This is the story behind Membrain. I started my first company when I was 21 and quickly realized that it didn’t matter if I had the best solution in the world. Unless I could sell it, I’d be out of business. Furthermore: I found out the hard way that if I was going to scale my business, I needed to find ways to model successful sales behaviors.
The business idea behind my fourth company Upstream was, and still is, to challenge the mainstream (hence the name Upstream). We do this finding and providing software and workflows that make customers more effective, and we look for vendors with the guts and ideas to challenge the software giants.
At one time, I decided that we needed to add new offerings to grow the company. I had made a few failed product introductions and this time I decided to stop guessing what customers needed. Instead, we interviewed 350 resellers in face-to-face meetings and found out that they shared one big challenge: eroding margins. This was mainly due to the fact of their business model, combined with a reactive and labor-intensive service delivery approach.
By coming up with a new business model (charge a fixed pricing for IT environments to work, instead of charging by the hour when it breaks), and introducing technology to automate most of the manual labor, the front-runners turned unprofitable businesses into ones delivering 20-30% profit margins.
For Upstream to successfully sell this new concept and technology, we had to change how we sold. From previously selling on product features and price, we now had to engage at the C-level and discuss business challenges, processes and people. We needed to educate people at all levels of their organization to see and share a new vision and minimize perceived risk of abandoning status quo. We also quckly figured out that it wasn’t enough to get the owners and the C-levels all fired up if their technicians thought they’d all be fired because of the automation technology…
In short, everyone needed to be on board.
Another lesson learned: just because customers bought the software did not mean they’d successfully turn their business model and organizational processes around. We realized how the power of old habits could overshadow even the best of intentions to introduce new ones. The cost of churn became painfully obvious and the importance of providing services to help assist change management journeys apparent.
This was a radical change for Upstream and I went through a significant learning curve. I made many common sales management mistakes, the most costly one being hiring and firing a lot of sales people. I just couldn’t understand how sales people with good track records could kill so many deals, until I realized that I was working with the assumption that they should know how to sell, which turned out to be a false one... They forgot to ask the most important questions, did not succeed with getting consensus, underestimated the competition and much more. After a while though, I had to start pointing my finger back at myself for not providing them with the right resources, such as an actionable sales process, proper on-boarding, disciplined deal qualification and continuous coaching towards clear business goals and activity targets.
After having learnt from my mistakes, I decided that I needed to put systems and processes in place. In order to reach higher levels of performance, I had to provide supporting wheels and align our sales strategy with tools for tactical execution. I wanted a system that, by using it, would provide sales people with the guidance needed to do the right thing with the right person at the right time and that provided situational educational and sales-related content every step of the way. I wanted software that could also automate goal follow-ups to prevent having to nag people into accountability and create self-correcting behaviors.
When searching for “sales process software” or “sales effectiveness platform” on Google, all I found were CRM vendors. I tested all of the big names and the small copycats, but they did not do what I wanted. They were designed by people who seemed to love lists, lists and… well, lists. When talking to other companies about how their CRMs were supporting their more complex sales efforts, I realized they were mostly using the systems as fancy rolodexes, building graveyards of information instead of creating guiding sales companions. They all regurgitated what I’d been told by the CRM vendors - that these systems could be "customized", but I didn’t find anyone who had successfully done so. Those who had tried to complained about high customization costs and things breaking down with every new major release of the CRM system.
With my realizations and the global trend where selling is becoming polarized – either automated online, or more complex due to global competition and the Internet – I decided that companies involved with the latter must improve how they sell. They’ll need software and skills to drive successful sales behaviors and build a foundation that turn how they sell into a competitive advantage. The software must balance ease of use for the sales people with the power of insights for sales leaders and upper management.
With this conclusion, and my passion for sales and software, Membrain was born!
In today’s stressed out world, there’s no shortage of sales apps that allows you to email faster, call faster, “do social selling” and look at predictive analytics. Yes, we all want shortcuts, but more often than not, there are none. And you know the definition of doing more of the same and expecting different results… You need a sales strategy and you need to execute it well. All too often, the strategy is great, but it fails in execution – there’s a gap between theory and practice. Membrain is designed to provide a holistic approach, allowing companies to execute a sales strategy in environments where every deal counts and how you sell is, or will become, very important.
If you’re in a business where you’ll need to improve how you sell, I’d highly recommend that you start building actionable sales processes that captures best practices and enables a “learning by doing” approach. These processes and systems will become your sales infrastructure and will speed up ramp-up times of new hires, improve win rates and increase deal values. It will help you consistently reach your sales targets in a world where most vendor offerings look the same to buyers online.
When driving behavioral change (or improvements), Membrain is the catalyst – the guiding companion for your sales teams. We’ve built Membrain for you! Let us know if you’d like our assistance in creating the system that will help you come out as a winner in this ever-changing, highly competitive world!
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn