It helps to understand a brief history of sales first.
The concept of managing the customer relationship is as old as the idea of exchanging money for goods or services.
Sales as a profession probably started with the first Mesopotamian talking his buddy into giving him a couple of shekels of barley for his spare goat.
Fast-forward, through the 15th-century Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; to 19th-century book peddlers trading on the strength of teaser chapters; to cosmetics companies like Avon (1886); to 1920, when a professor of psychology, E.K. Strong Jr., published The Psychology of Selling Life Insurance, allegedly the first work of its kind focused on specific selling techniques; to 1936—when Dale Carnegie, already famous for his courses in salesmanship and interpersonal skills, published How to Win Friends and Influence People (still one of the best books I’ve read).
This was a turning point in sales psychology—the first, and perhaps the best, depiction of the relationship-based approach to sales.
Leap ahead to the 1980s, we saw the first versions of digital Rolodexes.
In the early 1990s, Siebel Systems grew to become the largest provider of sales force automation tools.
As the market grew, software giants Oracle and SAP began offering new applications to compete.
The rise of the web in the 2000s sped things up, as the sheer volume of available information chipped away at any so-called “seller’s advantage”.
And as a result, prospective buyers were introducing a new equilibrium, which meant a new role for technology—one in which software would help salespeople manage and deepen their understanding of buyer behaviour.
Today, the CRM market as we know it has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, worldwide, ‘CRM’ became the largest software (SAAS) market in 2017.
But, the growth and maturation of SaaS CRM cloud-based software doesn’t go to Siebel Systems, SAP, or Oracle.
It goes to Marc Benioff, who back in 1999 started Salesforce as the answer to 2 key questions:
✦ Why were software companies selling systems that cost millions of dollars and took a year to install from CD-RoMs, rather than something that could be delivered online, and used on demand?
✦ Why not remove up-front costs by instead allowing users to pay a monthly fee to access the tools?
Salesforce seeds planted.