In researching my recent ebook Achieving the Impossible, Lessons from the Apollo Space Program I made a very interesting discovery that very much applies to sales CRM. Along with other history-making factors, the Apollo program, thanks to a person almost never mentioned in the news and history of the time, set the stage for the symbiosis between human and machine.
If you’ve never heard of Margaret Hamilton, it is because her name was conveniently left out of any historical mention of important people associated with the Apollo programs and lunar landings. It was only in 2003 that Hamilton received an award from NASA for her groundbreaking work, without which the moon landings would not have been possible. Additionally her work had much to do with the actual launching of the software industry.
In the early days of the software industry, software coding was, in fact, mainly a woman’s job simply because coding involved a lot of typing—something that many men eschewed, rather foolishly as we see in hindsight. But today this “background” task (that in fact helped save the moon landings) is very much at the forefront and exploding.
Hamilton was the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed onboard flight software for the Apollo program. In just one notable example of her work, her design of systems software for the Apollo Guidance Computer included error detection that helped avert an abort of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Symbiosis: Human and Machine
Hamilton’s work made it possible for what has become the symbiosis between human and machine—the computer is the co-pilot, not the pilot. This fit right into the Apollo astronauts’ ethic: they insisted on having control of their craft instead of turning it over to automatic control (autopilot). The necessity of having human involvement became very apparent when Neil Armstrong, instead of following what the computer was telling him to do, changed the landing site for the Apollo 11 LM (Lunar Module) because the original site chosen—and the one the computer program was guiding him to—was too rock-strewn for a safe landing.
Automatic pilot has been part of jetliner flight for many years, and many pilots won’t trust it for takeoff and landing. A number of years ago I was allowed to sit behind the pilot, in the cockpit of a jetliner landing in Los Angeles. He informed me he was taking it off of autopilot to land.
This kind of “autopilot” has even made its way into our daily lives. The latest software upgrade to my car allows for fully automatic parking, if I so desire.
But despite arguments and “innovations” to the contrary, automation should always remain the assistant to the person’s operation, as opposed to being given total control.
Relationship to Sales Automation
There has been an effort over the last 20 years to totally automate sales. In fact it was recently predicted that thousands of jobs would be lost as sales became totally automated.
There’s an opposing school of thought formed by myself and many others, that the salesperson will never be “outmoded” or disappear. A machine cannot interact with buyers, and address their specific issues, especially when it comes to complex B2B sales. But even in the B2C world, take a look at Apple: their stores are well-staffed with live salespeople, and those salespeople are an expected part of the buying experience.
Salespeople certainly use automation. But as with the Apollo program and with piloting jet planes, automation is their assistant—it will never replace them.
Pipeliner CRM-Sales Symbiosis
This school of thought has completely influenced how we designed Pipeliner CRM. We designed it to be the “co-pilot” for the salesperson. Pipeliner focuses salespeople, and provides the necessary intuitive and visual tools for them to control and stay on top of their opportunities. But salespeople are clearly the ones in change, and Pipeliner is there to back them up.
Not only have we made this symbiosis part of the creation of our sales CRM, but also of the way data is stored and synchronized. Pipeliner is the only CRM system with both online and offline capabilities. We didn’t want a salesperson to have to rely solely on cloud data centers; what would happen if the salesperson, for whatever reason, didn’t have internet access? With Pipeliner the complete CRM, with all data, is still there. This approach cost us 4 years of programming effort—but for us there was and is no other way.
Automation is the assistant, the co-pilot, and today is a totally necessary one.
Pipeliner CRM is the best assistant a salesperson or sales manager could have. Download a free trial today.