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CRM Has Failed in the Past. Here’s What We’re Doing About It
Blog / All About CRM / Feb 9, 2016 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 1297 

CRM Has Failed in the Past. Here’s What We’re Doing About It

As we’ve covered in the first 2 blogs in this series—Will It Now Succeed? and What Should a CRM Really Be Today?—no traditional CRM application has truly empowered salespeople.

Interestingly, we brought Pipeliner into the marketplace at a time when the market was actually overrun with CRM applications. One could certainly ask, with some justification, why we did this. For the answer, I turn to Peter Thiel from his great book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

It’s much better to be the last mover—that is, to make the last great development in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly profits. The way to do that is to dominate a small niche and scale up from there, toward your ambitious long-term vision.

I picked the CRM arena because, at the time when I was looking for my next major software development, I kept hearing one phrase repeated over and over by salespeople: “CRM sucks.”

If you were in a small town and local citizens kept saying that the “restaurant food sucked,” and if you were an entrepreneur, you’d most likely open a restaurant that people would like. In a similar fashion, I thought that if a majority of the CRM products out there were not delivering what people truly needed and wanted, there was certainly room for one that did. I set out to develop that product.

Finding the Right Approach

In terms of making CRM easier to use, many developers were (and some still are) following the trend of making data entry easier, since salespeople have been complaining about data entry. As important this approach is and should be, I think data entry is only the symptom of a deeper complication, and only a partial solution. The real issue is that CRM does nothing to assist the salesperson (and little to assist the sales manager) in sales, once all that data has been entered.

What was needed from a CRM product manager was to really figure out what CRM users were actually doing, and how they could best be assisted in getting it done. Or put another way, how we could assist CRM users to work more effectively and efficiently in an ever-changing environment. Just from viewing this crucial need, we can see that most CRM systems were created from a developer and not a user point of view. Working from the user viewpoint is but one of Pipeliner’s radical departures from tradition.

We’re currently living in a world that is constantly moving and shifting, with areas that will never be the same. Overlapping this is the digital world, which is regularly bringing new technologies. In all of this we need a highly effective CRM (although as I pointed out in the last blog that term has already been exceeded as we’re accomplishing much more than “customer relationship management.”).

Such a system must be incredibly flexible, and rapidly and easily adoptable. If not, then you regularly miss the opportunities that pass by you like waves—from customers, from competitors, from the market, from new industries and even from your own product development.

Cutting Out the Middlemen

As we’ve seen with traditional CRM applications, when you have a very static and complex system, you need a lot of middlemen. This has been no more apparent than with the mega-publishers such as Microsoft and Oracle—whole companies have made millions from being CRM consultants in between these companies and their clients.

A system such as ours cuts out such middlemen through greatly improved technology, but also through the core concept of our architecture. We have deliberately developed Pipeliner CRM to be understandable, adaptable and customizable by anyone. On the one hand cutting out middlemen costs people jobs—but on the other hand it creates new ones, and saves companies millions in the bargain.

The Pipeliner Concept

So given everything that had come before, and the fact that most users thought “CRM sucked,” we knew we had to start fresh.

The very basic idea came from an old IBM war room concept. This concept dictated that you had a board up in front of the room, and on the right-hand side of the board was the target. Pipeliner CRM reflects this concept utilizing brand new forms of technology and visualization.

Then I realized that if we were going to develop a CRM solution that users actually used, we would have to, in some way, make it enjoyable and perhaps even fun. Digital gaming had exploded and had become the biggest market on the planet—everyone was into it. I wondered why some elements of games could not also be brought into a business application, which was traditionally flat and boring. For that reason we made Pipeliner highly visual and even brought “gamification” elements into it.

Horizontal Processes

Because society has become so digital, only companies that have made that same transition will survive into the future. Beyond that, it is crucial that in the digital world every business must have a process in order to survive.

We knew from the beginning that every company had their own process, and that no two were alike. For that reason we developed Pipeliner to be instantly customizable to a company’s exact sales process.

But we also have observed that, within a company, different areas of the company or different departments have their own processes—such as product sales, service sales, after-sales, pre-sales, and lead management. Hence we have made it possible for a company to implement as many processes as they need, within our CRM solution. And we’re actually the only CRM to do this two different ways—through our main pipeline view, and also through our unique bubble-chart 3D timeline. The lack of multiple processes is one of the reasons that traditional CRM applications have not been successful in the past.

These processes are the horizontal layer—each process proceeding to its own dynamic target on the right.

Because not everyone will need the same view of a pipeline—and some, like sales managers, will need a multitude of views—users can rapidly develop profiles through which processes can be viewed in totally unique ways. These profiles can be saved for repeated use. This approach is yet another Pipeliner-only benefit, an application of the concept of working with and leading teams.

Vertical Process Steps

But when this development was done, we thought that it wasn’t quite enough: What were users doing vertically in each step of a process? In other words, what actions were being taken to accomplish that single process step?

We made all of the tasks and activities required to complete a process step totally visual, and of course completely customizable. They can even be made mandatory so that no opportunity can be moved into the next process step unless certain tasks or activities are completed. And as part of our overall approach, we implemented a form of gamification into tasks and activities, knowing that sales people like to play, and can use a playful push for reaching their targets.

Online…and Offline

Another observation we made, especially when Cloud applications began proliferating, was that not everyone had Internet access all the time, everywhere. This is still true…yet salespeople and others using Pipeliner must continue to do their jobs, online or off. For that reason Pipeliner has the unique functionality of having the entire application available whether or not the user is online. The online and offline versions are immediately synchronized when Internet access is once again available.

Heart and Soul

All of the above is the core, the heart, the soul of what Pipeliner CRM is and does. Everything else has been added on to these core concepts:

• visualization of the horizontal process in multiple pipelines
• steered by profiles to the target
• always having the “war-room” view so that you’re always alert to where you’re standing
• in the vertical actions of a single stage, you always know what you have to do through the seller’s activities and the buyer’s actions.

Next: How Pipeliner CRM helps assist and create a whole new model of salesperson.

Find out for yourself why Pipeliner CRM is continuously praised as the most visual, the most flexible and the most user-friendly. Download a free trial today.

About Author

A 30-year veteran of the computer industry, Nikolaus has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople. Also a prolific writer, Nikolaus has authored over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, leadership and sales itself.

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