B2B CRM, Social Selling and the Value of Open Source

Sometimes, the simplest technology change can enable the most profound change in business processes. I just had a talk with our new CMO Nick Halsey about something that we have not really talked much about leading up to the Sugar 6 launch.

And this seemingly insignificant change can potentially enable many of our existing customers to enhance their social CRM initiatives, and make Sugar 6 a very attractive tool for B2C and other sales organizations that might not fit the target of traditional B2B CRM. The change to which I am referring is that in Sugar 6 it is now possible to disable the required linking of Opportunities in the system to Accounts.

“So what?” You’re probably saying…

Well, for one, this decoupling is a breakaway from the “account-centric” approach to CRM upon which everyone has built CRM systems for the past couple decades or so. The fact that it was easy to do this in Sugar is a high testament to the value of an open, flexible platform.

Secondly, being able to associate opportunities to say Contacts, instead of Accounts, enables what I’d call social selling. You can sell, in a CRM system, to people.  This sounds redundant – but technically when we sell in B2B it is just that: a “business” selling to another “business.”

The implications here are vast. B2C firms can leverage CRM in interesting ways – using social media and contact management capabilities in CRM to identify, engage and convert individuals where they used to rely on retail and mass advertising to handle the last mile of conversion.  We can take a lot of the anonymity out of the B2C sales model.Think of it – call center agents could field incoming calls that get identified as Contacts in the system and then upsell or cross sell that Contact – not the Account. It is simply a faster and easier mode of closing deals – flexible to meet the needs of different business.

Also, by associating opportunities to a contact or group of contact can enable a social sales scenario for B2B: where we can identify the actual decision makers faster, and segment buyers inside an organization more easily – and use social media and networking tools to figure out which sales person should go after the contact – based on the level of authentic connection to that person.

I am thinking out loud here – but this simple change in one CRM system already has me thinking of multiple possibilities. It’ll be interesting to see where others take this – user organizations, partners etc. Social selling is here – for both B2B and B2C organizations; don’t miss the boat.