Interview: Yield Social Insights to Gain Better Sales Intelligence with Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble
If you’re like most of the Microsoft partners that I work with, you probably feel like you’re always walking on a tightrope. It’s a balancing act between the need to market your software and services and the need to do so with the limited marketing dollars at your disposal. A third factor is the need to justify the dollars you’re spending on marketing by showing a reasonable ROI.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara, and it is my hope that you will enjoy his story.
JR (Jon Rivers): We want to focus on Social Insights, but first, please tell us a little about the Nimble story.
JF (Jon Ferrara): The Nimble story is really centered around relationships because relationships power the world. In order to build and nurture good relationships, you really need to know who someone is and what they’re all about and, ideally, share what you have in common with this person. This helps to develop the trust needed to open up about their business needs, which you, as a professional, can then solve. This is as old as time. Nimble’s roots are centered in my original startup, Goldmine, which was Outlook and Salesforce combined before either existed. We pioneered CRM and contact management in (dare I say) the 90’s.
I got back in the business with Nimble when I started using social media and saw how it was going to change the way we work, play, buy, and sell. I wanted to start building my personal brand and a larger network. I wanted to be able to manage that network effectively, so I started to look for a contact management platform that was integrated with social media. I couldn’t find it. And then I was looking at CRM and realized that they weren’t really for nurturing relationships; they were more so for reporting.
The reason why they call it Salesforce is that you have to force salespeople to use it. I saw a business opportunity to create the first CRM that works for you by building itself from the contacts you already have around you (from G Suite, Office 365, business apps, and social platforms) and then enriches them with the people and company data you need to engage effectively. That’s your job: you need to know who somebody is and what their business is about before you even walk in the door. Most people try to Google people before they meet with them, and its too much work. Nimble’s story is really rooted in my past in pioneering relationships and our team’s insight on how the way social media was going to change the way we work.
JR: What are the essential elements of Social Insights?
JF: Social insights are simply the concept of understanding someone’s background. In the old days, when I wanted to get to know somebody, I went into their office and looked at their walls to see what books they were reading, what degrees they had, what school they went to, what knick-knacks they like to collect. All of these things gave me a clue about who they were. Ultimately these things are relationship insights. You need to know these things to determine how you can add value to this person because that’s really our job. Our job is to grow; we do that best by helping other people grow. So finding ways to add value is the easiest way for human beings to have success interacting with others. I often say this, but it’s true that people don’t buy great products -- they buy better versions of themselves. So you should be selling people better versions of themselves, and you can’t do that without people and company insights. I have an acronym called the “five f’s of life”: family, friends, food, fun, and fellowship. These are things that go beyond the business persona and connect those human beings with others through the good and the bad.
JR: Why should Social Insights be an integral part of CRM software applications, or is Nimble unique in this regard?
JF: Nimble is unique in its application of social insights within CRM. We pioneered social selling 10 years ago, back when every CRM was a basic database that was essentially only what the salesperson manually typed into it. There are two reasons why CRMs fail: lack of usage and bad data. Lack of use is because you work for the CRM, and you have to go to it to type in all your data manually, and nobody wants to do that. Even if you type that data in, it decays rapidly over time. The beauty of Nimble is that we maintain your data for you over time. That’s really what you need to have in a good, clean database.
JR: Can you tell us a little more about how Social Insights are integrated into Nimble CRM?
JF: When you put a name in Nimble, we will automatically map that person and the company’s background data to enrich that contact. If you give Nimble a first name, last name, social handle, or email address, it’ll go out and use AI to find the identities of that person or that company, map that data, and then bring it down into that contact record. You don’t even have to lift a finger. As I said, the biggest cause for CRM failure is lack of use because you end up having to work for it. You spend 60% of your time researching someone and then manually entering data into a system. I just think a computer should be doing that for you.
JR: What are the high-level benefits of Social Insights when prospecting?
JF: Going back to what I said before, it’s your job to know who someone is before you begin to engage with them. If you’re on a company website, or on social media, or reading a news article about a person or company, if you want to reach out to them effectively, you need to understand who they are so that when you do reach out, it feels like a meaningful 1-to-1 engagement. That’s the only way you can break through the clutter of today’s overcommunicated world. And social insights are invaluable to any type of prospecting.
JR: What role do Social Insights play in clients’ marketing strategies?
