Driving Sales with Chatter
At Dreamforce 2009, Marc Benioff unveiled his newest product named “Chatter” and declared to the Salesforce community, “Welcome to the Social Enterprise”. In short, Marc said it was bringing the social experience similar to Facebook to the enterprise. I have to admit, I was a bit confused by it and didn’t really see the value. Over the last year and change I have had the opportunity to work with it and I retract my initial reaction. Chatter has been a huge time saver and a staple for our sales process. Here is a quick look at the before and after Chatter with a few suggestions for improvements.
Before Chatter (BC Era)
Until I started using Chatter, I never realized how inefficient the communication of an opportunity’s status was. Salesforce was great for implementing a process and storing activities but it wasn’t simple to see what was the true reality of the sale. If I wanted to know what happened at the last meeting, I had to either ask someone, wait for the weekly sales call, or potentially look at any logged activities such as call notes (assuming they were entered). Dashboards and reports are great for high level status and forecasting but it’s not granular enough if I am interested in opportunity specific information. If you are using the tool right, the data is probably somewhere but the point is, I have to go find it. And having to go search for something or wait for a meeting is very inefficient and big time waster.
Post Chatter (PC Era)
So then comes Chatter, a real-time collaboration platform for users defined as a service sending information proactively via a real-time news stream. Users can follow coworkers and data to receive broadcast updates about project and customer status. So now, instead of having to ask or go looking through activities, a sales rep can quickly add a comment and that is pushed to users who are following it. It works great. Every week I can go in and update all my opportunities via Chatter providing real-time status and what is expected to happen the next week. Not only is this a huge time saver for me but it almost eliminated the weekly sales call. No longer did we need to meet weekly to discuss what was going on as it was all captured in Chatter. If someone has a question that isn’t covered by the weekly Chatter, it is then just asked directly right there within the Chatter Feed. It is simple, collaborative, and easy to use. Chatter also provides other nice features that allow you to create groups to collaborate on projects, include non-users in groups, and leverage Twitter and Facebook like features that allow you to create a profile, add links, documents, “Likes” and direct messages.
Chatter is a new product and of course there is room for improvement. With the latest Spring ‘12 release we will see many enhancements, however, there are a couple that I think need to be addressed sooner then later. The first one is the 500 limit on the amount of things you can follow. I know that might seem like a lot but if you use Salesforce for more than 1 function or have multiple apps, it is really limiting. I find I run into the limit often and it’s not the easiest thing to clean-up. The bigger one for me is with the Lead conversion process. Currently any Chatter that you have on a Lead is gone once you convert it to an Account. (PLUG: Unless you have an app like Compliance for Chatter) there is no way to retrieve it. To me, that is a big issue and almost makes using Chatter on leads worthless.
Salesforce is definitely on to something with the “Social Enterprise” and products like Chatter really do increase collaboration and have become a huge time saver. I am excited to see how Chatter evolves and how it all works with the new instant messaging feature (Chatter Messenger) coming to a Salesforce org near you.
If you would like to reach out to me and discuss this in more detail please feel free to comment on our Facebook page, or tweet at me at twitter.com/Salvatoriello.