By Pat Hinds
A few years ago I read a book on the history of the Palm Pilot (unfortunately I do not remember the title); at the time, Palm was the market share leader for hand-held Personal Information Managers (PIM). The founder of Palm, Jeff Hawkins, would test his product against the competitors’ new handheld contact managers by loading the competitors product with data and testing how long it would take to retrieve the data. Then, he would compare the results to the Palm Pilot’s ability to retrieve the same data; so long as it took less time and effort for the Pilot he felt he would be able to maintain market share. The passion Jeff showed towards making contact management accessible to consumers needs to be applied to getting sales people the information they require to convert information to sales success.
I am a proponent of focusing sales and marketing efforts on targeted verticals and market segments while building best practices to support targeted selling. In some of my earlier blogs, I made reference to the use of business intelligence (Building Market Share: Vertical Business Intelligence) and market size and share analysis (Becoming Market Share Aware: Market Size and Share) as best practices to ensure success in vertical selling. The next step is getting the data into the hands of your sales and marketing team in a format that is easy for them to access and is aligned with their existing sales tools. In a market that has contracted due to the economic recession, sales teams need to be mobilized with information that will help them compete for the deals.
The most effective tool for providing access BI and market data to your sales and marketing team is a Sales Force Automation/Customer Relationship Manager like SalesForce.com. The key to successfully expanding the functionality of a CRM tool to include market data and business intelligence is to think like Jeff Hawkins and create a environment the allows the sales and marketing teams to access the data quickly, as well use the information to target accounts for sales and marketing campaigns. If you are able to get information to your sales teams customer information faster than your competitors you will have a distinct market advantage.
“Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.”