The promise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) is that it is simple, quick, efficient and commoditised, but in reality SaaS can be just as complex to install and manage as major on-premise implementations.

Salesforce.com, for example, offers a platform that requires a significant amount of customisation, as well as investment in training for internal users to learn how to use it. This opens the way for thrid party consulting firms like Bluewolf to step in and offer their services.

Techworld caught up with Bluewolf's co-founder Eric Berridge on a recent visit to the UK, to find out how the company is helping its clients approach the problem from an end user perspective.

“Our whole model now is to bring services to our clients that help them understand what their customers are thinking. It's thinking from the outside in,” said Berridge.

“What they really have to deal with is, how are you going to increase that customer experience? How are you going to use a powerful database like Salesforce to get information in front of your customers that makes their buying process more efficient, that gives them a frictionless experience with your brand, and that ties them into you so that they're buying more product?”

Building customer relationships

Although it is generally recognised that upselling and cross-selling is more effective than acquiring new customers, and that managing relationships with existing clients is the original premise of CRM, the focus of sales is still too often on finding the next customer, according to Berridge.

He said that, while it may seem counter-intuitive, the less time customers have to spend interacting with a brand, the more they are likely to pay for the product.

“The most valuable commodity that we all have is time. I don't want to take 15 minutes to try to buy a concert ticket for my 13-year-old. I want to take three, and I'll go away if it takes longer than that,” he said.

“It's no different in the B2B (business-to-business) world. Typically we've been caught up in this world where it's a very slow laborious process of evaluation, demo, selection. But more and more clients are doing most of the research on their own, and once they get to that buying process they want that experience to be extremely efficient.”

Berridge gave the example of Coats, which is the oldest and largest manufacturer of thread in the world, and one of Bluewolf's clients. Coats' success is predicated upon its ability to work with the manufacturers of clothes, and also with retailers.

“They kind of have the Intel conundrum – the old 'Intel Inside' sticker that used to sit on laptops. They weren't serving end customers necessarily but they knew early on that they needed that brand to be out there,” he said.

“So Coats is working on the same thing. They're trying to figure out what consumers want when it comes to different types of sports wear, different types of formal wear, and then start to feed that information back to the actual manufacturers of these products.”

Bluewolf worked with Coats to interview over 25 C-level sales directors from around the globe to analyse current sales and opportunity management processes. In total, over 72 individual business processes were mapped and aligned into five global processes.

These five processes were then used as a benchmark to produce a Salesforce solution that would initially be rolled out to the EMEA region, and then to other areas. As a result, Berridge said that Coats has completely transformed its business and its brand.

“You walk into their office today and it feels like a Silicon Valley company, and their whole culture is centred around, how do we learn more about our clients? How do we stay ahead of where Nike wants to be, for example, which is one of their biggest customers,” he said.

“They want to be bringing ideas to Nike saying, here's how the next generation is going to want to perform. Whereas if they stayed in the background and just provided what Nike is asking them for, their business would get commoditised.

“It's easy to sit there and do what someone tells you to do. It's much more difficult to come up with the ideas and to innovate, and they're using Salesforce to capture a lot of that information, do a lot of the analysis, and they're using social as a way to measure a lot of those outcomes.”

Standing in the end user's shoes

Another company that has transformed its sales model with the help of Bluewolf and Salesforce.com is US food distributor Sysco, which supplies a wide range of restaurants, hotels, delicatessens and pubs throughout the country.

Sysco has a very traditional sales model, whereby sales reps go into these establishments in person to take orders, promote new food and fend off the competition. A few years ago, Sysco rolled out a Salesforce-based CRM system, which was intended to make the whole process much more efficient.

However, what Sysco hadn't taken into account was that its sales people often have a very short period of time to interact with deli owners and restaurant proprietors, and that this interaction is often in a noisy corridor, so the Sysco reps weren't able to open up a laptop and get a wireless connection before they started taking orders.

“Salesforce in the background is a great way to collect all this information, but what we had to figure out was, how do I collect the relevant data in front of the customer, while making that customer interface more efficient instead of less efficient,” said Berridge.

Bluewolf therefore developed a mobile app called Sales Visit, which uses GPS technology to pinpoint the sales rep's position and bring up the relevant customer's details.

“So if you walk in a deli and pull a phone out of your pocket, a picture of that deli owner is sitting there; the last thing he ordered from you is sitting there; the sample that he ordered two weeks ago that you need to ask him about to see if he's ready to start placing an order is sitting there.”

The application is also voice-activated, so the sales rep can dictate a list of products while standing in a corridor. The app takes the information and creates a task in Salesforce, which then gets routed on to the order department.

“We've just made that experience completely efficient, and we've ensured that whatever tasks typically fall through the cracks don't fall through the cracks any more,” said Berridge.

“It's important because Sysco is a $60 billion company. If a rep has 10 follow-ups a day and he forgets one of them, that's a 10 percent leakage of task follow-up. If they can capture one percent of those tasks, it translates from an ROI perspective into a $400 million annual revenue uptick, without having to go find another customer.”

Berridge said that while most organisations build technology based on guesswork about what is going to work and not work, Bluewolf's approach is to go and stand in the shoes of the people that are going to use the technology.

In the case of Sysco, Berridge himself spent a whole day with a Sysco sales rep, in order to work out what they could realistically do on a daily basis, given their work environment and the logistics they have to deal with, and then built an application to suit that environment.

Bridging the business and IT

Increasingly, these decisions are being driven by the business side of the organisation rather that the IT department, so a lot of Bluewolf's job is to facilitate the communication between what the business wants and what IT can actually deliver.

“It obviously always needs IT's sponsorship and involvement, but one of the biggest mistakes that we see organisations make is they give all the responsibility to IT, and that's not fair. The business has to have top-down sponsorship,” he said.

He added that forward-thinking CIOs understand that IT is not about keeping systems up and running but about innovation, and this means breaking down silos within the organisation so that different depatyments can work more collaboratively together.

“All of us have built these structural concepts of what a company is made up of – sales, marketing, customer service, finance, back office, information technology,” he said.

“The customer doesn't care about any of that. When I try to buy concert tickets and I have an issue so I need to call someone, I don't care if they work in customer service, sales, marketing, I just want the tickets, I want good seats, I want a good experience. That silo is the trip wire that we all fall over.”

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