SalesTech Interview with Xavi Bisbal, COO and Co-Founder at ForceManager
Tell us about your journey into Sales and Revenue Management in the web service industry.
All my professional life has been linked to IT in some way or another. I have over 15 years of experience as an IT Consultant at companies such as PWC, Gas Natural or IBM. At the time I was working as a consultant for IBM, I also worked as a Sales Director and led the CRM service installation. It was a very demanding position but I learned a lot and it helped me understand the industry a lot better, especially from a Sales perspective. This, of course, became key when we started ForceManager.
What inspired you to co-found ForceManager?
In 2011, Oscar Macia and I realized that there was an opportunity within the CRM industry. I had been involved in many CRM projects as a consultant and I couldn’t ever find one that really helped field sales reps with their day to day work.
All the solutions were built for desktop and very focused on inside sales, which is not always useful for agents in the field where mobility is key. We decided to focus on the daily issues of these professionals to provide them with a system that could meet their day to day challenges while they are on the road. We wanted to develop a tool that could help them to access and record all the vital information that improves their performance and results while they are outside the office. This is what triggered the creation of ForceManager.
How do you define Revenue Management from a current perspective on Business Intelligence and Reporting?
I would say that these three concepts are closely related and are interdependent on one another. For instance, in regards to reporting, sales teams on the field have a vital role as they are the “eyes and ears” of the Sales Directors. Providing them with a tool that transforms reporting in an easy and fast process allows for an efficient gathering of accurate data.
This, in turn, can be used to establish a strategy that enables better decision making within the company, therefore improving revenue management. Developing these three aspects is the best way to ensure that a company can be efficiently managed and grow in a scalable way.
How is the European Mobile CRM industry different today than when you first started?
It has evolved from being an on-demand tool to a SaaS, much more flexible in adapting to the user’s needs at a lower cost. This is key, because sales representatives rely on their smartphones now more than ever.
As such, one of the biggest challenges facing CRMs is the migration from desktop to mobile. Field sales teams are constantly on the move and therefore require access to real-time data on the road, at any time from anywhere.
In addition, we have seen AI coming into play, helping sales teams take a step forward in providing a personalized product experience for their customers. The development of fields such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) has enabled the creation of life-voice systems. In our case, for instance, our AI software, Cognitive, that we called Dana, allow users to interact safely with the system while driving, request information about their next visit, leave a comment about a previous visit or even ask Dana to send an email.
How does it compare against US and APAC mobile marketing automation industry? Which is more competitive?
We live in a digital era where mobile usage is increasing tenfold, not just as a personal device but also at work. We use our phone for practically everything; shopping, reading the news, sending emails to clients, ordering a taxi, etc. The increase in the use of smartphones for a broad variety of tasks is a common trend in both the US and APAC.
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APAC has seen a big push lately, becoming a highly receptive market with continual development in Mobile Marketing technology. In fact, in the last 6 years, smartphone penetration has doubled in the region, mainly due to better internet coverage and speed as well as more affordable device options. As a consequence, mobile apps have become more popular in the region.
On the other hand, the US market is the market that sees the biggest spend in mobile marketing automation – it’s the region where more innovative solutions are being launched. They are a trendsetter, with technological superiority and it holds some of the biggest companies in mobile marketing automation such as Hubspot and Pardot. North America also represents one of the largest CRM markets in the world, with a highly developed technology sector.
That is why we have set our eyes in the USA as part of our international expansion. In 2018 we opened our first office in the country, in New York City, where the reception has been very positive and we expect to continue growing in that market in the upcoming months.
Directly or indirectly, which sales leaders and companies have made the most profound impact on the way you work with technology for sales and revenue?
Obviously, we have always kept an eye on Salesforce, the big leader in the CRM industry that made a big impact in 2007 by introducing the idea of a cloud CRM and a fully customizable system. Another company that has been very inspiring for me is Foursquare and its location-based services, something that has dramatically improved consumer experience. And, of course, Apple, who has always been among the leaders in technology sales.
