Big data and related developments in data science and machine learning have opened a new world of CRM to small business. 

Our industry’s love affair with the cloud has focussed attention on the benefits of ‘low-touch’ on-demand software and services, which have never been easier to access and scale almost to infinity. It is great stuff for business but for most part ignores developments at the core of CRM. And one development set to take CRM in a new direction is big data. Businesses, particularly small businesses, should take notice, because big data and related developments in data science and machine learning will introduce click-and-go CRM that syncs with tools businesses are using right now, so they can get started in minutes, with no setup costs, and manage everything themselves – no administrative support required.

I’m talking about SalesforceIQ – client software from Salesforce that draws information from productivity applications (think email, calendars, and marketing systems) and connects who you’re talking to with what needs to be done, and when.

What happened?

Last year Salesforce acquired RelateIQ, a data-driven company that sells an email client, calendar, and dashboards that help businesses manage sales. The really clever thing about RelateIQ is how it automatically captures and analyses information from email and calendar apps, tracing patterns and instructing salespeople about their next moves.

The brainchild of company co-founder and current CEO Steve Loughlin, RelateIQ was developed to simplify the way customer data is managed and, in the process, keep salespeople quick on their feet. In his words: "Every time we schedule something in a calendar, it’s an explosion. Sales reps spend more time filtering data and less time selling. On average, they spend 28 hours weekly reading and answering emails, and representatives update their CRM four times a week."

Loughlin’s answer (and now Salesforce’s) was software that integrates inboxes, calendars, and productivity software to map client relationships and highlight tasks. At its heart is data (masses of it) and algorithms that present prescriptive instructions to salespeople. And this is why Salesforce jumped at the opportunity to buy the company. John Somorjai, an executive who manages Salesforce’s mergers and acquisitions, explains: “RelateIQ’s approach brings data science and machine learning into enterprise context. You track deals, and your system tells you automatically how to follow up with somebody . . . it creates a prescriptive way of helping the sales person to close a deal more effectively. That was interesting, and we hadn’t seen anyone do that before."

Now what?

Salesforce has repackaged RelateIQ and last month launched SalesforceIQ for Small Business – out-of-the-box CRM for small businesses. A smart relationship-based application that draws information from calendars, email and marketing systems (including HubSpot, MailChimp, and Salesforce Pardot), SalesforceIQ for Small Business maps the nature of relationships between customers, prospects, and others in sales networks, using algorithms to make inferences from email exchanges, calendar events and attention paid to customers. Salespeople are able to automatically update their progress and sales from their inboxes and, in the other direction, CRM information is presented in email inboxes, minimising to-and-fro between systems.  Peter Brad, CEO of StartupAUS, “I was instantly intrigued by how simple this software was and how much time I would save. The best thing was when I installed the trial it just worked. It was easy and I literally didn't spend any time learning how to use it, how to integrate it. My leadership team is happy I'm updating the CRM reports regularly and I've got more time for my primary tasks.”

Whizzy stuff

Suggested Tasks recommends specific actions to salespeople. Closest Connections identifies people within the company or networks who are the best bet for opening doors in a target business. Intelligence Fields prioritise sales opportunities.

Read receipts tell salespeople when clients have opened their emails. Other features include follow-up email scheduling, a send-later function, pre-crafted email text, and the option to attach files from different cloud storage providers. A calendar widget for email allows salespeople to suggest meeting times, but only shows timeslots currently available when recipients open their email.

Don’t be fooled by data

Data capture isn’t the problem. The challenge is making sense of what you have and using insights and inference to usefully instruct salespeople. It takes brains, and these days clever software does more of the ‘thinking,’ leaving salespeople to focus on real work. Right now, many businesses are drowning in data – they can’t use it. With SalesforceIQ, businesses can make sense of data and use insights to drive more intelligent sales activity.

SalesforceIQ for Small Businesses is the first of similar apps that will apply artificial intelligence to sales processes.