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Selling Power Magazine Article
The Tech Trends for B2B Sales Today
The popular press reviews for the new Research In Motion (RIM) tablet are tepid – some pundits even are rushing to bury the device – but be prepared to be surprised. “We are making a major push with the BlackBerry PlayBook. We are launching many apps that will run on it,” says Dan Mahowald, vice president of enterprise mobility at SAP.
And SAP is not alone. Many business-software companies are focusing on the new BlackBerry tablet, just introduced in April and still a work in progress. It has flaws, as noted by many reviewers, but others see great potential, particularly for mobile sales teams. The reason for optimism is simple: The PlayBook is as secure as the BlackBerry itself (and that is good enough to pass muster at almost all organizations) and, importantly, PlayBook runs Adobe Flash, which means tools such as SAP’s Xcelsius dashboards that do not run on iPad (with its ban on Flash-based tools) will run without a hitch on the PlayBook.
Between enterprise-grade security and Flash compatibility, business-software writers are taking a long look at the PlayBook, and many like what they see. Add in dazzling graphics, a highly portable seven-inch size, and an HDMI port that allows for projection of PowerPoint shows onto big screens, and BlackBerry may have a tablet that could give the iPad a run for its money.
Probably the biggest issue upon the PlayBook’s release was the scarcity of applications to run on it, but that is being remedied as more app developers see its business potential. RIM has taken steps to allow at least some Android apps to run on PlayBook, and while it isn’t likely to rival Apple’s 300,000-title Apps Store anytime soon, BlackBerry App World, little by little, is filling up with tools that matter to mobile professionals.
And that is why many sales managers and reps are taking a close look at PlayBook. It just may rise above those early, lukewarm reviews.
The wake-up moment came when the Wall Street Journal tabbed sales-compensation company Xactly at number three in its roundup of top venture-backed companies. That made Xactly a company not to be ignored, and, says CEO Christopher Cabrera, the ranking resulted from “a perfect storm.”
He explains, “You can’t find companies that are happy with how they pay. In the past, software developers tried to solve this with big, heavy, expensive software. The sea change came with Software-as-a-Service that lets us rent our software. This lets price points come way down. We have finally cracked the code.”
Companies have long used Excel to calculate sales compensation, but there is little dispute that using the Microsoft spreadsheet is time consuming and error prone. Miscalculations are so frequent, most reps do so-called shadow accounting to keep tabs on the official calculations.
“With companies using Excel,” Cabrera says, “they are paying their reps three or four weeks in arrears, in the best case. Their pay comes as a surprise a month later. That just does not drive behavior. On our system, the reps can see their compensation every day. This motivates them. So why not tap into the coin-operated mentality of sales reps? Xactly lets you. We help design plans that are visible to reps; you will see their behavior change.”
Cabrera says that commission-estimation tools that let a rep see how much he or she would earn after making a particular sale at a particular price point are especially popular. Xactly takes all the guesswork out of the calculation, and, suggests Cabrera, this turns Xactly into a powerful motivator.
Xactly plans start as low as $30 per rep per month and escalate to $70 per rep per month for organizations that want richer analytics. “We have democratized sales-compensation software. Any company can afford it,” says Cabrera.
Back in the day, Jon Ferrara was a cofounder of the groundbreaking CRM software company GoldMine, but now he is back and hip deep “in the social river,” as he puts it, with startup Nimble, a new online tool designed to make sense and connect the many dots of our multiplying digital relationships.
“What are relationships all about?” he asks. “People, activities, relationships. That was at the root of GoldMine. It hasn’t changed. These are still what matter. What has changed is how we communicate.”
Sign up for Nimble (it’s free for individuals, but fees kick in for team-based use when team members share insights and contacts), and it swiftly sorts through a person’s Gmail and Google contacts and LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. “We integrate it all with your calendar, too,” says Ferrara.
Nimble sees you are meeting later today with client “X,” so it tells you what it has recently gleaned about this prospect via the social networks. A core Ferrara belief: “You should not have to type in much data. Nimble does it for you.” He adds, “Nimble is a Web-based solution that integrates your connections into one simple tool. We connect things in a way that will make you more powerful, more effective.”
Understand this, too: at bottom, (continued on page 2)
– Robert McGarvey
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