street with customers.

Visionary B2C companies like Procter & Gamble (Old Spice), Zappos and Diapers.com have executed effective strategies based on the idea of “delight” through social media, and with great success. B2B companies have learned from these B2C examples and are combining superb customer service with newly created social customer communities, resulting in significant cost savings and revenue increases.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff — one of the top analysts in the ROI of social media in B2B customer strategies — cites everything from reduced call/email volume and SEO costs to increased customer lifetime value and lead conversion rates. And according to a recent study by Gartner, one-third of leading companies will extend their online community activities over the next two years “as customer awareness and use of social CRM for marketing as a back door to customer service increases.”

Customer service organizations are certainly leading the charge in recognizing the power of social media to give insight and measurement to their work, as well as bring their customer communities together. If social media is such an indomitable force in customer engagement, where is social media in sales?


Hey Guys, Wait Up!


While marketing and customer service have jumped on the social CRM bandwagon, the sales profession has mostly been watching from the sidelines, wondering what to do and how to do it. There are four main reasons for this lag:

  • Salespeople are not techno-geeks. They view technology, at best, as an enabler — a tool for getting their job done — rather than something you experiment with on the weekends for the fun of it. Clearly, social media is more approachable and engaging than traditional enterprise applications, but a level of technical skepticism remains.
  • Salespeople need to understand what’s in it for them. Good salespeople are highly efficient in their use of time. It’s a benefit of years of being compensated for results. If they don’t understand how something is going to make them more productive and successful, they won’t do it, and no one has done a good job explaining why social media matters for sales. Considering the indication of some reports that sales teams generate upwards of 70% of their own opportunities without the help of the marketing department, the importance of engagement for salespeople cannot be overstated.
  • Social media tools have not been integrated into the sales workflow. CRM vendors have so far focused on integrating social media into their service and support offerings, and sales functionality has been mostly left to specialized third-party providers (see options on Salesforce.com’s AppExchange and Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM Marketplace).
  • Salespeople rely on their employer for training on new sales processes and tools to support them. If they are not being trained or given a managerial “green light” on social media, they are less apt to explore and implement it on their own. According to a recent study by OgilvyOne, while more than half of sales professionals thought that social media was important to their success, only 9% had been trained on it by their employer. As companies are starting to think about how to best leverage social media, sales training will undoubtedly be near the top of the list.

Selling Has Always Been Social


Despite these reasons for the lag, salespeople are in the business of understanding, relating to and engaging decision makers. Short of an expensive in-person meeting, what could be better than having real-time insight and intelligence into a prospect’s Twitter feed, Facebook profile, or even their music interests on Pandora?

Fortunately, the wave of social customer interaction education is starting to form, with initiatives like the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management’s Social CRM Program and Social Selling University leading the way. Just as early and effective adoption of the web gave competitive advantages to forward-thinking businesses (Amazon, eBay, Cisco) in the 1990s, in this decade, companies that effectively leverage the social media wave to improve their customer-facing business will thrive while those who don’t will stall.

Have you implemented social strategies into your sales force? If so, please let us know in the comments. If not, we’d also love to hear your thoughts, challenges and/or successes as well.

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Salesforce.com acquires Radian6: Big Data Analytics is the Future in the Enterprise

Salesforce buys Radian6 Social Monitoring SocalCRMLast week Microsoft asked me to be on the keynote panel for their Canadian launch of Dynamics CRM 2011 (#CRM2011TO). Marcel LeBrun, the CEO of Radian6, had a last-minute conflict for this event, which took place yesterday in Toronto, and Radian6 suggested InsideView as a good alternative for the panel. Since @frankcrm was running the event, I knew it would be good and I was happy to fly up to the frozen tundra and speak to a large and attentive crowd (and spend some quality time with one of my favorite thought-leaders, Paul Greenberg @paulgreenbe, and share the stage with smart people like @briansolis , Facebook’s @Jordan_Banks and LinkedIn’s Jonathan Lister @jlisterca).

I now understand Marcel’s conflict, given today’s announcement that Salesforce.com plans to acquire his company for $326M! Congratulations to our friends at Radian6, a great team that deserves its great success (and a valued customer).

As I think about the implications of this acquisition I see three important trends:

  1. The entry of salesforce.com in the marketing arena, for the first time with meaningful capabilities. Benioff referred to this as the dawn of the MarketingCloud, which I’m sure got the attention of players like Eloqua (see Joe Payne’s blog post), Marketo and the many social media monitoring players, as well as the big boys at Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.
  2. Salesforce.com, just like IBM and others, is recognizing the importance of social media aggregation and analytics. Social media and social networks are creating a “big data” problem for enterprises, which creates great opportunities for companies like Radian6 (for marketing), Lithium (for service and customer communities) and InsideView (for sales) to bring filtering and analytics technologies that extracts the signal from the noise. The market doesn’t want more business data, it wants more relevance extracted from the massive amount of data that is created every day.
  3. The market values relevance over data. Just compare the $150M Salesforce.com paid for data provider Jigsaw, vs. the $326M it paid for technology provider Radian6 (for similar revenue streams).

This acquisition also raises a few questions:

  1. What does this mean for the health of AppExchange and the Salesforce.com ecosystem? What’s the impact to social media monitoring companies that are dependent on the salesforce.com install base, or even more concerning, built on Force.com?
  2. Are Microsoft, Oracle, SAP able to respond to Salesforce.com’s speed with their own products, partnerships or acquisition?

Would love to hear your take and your comments.

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