Salesforce.com is a sales tool that is both widely recognized and widely used – helping reps track activity, helping sales managers improve coaching, and helping sales leaders allocate resources, set strategies, and create forecasts. But, because it was designed chiefly for ease of interpretation by managers, the app can be time-consuming for reps.
Even salespeople who use their own spreadsheets and note-taking apps to meticulously record and keep all the data Salesforce requires must spend hours each week re-entering the same data in Salesforce. This is not what reps would call hassle free.
That means wasting time that could better be used for selling – perhaps losing one deal per month or quarter. It means important data is delayed, so managers never see their pipelines in real time. Finally, it may mean some reps never enter all the data, or any data at all – defeating the whole purpose of Salesforce and leaving managers in the dark about what is going on with opportunities and deals.
At least that’s the way things look to IT entrepreneur Pouyan Salehi.
Salehi studied mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, worked as an engineer for several years, and then got an MBA from Harvard Business School. He managed iPhone units at Apple for three years and then began to do what is expected of Harvard MBAs: start new businesses. He co-founded StackMob, which provides technology for mobile and was acquired by PayPal. Next, he launched Lera Labs, a company that built several B2B SaaS products.
The now-experienced business builder then got involved in sales tech – specifically, sales engagement. “The problem was how to start a conversation with someone you didn’t know,” Salehi explains. Raising capital to solve the problem was hard, as most venture capitalists had never heard of sales engagement at the time. “Now, the field is crowded with lots of vendors.”
It was while Salehi was working on his sales-engagement start-up, PersistIQ, that problems with Salesforce hit him. “I was not out to start another company,” he remembers. “But I had a lot of empathy with sales reps, there were a bunch of small problems, and we connected the dots.”
Salehi was shadowing account execs and saw them having difficulty and being inefficient in working with Salesforce. “They were always switching browser tabs and double-clicking to take all the actions they needed to do anything.” Though not looking to start another company just yet, “The problem stuck with me.”
The basic problem was the original design priority of Salesforce. “It was built for managers,” Salehi stresses.
Salesforce execs themselves were aware of challenges reps encountered with the application. Salesforce launched its Lightning Platform so developers could build apps to connect better. And Salesforce partner Quip also offered tools to assist collaboration across sales teams.
Fortunately, Salesforce likes partners who can make its software more useful. Salehi estimates the “partner ecosystem” surrounding Salesforce is now two to three times the size of the core software.
Salesforce offers open APIs so others can build and connect entirely new apps with the market-leading CRM system.
In October 2019, Salehi and Cyrus Karbassiyoon decided to do just that. They launched Scratchpad, the first workspace designed specifically to help sales reps record and store their notes and update pipeline data at the speed of thought. And this particular workspace automatically and immediately enters all this critical data into Salesforce.
“We studied how reps work,” Salehi says. “Salesforce’s failure is adoption by reps. So we wanted to build a product that would match reps’ existing behavior.” He explains his approach this way: “Chefs have kitchens, artists have studios, and woodworkers have shops. But what do salespeople have? They were forced to hack together various apps that are all disconnected from each other and from Salesforce.”
Scratchpad’s aim is to combine spreadsheets, notes, tasks, Kanban boards (if reps use these), searches, and collaboration with other revenue team members – all while adhering to the company’s sales process – in a much more rep-friendly app. And, if reps find the Scratchpad workspace much easier to use, managers will inevitably get more accurate data from Salesforce, faster.
For example, reps mostly use their own spreadsheets to track and update opportunities. “They are doing the work already; they aren’t lazy,” Salehi observes. But, when it’s time to update Salesforce data before forecast review, reps must usually go to Salesforce’s Opportunities page, where they can’t actually update the fields. Instead, reps must click on each opportunity, wait for each page to load, hunt for the field to update, double-click, then make the update.
Or, some reps using Salesforce Lightning may go to a List View page, where they may update some (but not all) fields for his or her opportunities. For example, the Sales Notes field is not editable in Lightning, so reps must return to the click-wait-hunt-update method on the specific opportunity’s page.
