Today your Sales Superstar is CRM pioneer Jon Ferrara! He’s best known for co-founding GoldMine, one of the first CRM systems to revolutionise the sales process. It was the Outlook and Salesforce for millions of businesses in the 1990s.
Now, with more than 20 years of selling under his belt, Jon is back to reimagine the relationship management landscape once again with his Simply Smarter Social CRM, Nimble.
We asked Jon to tell us a little bit more about himself.
Jon grew up helping out at his father’s car dealership, but it didn’t quite have the expected effect on him:
“I grew up on my father’s automobile dealership watching him sell cars and decided when I was a teenager that I didn’t want to be in sales. I think that many young people don’t want to become their parents.
“Instead, I was inspired by my uncle, John Guerrera, an entrepreneur who helped invent radar and microwave at MIT in the 40s, started an aerospace firm in the 1970’s, was president of IEEE and helped establish the engineering program at my local university.
“I bought my first computer in 1978, when I graduated high school and choose computer science as my major. Because I needed money to pay my way through school, I got a job at a local computer store, and it turned out that I was really good at sales.
“I made twice as much money working part time selling computers during college as I would eventually as an entry-level computer scientist after I graduated. But I still didn’t want to sell. I chose the computer scientist route.
“My first job out of school was at Hughes Space and Communications Group and I worked in aerospace. I learned a lot at Hughes, including figuring out that I’m not an aerospace guy. So I got a job at a technology startup called Banyan Systems.
“It was there that I first got my taste of relationship selling and strategic selling.”
Striking a GoldMine
Jon finally accepted his sales destiny, but he soon noticed the lack of a good tool for sales and relationship management.
“Back in the day we got leads on sheets of paper called ‘Computer Intelligence Reports,’ which were simply the name and phone number of local IT decision makers. We would cold-call the leads, scribble notes on pieces of paper, put our appointments in leather Day-Timers, and communicate between each other with pink ‘while you were out’ slips.
“I thought the sales process was broken, and because of my technology background I thought I could fix it.
“I bought my first computer in 1978 and literally grew up with the birth of microcomputers. I knew almost every single software programme on the market at the time, and I knew there wasn’t a customer relationship platform that was designed for the whole company to help them manage customer engagement.
“So I quit my job in 1989 at 29 years old and created GoldMine. It was as if I heard notes in my head and needed to write a song and play it for people. I started to strum those ideas on my computer till I’d built enough to go out on the streets and show it to people. I worked my way into clubs and eventually worked my way up to the global stage.
“I imagined a platform that blended contact management, network scheduling, email, sales and marketing automation and collaboration. This would be a platform not just for salespeople, but for everyone in the company. It’s not just sales people who touch the customer. ”
Building on a bootstrap
“You have to really shift back in time to understand how radically different what we built was. It was 1990 and networks had just started.
“We wrote the first networkable business software, the first programme to integrate contacts, calendar, communications, email and sales and marketing automation.
“So how do you sell people something they don’t even know they need? My co-founder and I lived in an apartment in Los Angeles and we only had $5,000 in the bank. I knew I couldn’t reach prospects and customers by myself and I couldn’t afford to advertise.
“So I cold-called every Novell reseller in the country. I got them to use GoldMine because people sell what they know and they know what they use.
“If I could get the reseller to use GoldMine, he’d recommend it to the thousands of customers he’d already sold Novell networks to. These Novell resellers laid a network highway for tons of small businesses and we built the first networkable relationship manager to drive on it.
“That’s what bootstrapped GoldMine. We never took a dime of venture capital and we had no bank loans. We grew it the old-fashioned way and it lived up to its name.
“When we sold GoldMine in 1999, it was the #1 platform for relationship management with over 5 million customers and $75 million in annual revenue. We helped pioneer SFA, CRM and Marketing automation.
“GoldMine was the Outlook and Salesforce of its generation.”
Jon took some time away from the world of relationship management to raise three children, but found himself coming back to it eight years later.
“About 2007-08 I started using social media and saw how it would change the way we worked and played, as well as how customers would make buying decisions and how companies would engage them.
“I looked for a relationship platform that would enable me to manage relationships in a social age. But I found that contact managers had no idea about social, and CRMs had no idea about relationships or social.
“CRMs are actually Customer Reporting Management as opposed to Customer Relationship Management. People work for their CRM by logging what they know about the people and companies they are engaging and what they did with them.
“The reason they call it Salesforce is that you have to force salespeople to use it. Nobody likes to go to the CRM to type stuff in and lack of use is really the biggest cause of CRM failure.
“The tools weren’t designed for relationships. They also didn’t deliver contact and company context, or insights. So that’s why I built Nimble, to put the ‘R’ back into CRM.
“Nimble is the first relationship platform that works for you instead of you working for it by automatically building itself from your email, calendar, social contacts and interactions, and gives you instant context and insights on people and companies.
“This frees people up to do the human thing: connect with customers and build relationships.”
The future of relationship management
Jon built his career as a pioneer, so it’s no surprise that he’s already thinking about what will come next.
“Today we’re over-connected and over-communicated. Robin Dunbar studied how many relationships you can actually manage as a human being. It’s about 150, but most people’s networks are about 10,000.
“If I could serve you insights on your top 10 relationships every day it would help. But even if I do that you’ll get overwhelmed, because insights without action is more noise.
“The future of relationship management is a system that builds itself and works with you everywhere, but the magic will come when it actually takes action for you.
“Imagine if the software could do this: ‘Hey Jon, thanks for signing up. As an entrepreneur and a technology expert, you know the value of relationships. Did you know that Nimble is the number one relationship manager today? Here’s three start-up entrepreneurs using Nimble, and some case studies.’
“Then we could have that human conversation. We just need help with that process, and that’s the future of relationships.”
Key take away
“You won’t work where you work today in 1-5 years. The average time working at any job is three years. So your professional network is your net worth. Your personal brand plus your professional network equals your professional net worth. Start by building your personal brand and nurture your professional network to reach your dreams.
“Build an identity with a good picture, where people can see your face and eyes. Have a bio that talks about your 3 P’s: Passion, Plan and Purpose. Add links to places where people can learn more about you.
“Start sharing content daily that inspires and educates other people. Engage with those people. Follow up, identify people that matter and begin to nurture relationships.
“I call this the 5 E’s of social business: Educate, Enchant, Engage, Embrace and Empower your customers.
“Set yourself apart to be seen as a trusted advisor who is interested in helping people grow.
“Stop talking about how great you and your products are because nobody cares. People buy a better version of themselves, they don’t buy great products. If you teach people to fish, they will figure out you sell fishing poles.
“Do these things and your life will be transformed.”