Jon Ferrara is the founder and CEO of Nimble, a social sales and marketing CRM company based in Santa Monica, California.
Nimble helps companies identify the right people for their businesses, with the goal of turning conversations into measurable outcomes. Its vision is to make the job of all customer-facing team members easier and more effective.
In this exclusive interview, Ferrara offers his insights on the latest developments and trends in CRM.
Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara
CRM Buyer: Why is social context important in CRM?
Jon Ferrara: The reality of relationships is that people buy from people they like, know and trust. In the old days, before we ever engaged in selling, we made a connection by looking at books, things on the shelves, that kind of thing. Today, we’re doing that more and more electronically.
Social is the perfect way to know more about somebody, and that’s actually your job. You should do that before every call — you should prep by getting to know someone. Social context helps you do that.
What’s the most useful kind of social context?
Ferrara: People connect through family, friends, food, fun, and fellowship. If you find a place of connectivity, you can share that with the person.
For instance, I had a meeting with someone, and before that meeting, I learned that he was an assistant scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts. Anyone who has done that knows it’s an important experience. Knowing that about him gave us instant camaraderie.
In many cases in business, people put up walls, and you have to earn their trust. LinkedIn is like walking into my lobby. You’ll learn about my business persona and know more about another human being. But people buy from people, not from businesses. This is what Dale Carnegie taught, and today we’re just doing it in a new way in the digital era.
Another example is today; before you meet with someone, you typically google them. That’s you working for your CRM, and it’s a waste of time.
Most people work for their CRM — it doesn’t work for them. That’s the biggest cause of failure for CRM. Even when you do google someone, things change, and that information might be old. Your CRM should work for you and work with you wherever you’re working.
Why is mobile connectivity important for CRM?
Ferrara: It’s not just the mobile phone. Most CRM is not really designed for relationships but for reporting. If they weren’t forced to use CRM, most people wouldn’t.
When I think of mobile, I think of portability. You enrich it with email data and have a plug-in on your browser so you can use it wherever you are. That gives you contacts and insights. Who are they, and what is their business? If you have contacts and insights, you’ll be more connected.
The ability to have that mobile context wherever you are gives you the insights you need to make connections. Your CRM should work for you. That is the future of CRM. You don’t have to go to it to use it. Instead, it will go anywhere you are, where you are connecting and engaging.
What role does artificial intelligence play in CRM? How is that role evolving?
Ferrara: You need to enrich the data and then use AI to surface opportunities and engagement. Most people have thousands of connections, and you need AI to listen to signals and surface the ones that matter, and then you need a nudge on your shoulder to follow through and connect and reconnect with people.
AI is like a second brain that helps you follow through and stay in touch with the right people at the right time and the right place.
What’s the key to effectively enriching data?
Ferrara: You need to be able to take any disparate piece of information and derive additional information. Most salespeople are googling people and then logging that information into their CRM. Even if they do that, however, the data changes so rapidly that it decays.
We use dozens of external databases on a business and personal level to enable connections and engagement. The age of cold calling has transitioned from “bag ’em and tag ’em” to establishing yourself as a trusted advisor, and to do that, you need to use content to inspire and educate.
Why are automatic updates important in managing a CRM system?
Ferrara: People change, and companies change. One of the biggest struggles that salespeople have is creating records and updating records.
If you can take away the mundane things that computers should be doing, it will free the sales reps up for things that only they can do, like logging a note scheduling a task, or connecting on social in a relevant and authentic way. That’s what computers are for. They were designed to automate all of this.
How is CRM changing? What’s in the future for it?
Ferrara: One of the biggest causes of CRM failure is that businesses just give it to their salespeople. It is not just for salespeople. It should be used by everybody in the company.
The first step to success is to have a unified relationship platform that’s cross-departmental. Today you have sales, marketing, customer service, accounting — and Nimble can co-exist with those by unifying contacts and working back inside them, as well. It can be used across departments, so you can see the history of interactions.
CRM is going to evolve to be a company-wide relationship record, and in the future, it will be used by all the different team members. It will evolve to become a platform that works with you in any place you are engaging. That will cause it to be used more often.
A lot of people see CRM as a beast and a burden that they have to nurture and feed but imagine if it actually helped that business’ people and the people they’re connecting to.
CRM will evolve to be used by outside constituencies as well. Most companies have CRM for salespeople, but other departments use spreadsheets. That’s really problematic. CRM will evolve from being a platform used just by salespeople to become a platform used by the entire team.