A growing number of activities are moving online, from shopping to banking to dating. You can add B2B sales to that list. Many companies now spend more time interacting with their vendors via websites and email rather than briefcase-toting sales people.
This dwindling emphasis on personal interaction creates challenges for some and opportunities for others. An entrepreneur in the latter camp is Dustin Sapp, co-founder and CEO of TinderBox, a provider of cloud-based software that utilizes automation and analytics to boost sales productivity.
"Marketing automation informed and enabled buyers in ways they hadn't been before. They started coming to vendors with a handful of questions instead of building a relationship with them over months," Sapp said. "It has forced companies to change the way they sell. "
"They no longer have the advantage of relationships," he added. "We help them engage with customers in a more effective way, using the data that is being collected by their CRM and marketing solutions."
Three Stages of the Sales Process
TinderBox offers three products geared to different stages of the sales process: Pitch, Propose and Close. The goal is to provide better visibility into how prospects engage with sales materials, facilitate internal collaboration among sales teams, and help companies create consistent and repeatable sales processes.
The company started with Propose in 2010 because it felt proposals were the most complicated task for most sales people. Customers quickly began using the software in different stages of the sales process, Sapp said, which led the startup to add Pitch in 2015's first quarter and Close in June.
TinderBox's focus on improving the entire sales process has helped it attract nearly 500 customers, including big names such as Angie's List and Orbitz for Business. "We have customers on six different continents, from companies with five-person sales teams to the Angie's Lists of the world," Sapp said.
Midwest on the Move
TinderBox accomplished this in Indianapolis, a city associated more with growing corn than with growing companies. Sapp decided to remain there after selling his first company, NoInk Communications, to Silicon Valley task automation software company Everypath in 2004 – despite efforts to get him to move to the West Coast.
The atmosphere in the Midwestern city is more convivial than cutthroat, he said. "You get a lot of advice from folks who have already been there. Everyone in the Midwest wants to see their peers succeed."
And while no one is likely to mistake Indianapolis for Palo Alto any time soon, Sapp noted there has been "a dramatic shift in the ecosystem" over the past dozen years, with several notable high-tech acquisitions, including Oracle's purchase of Compendium and Salesforce's $2.5 billion deal for ExactTarget.
TinderBox's customers tend to fall into one of two camps, Sapp said: companies with high volume, low complexity sales processes, who utilize TinderBox's automation capabilities for greater consistency and productivity; and those with low volume, high complexity processes, who value TinderBox's collaboration features.
In both scenarios, consistency of messaging is important, he said. "You can begin to evaluate what content is more effective in closing deals, what information you are sending that is getting viewed more and shared more."
'Digital Body Language'
Using a Web-based product like TinderBox makes this possible in a way that communicating with sales people did not, he added. "We can capitalize on digital body language instead of just relying on what a sales rep says is happening during the sales process. When you look at Web-based activity, you can actually see what a customer does as opposed to what someone says they are doing."
Looking ahead, Sapp said TinderBox will establish more partnerships similar to one with DocuSign, in which it incorporated DocuSign's electronic signature technology into its Close product. Such partnerships should help TinderBox avoid becoming just another point solution.
"A lot of our customers are getting 'app fatigue.' They've already bought eight solutions, and they are still having problems," he said. "Our more comprehensive suite approach differentiates us, and that is where we see opportunity."
Fast Facts About TinderBox
Founders: Dustin Sapp, Mike Fitzgerald and Kristian Anderson
Product: Sales productivity suite that helps companies sell faster with a more effective way to create and deliver sales proposals, contracts and presentations
Employees: Nearly 60 employees
Customers: Nearly 500 customers including Angie's List, Orbitz for Business and DoubleDutch
Funding: $5.1 million, including investments from Allos Ventures, Hyde Park Ventures, Gravity Ventures and FundersClub
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.