And, if the rep is working with classic Salesforce, the options are even more limited. Here, Next Steps and Close Dates are really the only editable fields. Plus, the Next Steps field is severely limited in space, which can be frustrating if advancing an opportunity requires detailed or complicated steps.
The contrast with Scratchpad is stark. Scratchpad’s Opportunities tab looks like a spreadsheet, where all relevant data can be entered, updated and edited immediately during or after a sales call or contact with any opportunity. There’s no flipping between screens, scrolling to find the right entry box, or constantly hunting for each opportunity page, as in Salesforce. Just enter the latest data once for any field Salesforce tracks, and it is automatically entered in Salesforce.
This workspace can be customized in a variety of ways to suit each rep – creating different views of Opportunities that suit the needs of the moment. For example, the Opportunities tab can show only opportunities with expired close dates, so reps can quickly update the information. Or the tab can list only one-on-ones, where a rep can easily spot updates made in the past week.
Salespeople can even create Kanban boards, if that’s the way they like to work. Dragging and dropping items on these boards will instantly update the stages of the sales process, and reps can also dive deeper for more information on any opportunity. Operations managers can customize their own views of the data to suit their preferences.
Always, Scratchpad links with all Salesforce objects, with separate tabs for accounts, contacts, and quotes.
The app also has special features (called “tiles”) that represent different sales processes – for instance, MEDDIC or CoM. Reps just click on the tile for the process their company uses, and they will be offered just the fields they need to update. Reps can easily customize tiles for the process used. Then it’s fast and easy to get to the right fields.
“All reps work a little differently,” Salehi notes. “You have to build in flexibility.”
In all cases, the real-time link between Scratchpad and Salesforce works both ways. If other members of the revenue team add or update an item, it will immediately show up in Scratchpad.
Other common tools used by reps include Evernote, Apple Notes, and OneNote for taking notes. Scratchpad offers its own Note page designed just like these common apps – a freeform page for noting important information on an opportunity. Templates can be created, if desired – for example, for discovery calls or field plans.
When the rep links the note to the relevant opportunity, the note gives the rep instant access to that opportunity, so the rep can update any information immediately after a sales call when the information is fresh – not later, when it may be getting stale. And, again, all notes go immediately into Salesforce.
“Sales managers love to get information as fast and frequently as possible – ideally after every sales call,” Salehi observes. “Everything should go into the system of record.”
That ideal is rarely met in practice. “At best, they are getting updates once a week,” the Scratchpad CEO estimates. “And that takes reps an extra two to four hours to do.” Pipeline data is thus losing fidelity every day, and managers must also waste their time nagging reps to update data.
Worse than that, of course, is the situation that happens if a rep leaves and must hand off an opportunity to another rep – or the company switches territories among reps. Then the new rep may have to start all over if critical data is missing or out of date on an important opportunity.
So Scratchpad does more than just relieve harried reps. “If you’re an account executive who is constantly being nagged to update Salesforce, a manager who is doing the nagging, or an ops leader who is buried in validation rules and required fields to get your team to follow your sales process,” Salehi thinks you will love Scratchpad.
Reaction from reps has been enthusiastic. Enterprise Account Executive Saura Johnston credits Scratchpad with “life-altering productivity” and estimates the tool saves her four to seven hours a week. Mitch Miller, an account exec with Talkdesk, says he is “blown away at how much time it is saving our team, with updating opportunities, next steps, notes, and so forth.”
Sales managers are equally impressed. Mark Tapscott, director of international sales for Wallbox, says Scratchpad “makes interacting with Salesforce and managing teams a more intuitive and faster experience than any version of Salesforce I’ve encountered.” Chief Revenue Officer Scott Kiever says his reps love it, and Scratchpad offers “a much more efficient way of putting updates in real time.”
As Scratchpad grows, it will tend to support larger sales forces at larger companies. Salehi thinks the benefits will be even larger. “Larger companies have more problems with Salesforce,” he argues. “A rep at a large company has to scroll through five or six pages just to find an opportunity. Change management is harder; the onboarding process becomes harder. It’s a Frankenstein monster.”
For more information, go to Scratchpad.com.