Why Salespeople Hate the Data Model

When I joined Siebel Systems in 1998, I knew virtually nothing about how to build enterprise software.  Within a month or so, a pattern started to emerge.  The ‘Entity Relationship Diagram,’ the visualization of data cardinality and relationships, was the most important concept.  Once indoctrinated, you could even see the ERD in the user interface - a fine and desired skill.

20+ years later, I recall speaking with a senior Salesforce architect at a system integrator.  She said, “As a good architect, I’ve always been told to get the ERD right, and everything else will fall into place.”  Perhaps it’s not surprising that a product category created by Oracle alums is so centered on data modeling, but it remains true.

Salespeople Hate the Data Model (indirectly at least)

Unfortunately, the love of the ERD and centrality of the data model in the UX continues to haunt salespeople to this day!  It’s the reason that when you meet with a guy named ‘Bob’ at ‘ABC Enterprises’, you need to record information about Bob, information for ABC Enterprises, and information about the meeting in three separate places.  It’s the reason - in the opinion of this CRM veteran - that when an opportunity gets beyond the basic details of a lead, Salespeople reduce the CRM system to a weekly reporting conduit.  They start doing the real work in slide decks, spreadsheets, Word docs, emails, and good ole fashioned notebooks.  The CRM is just too rigid and time-consuming for doing a deal.

The clunky nature of a data-oriented user interface is a big part of the problem.  It’s too burdensome to enter data in all those forms and modals, especially when you’re missing some required field that the administrator deemed critical (but probably isn’t).  The best CRM implementations give valuable information to the user, but I’ve found very few where the users actually like putting it in.

An equally challenging part of the problem is the central management of the data model.  Sure, it’s easy to add a field to {insert CRM system here}, but the IT team or administrator has to do it.  Not since the days of ACT!, the original boxed set of CRM, could users freely create a field.  Helpful IT teams do often add fields for users, but now a second problem emerges: lots of sparsely populated fields cluttering up the UI.  For a sales team that wants an easy tool to track data about their in-process deal, it’s not surprising that an Excel spreadsheet often wins out.

Our Solution? Introducing DealCraft

At Revolear, we’re taking a new approach to the data that’s inherently more flexible and extensible but also lets the administrators maintain some of the reporting structure, organization, and governance that they value from traditional databases.  Called ‘DealCraft’, it combines a unique modeling technology we developed with NoSQL data structures.  

The heart of DealCraft is a ‘Solution Model’ that forms the chassis of a commercial solution - all the potential products, discovery questions, terms & clauses, marketing materials, and more.  Each element of the model can have special permissions, approvals, and workflows, and every element is automatically piped for analytics and machine learning.  Each model can also have one or more templates to present the details to our prospective customers, making it ready for digital collaboration.  Models are set up by admins, with our team at Revolear doing the first couple to get you started.

When a Sales team starts working on a new deal, they create the deal based on the model that most closely aligns with their needs.  In many cases, the auto-generated solution will be very close to the mark, and accepting the AI-guided discount recommendation is all that’s needed to push out the proposal.  But the document-based, noSQL technology behind DealCraft also makes it easy to add or remove elements from the library or add completely new clauses, terms or content for that deal alone.  There’s nothing you can’t do, something’s will just require approval (and Revolear handles that, too).

Is it really better than PowerPoint, Word, and Excel?

Ok, I must admit that standard Office tools - whether Microsoft standards or the new Google equivalents - have mastered power and flexibility.  But that flexibility limits the ability to automate the workflows based on the data within them, to roll up or predict values within them, and to easily move between internal-facing versions for approvals, to externally-facing versions for proposals.  DealCraft is designed to hit that sweet spot in the middle - with the enterprise benefits of the relational database, and the flexibility of salesperson-controlled documents.

DealCraft and the rest of Revolear’s Digital Deal Platform are now available for demonstration, with general availability planned for Fall ‘23.  Let’s talk!

P.S. We’ve (Kinda) Done this Before

DealCraft isn’t the first assault on rigid CRM systems for Adam Rutland and me.  During our time at Vlocity, we saw that same rigid data model as a barrier to building process-first, digital experiences for consumers.  We built what became OmniStudio to decouple the user experience from the Salesforce objects underneath, with Adam’s DataRaptor and Integration Procedure products providing data mapping and APIs.  This time around, we’re not just masking the complexity of the data model, we’re leveraging inherently more flexible NoSQL technology to nail the solution for more complex use cases - enterprise solution sales.

Author Raja Singh

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