Modern GTM Will Break The CRM

Why RevOps/BizOps need to adapt to the brave new world.
John Tan
September 12, 2021

When Salesforce was founded in 1999, enterprise sales followed a linear funnel of leads becoming contacts and opportunities. Fast-forward to 2021, and B2B software has seen a proliferation of complex, non-linear go-to-market channels that companies are racing to adopt. Doing justice on these new channels is beyond our scope, but we’ll mint the term “Modern GTM” to describe strategies like product-led growth, community-driven adoption, customer-led growth, and account-based everything.

We believe Modern GTM has caused a fundamental shift in the market by creating 10x as many buying or retention signals generated in these new channels. For PLG, it’s user activity; for communities, it’s member engagement; for customer-led growth, it’s specific success KPIs; for account-based GTM, it’s cross-channel interactions.

So What’s The Problem?

Front-line reps (SDRs, AEs, CSM/AMs, BD) aren’t paid to be data analysts. While new channels and signals are great, the only thing that matters is revenue generation. How do we help front-line reps to focus on the priority customers and take the right actions to convert or expand them? With all this data, it’s easy for reps to get paralyzed and become tactical in how they spend time.

The following chart shows the typical work a rep needs to do to convert top-of-funnel signals into late-stage deals. As an industry, we need to simplify this workflow as much as possible.

The most obvious system to solve this is Salesforce. But this is where we get to the core problem: SFDC was built as a transactional database to record and update sales records. The ecosystem and community built around it are optimized to manage sales transactions.

In most GTM orgs, all these rich signals are stored in the data warehouse, whether it’s Snowflake, Redshift, BigQuery, Presto, etc. or a BI proxy like Tableau, Looker, Metabase, Superset, Chartio, Mode, etc.

Salesforce was not meant to be an analytics & automation tool to solve data problems from the analytics stack. Forcing it to be an operational or embedded analytics tool means one faces a value-cost trade-off that shouldn’t exist at all:

(1) Either you try to make Salesforce work, and have to invest significant $$$$ resources to manage the underlying data schemas, infrastructure, field mappings, and reporting…not to mention introducing risk to a behemoth system. And to do this all over again when business strategy shifts.

(2) Or you focus on a limited set of data capabilities, and force reps to do work themselves by digging around for data or pulling their own insights. Experienced reps waste valuable time not working deals, new reps don’t get onboarded onto data tools, and conversations with customers become sub-optimal.

These are serious structural problems that vendors in the industry need to address. It will likely take a combination of innovative tools and revamping legacy systems to solve.

Diving Deeper With Three Specific Pains

Instead of waxing poetic, we dive deeper below in how these trade-offs manifest in reality.

1. Custom Objects

In Modern GTM, there is no single definition of who the ‘customer’ is. The ‘customer’ could mean several entities, not just the traditional company account. Whether it’s a workspace (eg., product-led growth), a developer (eg., community-led growth), a specific type of entity (eg., customer-led growth), or a digital interaction (eg., account-based everything), none of these map to the traditional account-contact hierarchy well. Even traditional account management functions with any kind of business that’s more complex than a simple user model will suffer from this: platforms, marketplaces, and B2B2B or B2B2C businesses.

Solving this in Salesforce through multiple record types seems like a good option at first, but in reality, the number of page layouts, conditional logic, and custom pipelines quickly adds developer costs and projects that never see the light of day.

Another path is to build an ecosystem of custom objects, which is what most orgs end up opting for. However, this adds tremendous complexity to the user experience. It gets hard for a rep to navigate across objects, and more importantly, running insights would require more aggregations than CRMs are meant to do.

2. Fields and Metrics

As discussed, there’s a big difference between getting data into Salesforce and getting data into Salesforce in a way that’s actionable by reps. Reps aren’t hired to be analysts; they should get insights as fast as possible and get back to talking to customers.

The fundamental problem is that actionability requires delivering context: raw data needs to be wrapped around pre-packaged analytics & insights. These insights include benchmarks, historical trending, aggregations, deep-dives, and specific metrics.

For example, it doesn’t help much to tell a rep that usage was 300 in the last 30 days. Is this going up or down? Is that normal for a company of this size? Who are the most active users? For reps to have a high quality conversation with the customer or even to prioritize where to spend time, these are critical data points to deliver to them at their fingertips.

This means that any single ‘insight’ could actually mean 5–10 fields are needed to deliver that message in a clear way. These fields need to be created, laid out on the page, maintained, managed, etc. This quickly pollutes the CRM, both at the data level as well as in the UI level. To have the account page now stuffed with extra sections causes too much bloat.

3. Events and Audiences

Automation is a key part of Modern GTM. Historically, automation tools fell into two camps. First is event-driven logic, as exemplified by Tray, Workato, and Salesforce Process Builder or Flows. For example, if a customer signed up, then add them to a Mailchimp campaign. Second is targeted audience creation, as exemplified by Outreach, Marketo, and general Salesforce Reporting. For example, here is a list of users during onboarding that haven’t created an integration, pipe them into Outreach.

Modern GTM is going to cause a merging of these paradigms. You need event triggers because downstream engagement tools are marching in that direction; however, because the customer journey is increasingly complex, you also need surgical audience creation capabilities.

This will result in a drastic increase in the triggers and audiences to be managed. More data will cause more events to be created. More events will create demand for granular audience segmentation. The entire feedback cycle between operations, analytics, and business end users will shorten more and more.

We believe this is fundamentally why there is always a proliferation of tools and ad-hoc spreadsheets. In some ways, this proliferation is good because it reflects people trying to drive more actionable insights. However, there’s no denying that at scale, these ad-hoc processes need to be tied with live production data and live downstream integrations.

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Modern GTM And The Future Of Data

It’s both an exciting and a frustrating time to be in a B2B GTM organization. As with any big shift, existing systems, processes, and cultures often fall short, causing pain. The fact that now we have 3 competing systems of record — the CRM, the customer data warehouse (CDW), and the customer data platform (CDP) is a sign that the market still needs to figure this out.

We see more and more companies experimenting with new channels; the skill sets and responsibilities of operations and analytics roles evolving; the infrastructure that supports these motions trying to keep up. Businesses that can move faster in an agile manner and shift to modern GTM will win in the market.

Technology innovators like Workbase are at the forefront of building out flexible data models, user interfaces and automations to respond this shift, meanwhile respecting that Salesforce won’t be going away for the next 50 years and reps don’t want to leave Salesforce.

For our team, we’ve seen the problem first-hand at Segment, and are working with forward-thinking RevOps, BizOps, Analytics, and GTM Engineering teams to push the industry forward. We truly believe that delivering on the promise of Modern GTM will empower operations and analytics teams to be an even greater driver of strategic business value.

We’re always looking for folks to create the cutting edge of Modern GTM and drive the industry over the next decade. Contact us if you want to learn more and exchange ideas!