Ep. 123 | Are CRMs Broken?

Customer-relationship management, or CRM, technology partnered with marketing automation software gives B2B companies of all sizes the ability to personally engage with prospects as they transition from unkown website visitors to leads to customers.

But is how we use CRMs broken? Or, specifically, how we don’t use them?

This week on the Rethink Marketing podcast, we chat with Adam Honig, the co-founder and CEO of Spiro  Technologies, about how they’ve used AI to reinvent the CRM. Adam is a 25-year veteran of the tech industry.

In our conversation, we talk about what is wrong with CRMs and how it can be better. For example, did you know most sales people would rather visit the dentist than spend time entering data in their CRM?

Picture of Adam Honig for the Rethink Marketing podcast where he talks about CRMs, sales teams and marketing automation software

Startup Origin Story & Scarlett Johansson

Nathan: Some startups have origin stories in a garage. Yours is in a movie theater. How does watching the AI-themed movie Her inspire you to create Spiro?

Adam: Yeah, it’s an interesting story. My last company, the one that I started previous to this, I had built to be one of the largest consulting firms that focused on Salesforce.com projects. When the company was close to 200 people, I sold that business in 2012. A lot of people know, starting a business, running a business is pretty hard work. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to many movies. After I sold the business, I did go to the movies and the first movie I saw was this movie called Her.

I don’t know if people remember it, Joaquin Phoenix stars in the movie. He plays a guy who in the not too distant future downloads a new version of his phone operating system, which is played by the voice of Scarlett Johansson. Now, Nathan, she doesn’t appear in the movie. It’s just her voice. She basically guides Joaquin Phoenix through his day and helps him by reading his email, seeing what his appointments are, and eventually he falls in love with her because, you know, she’s Scarlett Johansson. I mean, come on, even though her physical presence isn’t there, just her voice is enough to make him fall in love.

I’m watching this movie, Nathan, and I’m really thinking to myself, this is amazing. I have solved the world’s biggest problem. Salespeople do not need Salesforce.com. What they need is Scarlett Johansson telling them what to do all day.

That was the flash of inspiration for me that really, really started Spiro.

Now, I do want to say just to make sure that the record is complete, Scarlett Johansson was not available at the time. She was like having a baby or something like that. She’s not involved in the project today.

Basically, what we learned from that movie was wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a CRM or some platform like that that could understand everything that’s going on in the salesperson’s life without them doing anything and then just update itself and provide leadership with all of the metrics and reports that they need.

That’s really kind of the core vision of what we learned from that movie.

Image quote from Adam Honig about inspiration for his CRM company

What is wrong with CRMs today?

Nathan: As you mentioned, you’re a veteran of the CRM industry. What is wrong with CRMs today?

Adam: I did a recent survey where I asked salespeople whether they would rather spend, have an extra visit at the dentist or spend time entering data in their CRM and they chose going to the dentist. I mean, this is the level of unhappiness there is out there with the product today. I spoke at a conference recently and I asked salespeople how much they liked their CRM and some guy literally threw something at me.

The reason why salespeople hate CRM, it’s pretty straightforward. It takes time away from what they really want to be doing, which is selling and working with customers. For every minute that they’re doing that, there’s probably another two minutes of typing in data into some box in CRMs.

If you think about it, it’s completely backwards. The CRM shouldn’t be causing the salesperson to do work. The CRM should be helping the salesperson get more done but that is just not the way that it is in almost every circumstance. That’s one of the reasons why we had so many customers who paid us millions of dollars to help them with CRM and then their sales teams never used it or they use it once a month when the forecast was due or something like that.

Nathan: I’ve seen sales tools adopted and soon abandoned. How do you guys break the cycle? What do you guys do differently?

Adam: Our vision is that, exactly what you said, the problem is that most companies have is that the salespeople don’t wind up using their CRM. There’s a lot of companies out there who are trying to fix that problem by making CRM easier to use, maybe making it work on mobile or look prettier or what have you.  Our approach is fundamentally different.

We’re saying that Spiro is a CRM that nobody needs to use.

What we mean by that is when you’re emailing with a prospect, it looks to see if the contact record for that prospect is already in Spiro. If it’s not and you’re having a sales conversation with the prospect, it’ll add it. It’ll start logging your emails with that person.

It’ll start understanding the context of the communication that you’re having with the prospect, both on the phone as well as in email to build a model of what should be going on with that account. As you’re developing an opportunity and progressing to a sale at that account, it’ll be reminding you and proactively recommending when you should be reaching out to make sure that you are making that deal move forward.

It’s a totally different approach to the problem. Instead of making it rely upon the salesperson doing something, the system is proactive in reaching out to the salesperson to make sure that the right things happen.

Check out our additional related content:

Got CRM?
Here’s Why You Need Act-On’s Marketing Automation Platform, Too

Does Spiro work with marketing automation software?

Nathan: Act-On is a marketing automation platform with the goal of generating leads for sales. Does Spiro work with marketing automation software platforms or other sales and marketing technologies, or is it a standalone product?

Adam: Almost every one of our customers has a marketing automation platform that they’re working with and quite a few work with Act-On as well.

One of the reasons why I’m so excited to be talking with you today. We’ve got a number of customers who are doing campaigning and generating leads with Act-On and those leads seamlessly get passed into Spiro that there’s a number of different ways that you can once a lead comes into Spiro that the sales team can be following up on it.

The most common is that when a new lead is generated in Spiro, Spiro puts out an alert to the salesperson to help them reach out to the new leads as quickly as possible. As we all know, timing and time to lead response is such an important factor that we’ve made that a priority in the product.

What do you tell companies afraid of leaving Salesforce?

Nathan: What advice do you give companies that are afraid about the switching costs of leaving their current CRM?

Adam: Listen, I make fun of Salesforce a lot, but you know, Salesforce is a great product and it’s well-suited for a lot of companies, especially the ones that enjoy having their sales teams do data entry.

If you’re considering moving off to Salesforce, what I would say is that there’s three main areas that you need to think about.

One is the integrations that you have with Salesforce, with other systems within your company, like your marketing automation platform or other things like that.

The other is the data itself that resides in your existing CRM platform and making sure that there’s a good plan for moving that to the new platform.

Then there’s the user training and making sure that people have expectations set about how they’re going to use the new platform and be successful with it and what success means.

One of the things that we did at Spiro right when we started the company, as we said, listen, we’re going to take the ownership for that. We literally do all of the integration that’s required. We migrate all of our customers’ data from whatever kind of CRM they’re using currently into Spiro ourselves.

We make sure it’s all set up correctly. Then we do the end user training as well. We really invest a lot to make sure that people are getting the advantages out of the platform that we see, because it is a little bit of a different way to use a product than something like Salesforce.com and so that’s super important to us.

I’m happy to say, we’ve moved about over 150 customers off of other CRM platforms at this point. We’ve not lost anybody in that process and we actually, we have a money-back guarantee, which is right on our website, which says, listen, if you go to Spiro and the sales team isn’t using it, we’re going to give you your money back. Guess what? We haven’t actually had to do that.