September was a big month here at Base when we announced our $30 million funding round. For those who didn’t see it, Heather Clancy wrote a great piece in Fortune about the round, but I wanted to dig in a little deeper and share what it means for you, our customer.
“It’s ok.” That is often the first response you’d get from a sales professional once you ask them what they think of their company’s CRM system. Most likely, if you press a little further, you are actually more likely to hear a series of profanities that’ll end with “but we must use it or we don’t get our commission.”
There’s a reason for that. CRM software didn’t change much over the last 20 years. Sure, it is in the “cloud” now. It is also better integrated with other software products. Still, the core product and capabilities remained the same since the days of Siebel Systems back in the mid nineties.
At its core, a CRM system was intended to allow companies to market to, sell to and service their customers. Hence, it is comprised of the following elements:
- A unified contact database (also referred to as the “system of record”). This is a comprehensive list of contacts for the business and their respective activities. Its goal is to provide a 360 degree view of the customer
- Marketing workflows – a set of capabilities that allows a business to market to certain contacts in their system
- Sales workflows – a basic sales pipeline management capability that allows the sales team to track opportunities with contacts in the system
- Service and Support workflows – yep, you got it. These are capabilities that allow businesses to manage their post sale activities
Marketing and Support workflows have evolved into stand alone platforms, but not much has changed for sales reps. While their counterparts in Marketing and Support have dedicated software built for their exact needs, sales leaders and account executives are still trying to work directly out of a legacy CRM that was not built around the core needs of a sales team. We’ve all witnessed this evolution in Marketing and Support software over the past decade, let me quickly walk you through it.
Marketing – The first to the platform
CRM systems pretend to be able to do anything that you need them to do. For marketing, they have this glorious tab called “Campaigns” from which marketing teams are expected to manage all marketing activities.
The reality is that marketing teams need much more than a tab in their CRM system that barely allows them to properly track campaigns. They need content management systems AND a/b testing capabilities AND lead nurturing flows AND smart lead capturing forms AND email marketing AND… well, they need a comprehensive solution.
The market’s reaction to this was the creation of hundreds of point solutions that were trying to tackle each problem separately. As a result, marketing teams found themselves using 8-9 separate products to manage different aspects of their work. This proved to be unproductive and so the market evolved and saw the birth of all-in-one marketing platform such as Exact Target and Marketo and the creation of a multi billion dollar category, referred to as MAS (Marketing Automation Systems).
Any modern marketing leader understands that they need a marketing automation system to effectively manage their team’s activities, regardless of the CRM used by their company.
Support – Can you see a pattern now?
Zendesk is one of the most impressive SaaS companies in the last 5 years. Why would you need Zendesk if your CRM system has a tab labeled “Cases” where you are expected to manage customer support tickets?
Well, support teams need much more than a tab in their CRM system. They need smart support ticket routing, online live chat, social media integration, call center capabilities, NPS survey management, help knowledge center management and so much more. Guess what? A plethora of point solutions were created to address these. Yet again, the modern all-in-one Support and Service solution that Zendesk created was a new category and Zendesk is now a fast growing public company.
If you lead the support efforts for your company, you know that you need a product like Zendesk to effectively manage your team. You don’t really care about what CRM system your company uses.
It happened in Marketing, it happened in Support, it’ll happen in Sales
The sales category is at the moment the most dynamic of them all. It is undergoing a fascinating evolution that mimics the exact same patterns that were exhibited in the marketing and service categories.
Sales teams need so much more than the limited capabilities their CRM systems provide. It is no surprise then that we’re seeing a proliferation of point solutions that are trying to meet their evolving needs: email productivity, smart phone dialers, advanced sales analytics, opportunity scoring algorithms, prospect engagement capabilities and more.
Dawn of the Sales Platform
What happened in the marketing and support categories, will happen in sales. Over the next 1-2 years we’re bound to see the rise of an all-in-one sales platform that will sweep the market off its feet.
To be able to provide sales teams with the one platform they need to become more productive, the all-in-one sales platform will need to nail three different sets of capabilities:
- Pipeline Management and Automation – allowing sales teams to effectively manage their sales pipeline, collaborate on opportunities and automate sales activities by using modern and well designed software across all computing platforms
- Sales productivity tools – empowering sales professionals with state of the art productivity tools – prospect engagement via email, voice or social channels, real time notifications of events happening in their pipeline and sophisticated task management tools
- Advanced Reporting and Data – using data to focus teams on the right opportunities while allowing leaders to have complete visibility into their sales pipeline and their team’s performance so they can continuously improve their processes
Base is quickly becoming the default all-in-one sales platform for companies around the world. This latest round of funding will be used to innovate faster and build an even more robust platform. We’re at the forefront of a fundamental shift in the CRM category and I’m proud to have Base leading the way. It’s time for your sales team to have software built for the modern salesperson. It’s time for the dawn of the sales platform.