“As a Sales Person I Had Always Been Interested in Automation” - an Interview with Denis Pombriant
Editor’s note: CRM software becomes more and more required by small business owners and large companies. And today, we present you an interview with Denis Pombriant, an analyst, and speaker who has the unique understanding of CRM industry. He is an experienced executive of Beagle Research Group whose scenarios of SaaS applying and profound insights into vendor-end customer relationships have significant effects on the technology integration into business strategies.
In this interview, Denis uncovers his success story and shares with us his interests and the influence they have on his work. He also describes the possible impact of the technology and social media on the customer data and business in general.
1. Denis, you are influential consultant and analyst, but would you mind telling us about your education background and events that brought you to success in CRM industry?
I started out trying to become a scientist and have a degree in English and a lot of course work in science. One university thinks I only have 2 more French courses to pass before I take a second bachelor's degree in biochemistry. LOL!
I worked in a medical lab for about 5 years as a certified medical technologist before getting into the software industry. In my first job I sold lab management systems and eventually became the product manager for a new system for anatomic pathology. In that role I learned a lot about markets and how they take up products and become saturated. I was a lesson I have always carried with me.
Most of my career involved selling software and I grew frustrated by the huge amount of data that salespeople have to deal with and back then there was no technology to help out. I remember collaborating with my SE to build a crude contact management system on our mini-computer which displeased my boss very much because I was wasting valuable technical resources.
But I've always been a student of selling and of trying to figure out which customer will buy. It's a tough question to answer and without technology it's all a mystery. That's what drives my interest in sales processes and CRM, and it's a reason I began advocating for social networking, data capture and analytics becoming part of CRM way back in 2002.
2. You have predicted the disruption of SaaS and since 2000 you promote and give the critical reviews of on-demand technology. How did you build your interest about CRM?
As a sales person I had always been interested in automation so that was a natural thing to follow. Disruption comes from a great book by Peter Drucker, "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" from 1984. He was the first person I read that discussed how markets disrupt and reform. His work was influenced, I think, by the work of the early 20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter who coined the idea of creative destruction. We are living through a turbulent time when a great deal has been disrupted but this is not unique and I do not foresee disruption going away. It has been a constant since the Industrial Revolution started in about 1750. Interestingly, since that time, we've experienced wave after wave of disruptions first in textiles but then in energy (coal then petroleum), materials (iron then steel), transportation (railroads, then cars, then airplanes), communication (mail, telegraph, phone, radio, TV, Fax, Internet). The great Russian economist who is almost forgotten in the West, Nicolai Kondratiev figured all that out and he is one of my heroes.
3. Denis, you have the unique understanding of CRM industry and offer various ideas for the software improvement in multiple reviews. Do you use CRM system by yourself? And which one?
I work alone and don't market or service anything. I do projects and the most valuable thing in my work is a good contact list. So, sadly, I do not use CRM though my former career has taught me its importance.
4. The 2004 was a remarkable year for you, as long as you founded Beagle Research Group, LLC. What types of vendors and businesses are your clients?
Most of my work engages vendors and I have done projects for just about every company out there. I prefer to sign up for annual retainers that include specific deliverables over time. This enables me to really get to know a company and a technology and works well for everyone.
5. In applying new technology to business objectives what are the essential features of CRM you advice to take into account? What tools should be obligatory and what can be optional?
This is a moving target and the subject of my new book, "Solve for the Customer," which will be out in January. New technology makes new processes possible so the business objectives change constantly because what wasn't possible before suddenly is. The major issue of our day is the great shift going on from transaction oriented business to process oriented business. Early CRM automated data storage and it wasn't too particular about which data was captured or its quality. Our interest in data only went as far as its support for the next transaction, which put off many customers. Today we know we need to extract information from data and that we need to support whole business processes. Supporting mere transactions is a great way to lose customers from what I see.
Our early attempts at applying social media to business were disasters primarily because we used SM as if it was just a cheaper and faster way to broadcast offers. That's not the point of SM but it's to be expected with new technologies. The real power of SM is its ability to increase the number of people we can be on familiar terms with (mathematically, there's something called the Dunbar Number that you might want to look up). Part of the problem with early attempts is that they needed more than what SM could deliver. Recent advances like journey mapping have helped bring us full circle. Analytics cull customer data so that we can understand what's important to them. Journey maps help us build what's important -- which I call moments of truth -- into customer facing processes, and social media helps us communicate the right messages at the right time. In "Solve for the Customer" I refer to this whole process as a new science, Customer Science.
Ok, we've already discussed "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" and Drucker's other books are valuable too. 1) Darwin, especially "Origin of Species," it's about evolution, of course, but its ideas can be applied to business and any marketplace too. I especially like the way Darwin relentlessly presents data to support his contentions. In a way today's great debate about global warming reminds me of all the nay sayers who refused to believe Darwin. I named my company after the HMS Beagle which was the boat that carried Darwin around the world because I think he's that important.
Shakespeare's great tragedies MacBeth, Lear, Othello, Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare was the first playwright with a modern point of view that the universe is neutral and uncaring about humanity. We are the masters of our own fate.
It's impossible to boil it all down to 4 books. Let me leave you with several candidates for #4 -- Catch-22, all of Homer, some of Herodotus, several Hemingway and Faulkner. Dan Jenkins' football and golf novels.
We’d like to thank Denis for this bright and vivid interview. We appreciate his frankness and hope that our readers find it not just interesting, but also useful.
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