The attributes that these companies represent are present in ForceManager as well. For instance, geolocalization plays a key role in our company as it allows Sales representatives and their managers to find new opportunities “on the go”.
How do you work with data science, process automation, enterprise planning, and advanced analytics at ForceManager?
ForceManager provides contextual information for sales reps on the move so they can better prepare for their visits and give a more personalized customer experience. It also allows them to focus on what really matters (selling) and avoiding tedious work such as data entry and report preparation. Also, users can interact with the app to read emails, retrieve notes from previous meetings, record new comments, do reporting or plan their routes.
We provide real-time reports based on activity immediately recorded in the field. This direct interaction creates a constant stream of information that is fed to the Sales Managers, allowing them to have deeper visibility on the performance of their sales teams. As a consequence, Sales strategies can be adapted “on the go” if needed to guarantee the best possible results.
What are the major pain points for businesses in putting a 360-degree focus on Sales tracking for better account conversions?
I would say that the main issue is related to the lack of visibility and the difficulty to share the most updated information. Most of the time, the CRM in place is developed for the desktop and, therefore, is not adapted for Sales teams in the field: reporting is difficult and it doesn’t offer teams enough overview on their colleagues’ activities. To solve this, it is key to provide a service that offers real-time information so both Sales Directors and their teams can adapt strategies “on the go”, becoming more flexible and effective.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a sales tech champion?
We try to understand our clients’ needs and, hopefully, predict what their future needs will look like. To do this, we explore new solutions and integrate them with ForceManager to pre-empt users’ expectations.
In this sense, we also host training sessions and special pilot programs for clients to test new features before they go to the market to understand if it matches their expectations and answers their needs. Our customer success team is constantly hosting events and workshops to stay in touch with our customers and maintain two-way communication. The team is really focused on loyalty and customer happiness, so a lot of internal resources are dedicated to current clients internally.
One example is the AI system we mentioned before, Cognitive. We identified that the sales representatives spend almost 3 hours a day on the road so we created a personal sales assistant powered by AI that would meet their requirements.
Which sales technologies are you currently working with – (example ABM, Technographic data, CRM, etc)? How do these technologies help you sell better and faster?
ForceManager integrates technology that helps field Sales teams to be more productive and efficient on the go: we use Google maps so they can directly calculate the fastest route to the visit. We have also integrated other tools such as Siri, to schedule tasks and events on the calendar, or Signaturit, to sign contracts with the smartphone in an easy, fast and secure way. And, of course, we worked with IBM Watson to develop our Voice Recognition AI feature, Cognitive.
All these technologies have helped ForceManager to be not only a Mobile CRM but a real personal sales assistant that Sales representatives can rely on when they are on visits outside the office.
From the industry, which Sales leader would you like to see featured in this interview section—
As you give me this opportunity I would like to do a wish list. Two executives I would love to see featured in these pages are Bret Taylor, President and Chief Product Officer at Salesforce and Angela Ahrendts, former Senior Vice President, Retail from Apple. I know it is difficult, but they would provide such great insights into the sector…
Thank You, Xavi, for answering all our questions. We hope to see you again, soon.
ForceManager is the leading mobile CRM for field sales teams, designed to help salespeople in their day-to-day lives by acting as their personal assistant. The voice-controlled app is loved for its usability and mobile-first design with 80% of users logging in daily. Think of it as the Siri for your sales team built to make selling more efficient on-the-go.
The company started in Barcelona and now has offices in Madrid, Venice, Berlin, London, Mexico City, Bogota, and New York City. Today, ForceManger serves thousands of customers around the world from key verticals including insurance, pharma, cosmetics, building materials and much more.
Xavier holds an MBA from ESADE Business School and a degree in Executive Sales Strategy from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Xavier has over a decade’s worth of experience working in large corporations such as IBM, Gas Natural and PwC as a consultant specializing in IT systems.
At ForceManager Xavi leads the product team to oversee the technological vision and development of new features. In 2011, together with Oscar Macia, he founded ForceManager, the personal sales assistant based on mobility and specifically designed for field sales teams.