Martech Interview with Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, SugarCRM – Clint Oram


“For any start up, the number one key to success is persistence"

1. Tell us about your role in SugarCRM?

Starting a company generally means that you must do most every role at some point. In the past 16 years since we started Sugar CRM, I’ve been lucky enough to do everything from writing code to working with customers to running marketing to now guiding our corporate strategy. In fact, in the very early days, I even managed our finances. That is, until that one fateful Friday when I forgot to run payroll. Yeah, it was time to hire a professional. Today, as the company’s chief strategy officer, I lead both our strategic planning efforts and our mergers and acquisitions. It’s fun working with our leadership to map out the future and then find the right companies that fill out the product portfolio of tomorrow. Every role has been an exciting learning curve and incredibly fulfilling. Building a company is one heck of a ride.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?

I started out in the CRM market back in 1999 as a professional services consultant. I had been writing code in the HP Unix labs right out of college but wanted the exciting life of joining a startup. I knew some incredibly smart people working at a hot startup at the time called Octane Software which had built the first web-based CRM application. After joining their services team to deploy the software for the company’s first customers, I learned all about how companies in different industries wanted to use CRM, how frustratingly hard it was to deploy software back then and how CRM in those days was really missing the mark with end-users. Those early experiences were my inspiration for starting SugarCRM.

3. How do you think technology is upgrading marketing Sector?

It’s an exciting time in the world of MarTech. An increasing number of marketing tasks are now automated and completely new ways of digital customer engagement are disrupting every aspect of marketing. At the highest level, I think the single biggest impact is that companies can now have very personalized and relevant conversations with a customer at every stage of the customer journey and then measure the impact of those conversations. So much of yesterday’s marketing was about making the most intelligent guesses possible and hoping they had a positive impact. Today, marketing is much more of a measured science than yesterday’s guessing.

4. How has the customer-centric approach benefitted marketers and organizations?

Savvy modern marketers have a better understanding than ever before about their customers. Trends are easier to spot. Programs are more targeted. Messages are easier to deliver. But more importantly, modern marketers can easily focus their attention on micro-segments all the way down to an individual customer, delivering immense value without having to invest outrageous amounts of time or money. Marketers love making customers happy. With today’s MarTech, they can do that more easily, and at scale.

5. We recently covered your news about the launch of Sugar Connect; can you give more details about it?

Sugar Connect is our latest product innovation designed to improve end-user adoption of CX solutions through simplification, integration and the application of our no-touch philosophy. It provides sales and customer service representatives critical contextual information about customers when and where they need it most: when they’re communicating with them in real-time and from right within the tool they use most - email.
With Sugar Connect, users can access all customer account information from within Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite, eliminating the need to switch between apps, search for needed customer information, or copy and paste data between their office productivity apps and Sugar.
Sugar Connect synchronizes data directly with Sugar Sell and Sugar Serve, incorporating email, calendar events, tasks and contacts into the unified customer view, provided by the Sugar platform. This integration solves common issues such as tab fatigue, missing records and poor follow-up, which will ultimately increase sales, productivity and win-rates and decrease the time it takes to resolve support cases.

6. How do you define your platforms Sugar Sell and Sugar Serve?

Sugar Sell is our salesforce automation offering that enables collaborative selling by bringing the most important lead and customer information to the forefront. By delivering customer profile information, actions, emails and conversations, everyone involved in the sales process is always on the same page. Everyone knows where things are with every process in the sales cycle, from qualification to closed won deals and beyond.
Personalized dashboards give sellers a central place they can track and monitor their activities, to-do’s and metrics against defined KPIs. Customers can also drill into reports to gain a complete view of any segment of the business, getting powerful insights with just a few clicks. As a result, sellers spend more time engaging with customers and less time on manual data entry.
Sugar Serve is our customer service console that delivers an enhanced user experience for support professionals, aimed at solving customers’ issues with speed and ease. Serve has a state-of-the-art UX which means agents have everything they need right at their fingertips with full self-service capabilities allowing customers to help themselves, ultimately lowering overall costs. We provide out of the box workflows for SLA management, ready-to-go reports, and modern self-service capabilities.
Obviously more informed, proactive support means customers get what they need, encouraging them to become customers for life.

7. How do you differentiate your marketing automation platform from others in the market?

Sugar Market comes with a toolset that includes highly intuitive campaign builders, advanced automation and superior reporting. We focus on what matters most to marketers—streamlining campaign creation, understanding engagement, improving conversion and driving more revenue.
Market enables connection and engagement with customers - wherever they happen to be. With inbound and outbound email marketing tools, social media management capabilities, and even adword management tools, you’re covered for all your marketing automation needs. It is also pre-integrated with all the leading sales automation solution, to include Sugar Sell. But once again, we want to provide our customer’s choice.

