SAP @ CeBIT and Sales OnDemand
With the introduction of Sales OnDemand at CeBIT today, SAP has made plain its strategy for moving its customers to the cloud or whatever you want to call it. SAP is fundamentally offering a hybrid strategy that enables its customers to dip a toe in the water and migrate over time. Most major vendors with a legacy customer base are doing likewise.
So Sales OnDemand is made to work with both the SAP Business ByDesign base platform and to look and act somewhat like Facebook and Twitter. There are some nice touches in Sales OnDemand and some interesting marketing.
The product looks and acts like its social progenitors and it uses the concept of a feed — as in each member of the group by default generates a feed that others in the group can subscribe to. I think the same is true for important inanimate objects like the sales forecast but I don’t recall if that was part of the briefing.
The briefing did spend a decent amount of time focusing on the idea that selling is less about the exploits of a lone wolf today and more about the success of a group but not necessarily a group of co-equal people doing the same thing in different territories. The new model is more like the hybrid selling model I have reported espoused by Anneke Seley and others where inside and field sales people, product specialists and possibly with a few marketers, work together to bring in deals.
That SAP sees this as a new and important style of selling as well as computing is important. We in the industry generally see the introduction of new products like this as the continuation of a paradigm but I think that would be a misreading of the reality.
There is no doubt that the marketplace has changed in the last few years — buffeted by a global recession and a slow recovery. But other important factors are playing on the market as well such as the continuing rise in transportation costs and slack demand.
There is no shortage of supply, which ought to warm the hearts of the most ardent supply-siders but demand is down in key areas due to demographic shifts — e.g. we are older and less prone to buy things. But also, demand is shifting to a more globalized emerging world where a young and aspiring middle class is arising.
In this scenario, the confluence of social networking, analytics and traditional CRM is necessary. Selling in this scenario is much harder than the original selling that captured the customer base in the first place. SAP is not the only vendor to see this but they should still be saluted for moving in that direction.
So SAP sometimes refers to the style of selling that it is gravitating towards with a reference to “it takes a village” and I suppose that’s a good analogy. A village raises a child in the big picture though each member of the village may never have more than a momentary influence. I get it and it makes sense, the village is the medium that enables everyone to contribute. Selling needs a similar medium.
Long ago there was an organizational philosophy that everyone in the organization sells. Of course, it wasn’t literally true but today it can be. With a social SFA product like Sales OnDemand the people who need to know about and who can influence a deal can have access to the information that enables them to contribute. As I said above, I get it.
Now for the interesting marketing
Why does SAP feel a need to compare its SFA product to Facebook and Twitter. I understand the connection and having used the product briefly, I can say that the comparison is apt. My quibble is that the comparison has already been made by others and it does nothing for SAP or any vendor to arrive later with the same message.
The important point about a product like Sales OnDemand or Salesforce and Chatter is that they harness Wisdom of Crowds techniques to, and please pay attention to this, generate or capture intellectual property for a company. You might find it a stretch to call this IP, but what is it if it is not part of the knowhow, wherewithal, designs and patents that any company generates for the purpose of making money?
The information that pops out of a social tool that is tethered to a corporation for business purposes is unique and part of what that company can use to generate revenue. If you think it’s not IP or valuable, ask yourself how many of your competitors would like to know what you know about your customers’ needs and preferences. I thought so.
So any vendor that casually sticks a Facebook or Twitter tag on its products with less thought than a NASCAR team painting its car should take note. Your product might have feeds and it might have a user interface that mimics a social networking tool but it is way more important than that.
It’s my understanding that SAP will spend the next few months in a rolling thunder campaign for Sales OnDemand and make a big splash at Sapphire. I hope by then they find a way to communicate that Sales OnDemand is a new tool for a changed world. Other vendors are moving this way and SAP’s offering appears to be a credible addition to the flock.