RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte: The Future Is On-Demand

Earlier this week, RightNow Technologies announced its acquisition of Salesnet, an on-demand vendor known for its highly specialized sales methodologies.

It was a coup for the Bozeman, Mont.-based vendor, says founder and CEO Greg Gianforte, for a number of reasons — not least because it lopped a year off the company’s product development schedule.

“We saw that Salesnet had some of the key capabilities that were on our road map — but that we wouldn’t get to until 2008,” Gianforte told CRM Buyer in an exclusive interview. Following are excerpts from that conversation.

CRM Buyer: What other factors prompted you to decide Salesnet was a good fit?

Gianforte: The people and domain expertise. Currently we are hiring people at the rate of about one a day. We saw this as an opportunity to acquire a team that has deep sales force automation expertise. Also, the acquisition significantly increases our total customer base.

CRM Buyer: Tell me more about the integration process.

Gianforte: We will continue to support Salesnet for the foreseeable future. This summer we will have an initial integration completed.

The Salesnet product will become RightNow Salesnet and in the interim we will continue to sell RightNow Sales, our own sales application. We will be bringing those two solutions together in 2007 — a single super set of Salesnet and RightNow functionality.

CRM Buyer: How will the acquisition reposition you in the on-demand market?

Gianforte: The acquisition is an opportunity to target those companies that want RightNow’s knowledge foundation and artificial intelligence combined with Salesnet’s guided selling processes.

CRM Buyer: How do you think you differ from the other on-demand CRM vendors?

Gianforte: We have always focused more on mission-critical processes — I draw that as a line of distinction between us and other vendors., for example, has done a nice job with AppExchange. As they become the eBay of applications, we have chosen a different course, focusing on deep capabilities for which we are accountable.

If a company wants a catalog of products, it has a clear choice [of which vendor to choose]. Conversely, if a company wants a vendor who will be accountable for business results, then that choice is clear too.

CRM Buyer: What stood out as you were doing your due diligence on Salesnet?

Gianforte: The loyalty of their customers is very impressive. They just love them. I have heard analysts say RightNow doesn’t have customers — it has a cult following. So at that level, the due diligence felt like I was coming home. You don’t often find that in the software industry.

CRM Buyer: Do you see yourself making another acquisition?

Gianforte: This is our second acquisition. Last year, we acquired Convergent Voice, a voice automation vendor. As we look at fulfilling our product road map we will look at buying, building and partnering with other companies — so more acquisitions are certainly a possibility.

CRM Buyer: On what areas are you going to focus?

Gianforte: Anything related to the way a company touches its customers — over phone or outbound marketing communications, for example. It would have to be an opportunity to broaden our domain base — and, of course, we are much more apt to look at companies that deliver on the on-demand model.

CRM Buyer: Where do you see the on-demand market in the next five years?

Gianforte: I don’t think there will be one — I think you will have a CRM market and it will all be on-demand. There is a fundamental shift occurring with power moving from the company to the customer. On-demand is the future.

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