8. What advice would you like to give to the technology start-ups?

For any start up, the number one key to success is persistence.

As Winston Churchill once (more or less) said, “Never, never, never give up.” For technology start-ups, you must simply be bold. Since I’m on the quote train, here is a bold one from Steve Jobs: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Yeah, read that again. It’s good. And my last quote is, “Don’t forget to say thank you.” That one comes from my mom.

9. What is the Digital innovation in sales technology according to you that will mark 2020?

I’m most excited about how natural language processing is being applied (not?) to just sales, but also marketing and customer service. This is the very real part of AI that is transforming how we live and work right now. Conversational AI is the technology behind Siri, Alexa and so many more powerful tools that are simplifying how companies communicate with customers. I think what’s coming ahead of us in the form of digital personal assistants powered by conversational AI is going to be cool.

10. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?

Don’t fear the robots. They are here to help. AI is going to help us all become more efficient and effective in our work and in our lives. Don’t worry about the jobs that may go away. Get excited about all the new jobs that are going to be unlocked ahead of us. Every industrial revolution has certainly brought change, and brought some fear, but also brought exponentially more opportunities. The fourth industrial revolution will be the same as the first three. Disruptive, but net-sum positive.

11. What are the major developments you are planning?

Right now, we’re building a next-generation customer data platform on top of Amazon Web Services that will power tomorrow’s high-touch customer interactions. Our approach is unique in the enterprise software market in that we are embedding the concept of “time-aware data management” into every aspect of our massively scalable customer data platform. Unlike legacy CRM that is built around today’s snapshot of customer data, the SugarCRM time-aware customer data platform lets our customers quickly scan across their customer data much like hitting fast-forward or rewind on your DVR. When every aspect of your CRM applications become time-aware, companies gain unparalleled insight by easily compare today’s business to yesterday’s or projecting forward to tomorrow. And that’s the competitive edge companies need to build customers for life.

12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?

I’m lucky to have a team of inspirational industry leaders who are truly the best and the brightest. At SugarCRM, we have a matrix organization of sales general managers (GMs) and product GMs. The sales GMs report into our CEO and run our sales territories. The product GMs report into me and own the strategy for their product lines. They help our customers and partners with CRM strategy and then guide our roadmap investments based on those experiences to help us build the world’s best CRM suite for our customers. These guys are real pros who make the job fun and inspire me to be the best boss possible.

13. What movie inspires you the most?

I’m a huge sci-fi fan. I love to imagine what the future will be like. I have lots of favorite movies in the genre. But if I were to choose a movie that inspires me the most, I would pick the entire Star Trek franchise. I love the idea of exploring the universe, uncovering the secrets of our future and fighting for good over evil. What is most inspiring to me is how much technology helps people live a better life in the Star Trek universe. Although, I’m still waiting for Elon Musk to announce that he’s built a transporter.

14. We have heard that you have a very fun work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?

15. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?

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Clint Oram is a Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder.
Clint helped found SugarCRM in 2004 with the goal of enabling companies around the world turn their customers into loyal fans. Today, he leads marketing and corporate development strategy for the company. Clint was one of the original architects and developers of the Sugar application and has focused on building out the product, company, partners and community in a variety of executive roles.
Prior to co-founding SugarCRM, Clint held senior roles in the development, professional services and product management organizations at Epiphany, Octane Software and Hewlett Packard. He has 20 years of experience in the enterprise software industry and over 15 years designing and building award-winning CRM software solutions. Clint holds a BS in computer science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is the co-author of multiple CRM software patents. Clint enjoys traveling and speaking at conferences on a variety of customer experience and entrepreneurship topics, and has visited SugarCRM customers and partners in over 25 countries.

SugarCRM enables businesses to create extraordinary customer relationships with the most innovative and affordable CRM solution in the market. Recognized by leading market analysts as a “visionary” company, Sugar is deployed by over 1.5 M individuals in 120 countries and 26 languages.
Sugar is positioned to fully unleash the promise of CRM with their innovative CRM system designed for every individual who engages with customers: sellers, marketers, customer support agents, receptionists, and executives. The company is delivering a completely transformed, individualized CRM user experience that is immersive, engaging, and intuitive. Sugar fuses the straightforward simplicity, mobility, and social aspects of a consumer app with the business process optimization of conventional CRM.

For more information please visit our Website.

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