JF: If you have records that are enriched with people and company data (like in Nimble), we call that social insight. It’s contact and company data enrichment. When the data is enriched, you can then segment the records that are unique to the topic of outreach. When you blast 10,000 names with a generic email, you’re going to have terrible open rates. But if you take 10,000 names and break them into segments of a couple of hundred people that share unique traits (maybe experts in sales and marketing) and you reach out with a clear message on what value you can add to their business, then you’re going to get fantastic results. Any type of effective marketing requires 1-to-1 communication; that 1-to-1 communication can happen in a 1-to-many manner through segmentation, templated email outreach, and data enrichment. All of this is built into Nimble.
JR: How do Social Insights improve your clients’ ability to close sales?
JF: It’s irresponsible to approach a business person without knowing anything about them. Insights enable you to understand who someone is and what their business is about in order to engage with them to learn more about how you might add value and then propose your solution. They’re critical to every sale.
Here’s the deal: if you buy a CRM, you’re also going to have to buy your sales team sales intelligence software because you don’t want them Googling people. Then you’re going to have to buy outreach software for templated email outreach. Each of those tools can be a couple of hundred dollars per user per month. These tools won’t talk to each other, so then you’ll have to hire someone to manage it all. I think it’s critical that your marketing includes social insights for effective segmentation and outreach.
There are two types of marketing outreach: high-level outreach that might be a blast to a large database, but once someone starts to bite, there should be a 1-to-1 outreach from your sales rep. Think of a battlefield as your prospect community; the marketing automation platform your team uses is sort of like the bomber that flies over the battlefield and drops bombs at scale. But then, in order to win that war (or the heart of your prospects), you need boots on the ground (your sales reps). They need sales intelligence and email tracking, which are the maps and the rifles if you will.
JR: How do Social Insights improve your clients’ return on their CRM investment (ROI)?
JF: A CRM is just a dead database that you’re relying on your sales reps to put the data in; we all know human beings hate to type. Social insights improve the ROI of CRM by auto-populating data and keeping it up to date, so it’s more effective when the sales team picks up the phone and engages or when the marketing team tries to segment an outreach.
A CRM without social insights is just a dead database.
JR: What kinds of critical information can we learn by utilizing Social Insights?
JF: Social insights provide the critical details you need in order to create an effective outreach, deeper relationships, and a proposal that makes sense for the business. Without insights, you’re effectively selling blind.
JR: Can you give us an example of how a Channel Partner is using Social Insights to their advantage? Is there one real-life story that stands out in your mind?
JF: Eamon Moore is a Channel Partner in Ireland. He punches above his weight. He is a global SMB partner with Microsoft. He sits on Partner Advisory Boards (PACs). He’s been named partner of the year. I think all of that was possible because he used social insights to build his brand, his company’s brand, to build relationships with key Microsoft team members, and to maintain that brand. Without insights on people and companies he’s engaging, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish the success that he has.
JR: Can you tell us something about you than most people wouldn’t know about you, Jon?
JF: I’m a history nut. I really love digging through old maps and stories and even graveyards. I really believe that if you understand the past, you can better understand the present, and maybe even predict the future. I’m a bit of a bookworm.
As a technology-focused marketing agency that provides digital marketing services to channel partners, Marketing Monarchs walks the same tightrope that you do. And then I found Nimble. I’ve worked with and evaluated a dozen CRM systems in my day, and Nimble rises to the top because it’s reasonably priced, easy to set up, easy to use, and yet fully functional. Nimble has given many Microsoft channel partners, for whom most CRM solutions were beyond their needs and beyond their reach, the ability to have a great CRM system to help market their software and services to their clients and prospects. We even use Nimble internally and can assist you in configuring your system.
About our Guest
Jon is a serial entrepreneur and noted speaker about social, sales, and marketing. He has re-imagined CRM by building Nimble - The Simple CRM for Office 365 & G Suite. Ferrara is best known as the co-founder of GoldMine Software Corp, one of the early pioneers in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Small to Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs). Forbes has recently recognized him as one of the Top 10 Social CEOs, Top 10 Social Salespeople In The World, and Top 100 Marketing Influencers.
About the Author
Jon has been recognized as a pioneer within the partner channel as a digital marketing expert for his leadership in helping partners develop social brands, marketing strategies, and content to drive successful marketing campaigns.
Before starting Marketing Monarchs, Jon spent many years working in the Microsoft Dynamics ERP ecosystem system. Jon serves on various boards, including Directions North America, IAMCP (International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners), and CMA (Channel Marketing Alliance).