Anyone who has used Nimble knows it represents an unusual take on the well-worn CRM moniker. Conceived by Jon Ferrara, the inventor of GoldMine, a 20th century CRM, Nimble CRM focuses on the idea of 'social selling.'
Nimble CRM starts with the thesis that the key to building a relationship with both potential and actual customers lies in understanding the relationships that exist inside social channels like Twitter and LinkedIn. It sounds simple, but once you get into Nimble, there's a lot on offer.
We have been playing with Nimble for a while but with so much on offer, we thought it more instructive to speak with customers who are using the solution in different ways.
Headhuntr.io - the background
First up, I spoke with Oliver Deng, CEO and co-founder Headhuntr.io. He has an interesting perspective because Deng has used a plethora of CRM solutions in his professional career and can speak with authority on the comparative value that Nimble delivers. Some background.
In a past life, Deng built and then sold B2B vendor Salesify:
Salesify is a sales intelligence company, mostly aimed at high tech. We took profiles from all around the world, processed those to tell you which companies use which technology products and then who within those companies are in charge of those products.
Headhuntr.io takes the same idea of aggregating and mining data but this time for recruiting purpose. In Headhuntr.io we're really figuring out what roles, skills, and products people know, based on business social networks like LinkedIn, Xing and Viadeo. We are processing some 300 million profiles, tagging and categorizing those folks. That enables recruiters to quickly find the most qualified people from a data perspective and in--turn allows the recruiting team to pre-qualify, based upon implied skills.
Deng maintains this works because job postings are usually explicit about requirements which can be pattern matched from the personal job experience information individuals include in their business-centric social graph.
Automating candidate discovery
However, individuals don't usually list every product or service with which they are experienced. Even so, Deng claims that information can be inferred from corporate data about current and recently past employment. Moreover, Deng claims that the majority of hires are not coming from job applicants but from what he terms 'passive applicants,' people who are not actively seeking a new challenge but may well fit specific profiles. That intuitively makes sense in a tight talent economy and reflects some of the practices I've seen in new department setups inside large organizations.
Headhuntr.io's trick is to automate the candidate discovery element of the hiring process which would otherwise require manual - and error-prone - labor. It also means that headhuntr.io can help companies reduce the competitive risks inherent in markets where skills are in high demand.
Choosing Nimble CRM
Deng enjoyed a long career at large enterprise and given that experience coupled with the sophisticated and complex nature of the problems Headhuntr.io is solving, I wondered why he chose Nimble over other solutions.
I've been on Salesforce, Oracle CRM and Siebel. Salesforce has all the bells and whistles but when we implemented it, the solution ended up quite expensive. And for all those bells and whistles on offer, how many people really use all those features? Conceptually it's a neat idea but when it comes down to, "Can you spot an opportunity, what intelligence is this producing?" I just felt that it doesn't really help the sales team in terms of, "How do I figure out ...?"
At the last company, I knew we were not going to do Salesforce. We went to the other extreme, opting for Zoho. A great product at an amazing price point but while it is certainly a jack of all trades, I didn’t feel it was master of many. So this time around I wanted a system that allows the business users to be their own admins. Nimble's ability to bring over LinkedIn profile data was a critical piece of the decision.
Given Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016, I wondered why Microsoft Dynamics didn't figure into the decision. Deng says that while the company uses Microsoft Office 365, Headhuntr.io's ambitious growth plans meant that Dynamics was prohibitively expensive.
But cost and the obvious benefits of the LinkedIn compatibility aside, I wanted to get Deng's take on Nimble's 'conversational' nature, since this is one of the main selling points. In large company deals, there are many points of influence towards what the salesperson hopes will be a large deal. We know this already, based on our many years' experience dealing with enterprises. What's less well understood is that each of those points of influence is also a potential sales target. How do salespeople respond to these opportunities? They usually don't.
Deep mining for cross and upselling
Headhuntr.io has developed a novel approach to handling these types of cross-sell opportunities. Instead of having salespeople who are allocated geographical or corporate territories, sales personnel are experts in specific roles. They don't need to view the company as their target. Rather they view the functional heads across many companies as targets.
When we go in with Nimble, we have people that specialize in say cybersecurity so they're focused on the IT security department. We will have another person that's focused on finance, talking to the finance people within the same account. So now, we eliminate the problem of sales reps getting territorial about accounts while opening up many more opportunities.
Depending on how recruiting is handled by the company Headhuntr.io typically approaches the hiring managers because those are the people that have the hiring pain of unfilled positions. In organizations where recruiting is centralized Headhuntr.io approaches through the talent acquisition people.
The data-driven business
As we concluded our discussion, I asked Deng to summarize where Nimble fits into a modern business:
If you're a business that is fundamentally data-driven for the purposes of optimizing your sales performance then, other things aside that you might want to see in a CRM, Nimble might well be enough. We are always pushing the limits of how Nimble's shared platform responds to the amount of data we throw at it but so far the company has been incredibly accommodating. You're not going to get that from other vendors.
Nimble puts conversation at the center of customer relationships. For its part, Headhuntr.io represents a class of business that not only relies upon the social signals it mines about people and places, it consumes a lot of that data in order to apply its magic to the problem of prospecting deep inside companies. To that extent, expect to see Nimble tested for its ability to scale in terms of absolute amounts of data it can process quickly enough for salespeople to seize the appropriate moment.