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How will PLG & data warehouses impact CRM in long-term?

Thomas Schiavone

Co-founder and CEO at Calixa

I think about it systematically,: something like Salesforce, why do people tend to implement it early on in an organization? "I’m a sales leader  have a traditional sales team that is a top-down sales process, and I'm used to it. I expect it. I expect reporting on it. It's not because the reps like it. It's just how I manage, understand and measure my world." It totally makes sense.

I think that the pull becomes: if you can't do this product-led motion well because the tool can’t handle it, and top-down sales is not the primary motion or even the first motion people are trying to nail, then you have some gravity of power switching away.

I had this on a call with a startup this week where there were six people on the call. One person who's responsible at the top was pounding me on, “I hate my CRMs. I don't want to use them, but I can't do everything I want in your tool. Here are the things that you need to do to help me with my top-down motion.” And I was like, "Well, we're going to do part of that, but you’ve got to understand -- we're focused on product-led so we're going to try to actually tailor to your other counterpart and make sure that their life is delightful. Maybe we can help you with some of it, but we're going to first prioritize that person.” Just back and forth and back and forth. At some point, the CEO stepped in and said, "Hey, maybe they're right. This is the company we want to build, a PLG company. We'll have a top-down motion, but let's optimize for PLG.“ And I was like, "He’s got it."

That being said, if I'm putting myself in the top-down salesperson’s shoes, he's thinking, "Yeah, but I need to fucking do my job. Can I have a tool that works for me?" I'm sympathetic to that. The question is: can you build a place where the needs of the top-down and the bottoms-up can coexist?

Then, second is: how do you build a platform that unites sales, marketing, and product for a common understanding of the customer and the customer journey? Sales is a specific implementation of the platform we're building, but I think there are way more interesting things when we up level it beyond just sales. Ultimately, Calixa is never going to do it all, but how do we become the de facto underlying platform that can speak out to the right things? When you want to go back to the “system of record” around your motion, Calixa has all the connections: in, out, and all around. There's this set of things we do, and there's a set of things we don't do. If you need these other things that we don't do, we play nicely with them and respect them.

What's particularly interesting -- and this is the direction we're going -- is, because we have these really interesting data and event streams, there are a lot more interesting things we can do for you, both from a sheer data flow perspective and automation and orchestration, but also potentially from a machine learning prediction standpoint. We see everyone who's doing well; we see the full event stream. We can figure things out.

Part of the reason why we’re particularly bullish on this is the previous company I worked at was Sift, which did machine learning for fraud detection. My co-founder of Calixa was also the co-founder of Sift. So that's in our DNA. Having this really rich event stream is really exciting. For product-led motions, bottoms-up motions, the hardest thing for these companies is understanding it, structuring it, finding the signal in the noise, and then finding the key indicators. I think we have an ability to help them with that: help them structure it, help them identify who's valuable, and provide those insights to sales leaders and the individuals.

Find this answer in Thomas Schiavone, co-founder and CEO of Calixa, on the PLG data pipeline
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