By Sramana Mitra and guest author Sudhindra Chada
A New Series on Sales 2.0
This is the first interview in a new series on sales 2.0, a topic that I have addressed regularly over the past several years. With the growth of SaaS and the rise of companies such as Salesforce.com and appssavvy, it’s time to explore this topic in more depth. Readers may also be interested in a guest miniseries, Anneke Seley on Sales 2.0, for more on what sales 2.0 is.
As enterprises across the globe are adopting sales 2.0 as part of their Web 2.0/3.0 journey, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform providers such as Brainshark are a unique case study. They have not only built successful sales 2.0 processes from the ground up and reaped huge benefits in their business, they have also identified the best practices in sales 2.0 implementation. How is Brainshark managing sales 2.0? Are there any challenges in implementing it? What does contacting and interacting with prospective customers look like at Brainshark? Has the relationship between sales and marketing changed at the company with the advent of sales 2.0? In this series, we uncover great insights by taking an early adopter’s perspective.
Mr. Dave Fitzgerald, executive vice president, oversees all aspects of Brainshark’s sales, marketing, and service operations. Fitzgerald brings more than twenty years of sales, marketing, and customer services operations at high-growth software companies. Prior to Brainshark, he was the senior VP of sales and services at ClearStory Systems, a digital asset management software company. He served as president and COO of the Americas operations for Eyretel, a British company providing call center optimization solutions. During his three years at the company, his operations increased quarterly revenue and gross margins by over 250%. Prior to Eyretel, Fitzgerald was senior VP of sales and alliances at Xchange Applications, where he participated in a very successful IPO. He also was group vice president at The Vantive Corporation. His career has been built on creating successful, high-growth sales, services, and marketing operations focused on delivering value-based business solutions.
Brainshark provides a SaaS platform that companies – from small and medium businesses (SMBs) to large enterprises, including Xerox, Monster.com, American Express, ING, the Special Olympics World Winter Games, and more, including one third of the Fortune 100 – use to create, narrate, share, and track online multimedia presentations. These presentations are typically used for training, sales, marketing, and HR/corporate communications. Customers have used Brainshark to reduce the costs of previous communications – including travel, Web conferencing, and printed collateral – by up to 90%. One Brainshark presentation is viewed every 3.5 seconds in locations all over the world.
SM: Dave, let’s get a little bit of context about your company and what you sell. How big is Brainshark?
DF: We have 172 people.
SM: What is your revenue, and what is your core product?
DF: Revenues are $30 million–$32 million. Our product is a SaaS platform that enables employees to create rich media communications with just five to ten minutes of training. Users can publish, share, and e-mail presentations. The author can also view the receipt and know how many people have watched the presentation.
SM: How many customers do you have?
DF: We have around 1,300 customers of various sizes. Any company or industry can use Brainshark.
SM: What is your pricing model?
DF: We have broad range of pricing. As a sample we have Free, Small (around $25,000 a year), Medium (around $50,000 a year), and Large (around $100,000 a year).
SM: Who is your buyer?
DF: The buyer has changed over the years. Historically, it has been departmental people. We used to sell to marketing and sales people as a learning management system. Now, our product is used for distance learning. It is still a departmental sale, but there are a lot of different departments such as HR, distributors, and so forth. We basically provide a platform that allows on-demand communication with tracking and analytics.
SM: What is your definition of sales 2.0?
DF: I honestly don’t have a definition. I think any top VP in sales would say the same. I think it is marketing and sales 2.0. It is where the sales and marketing processes intersect with newer technologies, a lot of which are SaaS based.
SM: We came from an age where a salesperson was very much a Rolodex-oriented guy. If that salesperson walked out of an organization, the Rolodex walked out with him. For the past ten to fifteen years, that seems to have shifted with the advent of customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
DF: Very much so.
SM: Another thing I have noticed is the synergy between lead generation and lead qualification.
DF: In the old days, if somebody was interested in your products, they would call you on the phone, talk to receptionist, and then be transferred to the sales department. The sales department controlled the flow of information to you. Today, we have the Internet; people don’t call you. They find out everything about you on the Internet through things like seminars, and they know more than the salesperson by the time they call. Times are changing; it’s changing from a world where the salesperson controls the process to a world where salespeople facilitate a buying process.
For a company to be successful, sales and marketing really need to work together. Without marketing, sales is dead. Sales is being pushed down in the buying process, and marketing is being given more of the responsibility to get information and start conversations with prospects about the company’s products and services. It is an entirely different world of lead generation, nurturing, and scoring. We touch leads at least eight or nine times before they speak with sales.
SM: Let’s talk about getting in touch with prospects. Let’s say it is not sales but marketing that is doing this. What does that process look like now?
DF: It starts at the front end in marketing in two forms: inbound marketing and outbound marketing. In outbound marketing, we are acquiring e-mails addresses and putting in systems such as salesforce.com and integrating those with a marketing automation system. Then we devise a communication stream (a series of touches) to reach prospects. There is a huge amount of data acquisition and maintenance in outbound marketing.
SM: What are the roles of technology and process in inbound marketing?
DF: It is a combination of the two. We have seventeen different SaaS technologies, including Salesforce.com, Eloqua, InsideView (sales intelligence), Jigsaw, OneSource, NetProspect, ZoomInfo (data sources), and Cloud9 (analytics on these data). And then a big one for us is Brainshark itself. The point here is that the idea of marketing and sales 2.0 is a collection of technologies that you need to integrate into a tightly worked back-end of technology, which is itself integrated into your processes. At Brainshark, we have seventeen different technologies all integrated together. I pay just under $500,000 a year. This works out to just under $4,000 a person, and that is my technology. Then there is process expense. I have no software at work; it is all in the cloud. I wouldn’t have been able to do it ten years ago.