We talked to Dale Murray, CEO at SalesAgility, about smart CRM services, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these Covid times?
Dale Murray: All things considered, my family and I have been keeping well during the pandemic. My wife and I welcomed a new addition to the family back in September, so it’s safe to say we’ve been busy juggling new parenting responsibilities over the last few months.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded SalesAgility.
Dale Murray: My career kicked off in 2011 when I graduated from the University of Stirling with a degree in Software Engineering. At the time – with a keen interest in sports and a passion for trampolining – I was planning to follow a career in high-performance coaching and sports management.
However, I was offered an internship with SalesAgility immediately after graduation, so I decided to apply for my degree in the workplace and pursue a role in software engineering. Within a month, I was made a permanent member of staff and, after a year working as a Software Engineer, I moved into the consultancy and business analysis side of the company. In this role, I was responsible for delivering a range of CRM transformation projects for our clients.
As SalesAgility grew, so did my career and, in 2015, I was given the opportunity to take on the role of Head of Consulting. In this position, I built our consultancy team from one to six full-time consultants operating globally. At the age of 27, I was appointed as CEO after our founder and then CEO took a step back from the business.
How does SalesAgility innovate?
Dale Murray: Our company is constantly innovating. As a truly open-source business, we were founded on the values of transparency, flexibility, and collaboration, which makes us well-equipped to adopt change and ensure that we are continually improving. For example, recognizing the wide-scale adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, in 2019, we launched SuiteCRM: OnDemand, to combine the ease, scalability, and accessibility of SaaS with the control, flexibility, and freedom of Open Source.
A key factor in our ability to constantly innovate is the drive and determination of the SalesAgility team. They are not only great implementers, but also strategic innovators and consultants that push the boundaries of customer relationship management (CRM) software. Their stellar efforts led us to achieve “Best CRM Consultancy Firm 2020” at last year’s UK Enterprise Awards, a positive step forward in our mission to become the world’s most adopted CRM software. At the end of the day, it’s all about creating the best possible service for our clients, and for this, it’s vital that our business, strategy, and mindset are constantly evolving.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business and how are you coping?
Dale Murray: Luckily, we adapted to the disruption and changes fairly quickly and seamlessly. As a technology company that operated globally, we were used to delivering services remotely and SalesAgility continued to grow successfully with a fully remote workforce.
As organizations had to quickly move to remote working and potentially pivot business models during the pandemic, it has been even more important for them to access real-time customer data. Offering clients a 360-degree view of their customer base, our open-source software has helped businesses from a wide range of sectors to not only understand the change in behaviors, but also tailor their sales and marketing activity in uncertain times. It allows them to be more efficient in a time where there are additional external factors that will impact their day-to-day. The pandemic has had a noticeable impact on all sectors with some early trends accelerating, some stopping and some new opportunities emerging. Access to customer data allows our clients to continue to provide exceptional customer experiences and to understand the changing landscape and adapt their strategies accordingly.
We support clients in a number of industries, including travel and financial services, by offering flexibility, freedom, and support in all things CRM. The travel sector specifically has faced a number of challenges in light of global travel restrictions. We’ve ensured that we approach companies with heightened empathy for their own challenges. The good news is our products and services help these companies maintain strong communication links with their customers and gain true insight into their feelings and concerns. By streamlining and supporting their CRM process, these companies can place greater focus on their operational tactics as they navigate the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Dale Murray: From the beginning of the pandemic, the safety of our employees has been paramount. As we adjusted to a new company-wide way of working, I was determined to make the transition as seamless as it could be and ensure that every single team member felt supported. Given that we have employees based globally, we had to constantly factor in varying restrictions from around the world to make sure that everyone had the support and resources they needed to continue working safely in their current circumstances. We were already passionate about offering flexibility to our staff in terms of home working, compressed hours, and flexi-time, so it was simply a case of talking through the situation with each member of the team and determining how we could best cater to their needs moving forward. None of us could have imagined the events that would unfold from March 2020 onwards but, by ensuring that trust, respect, and communication continued to form the pillars of our company culture, our business – and our team – has continued to thrive.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Dale Murray: Our own CRM software, SuiteCRM has made it easier for us and many other companies to navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic and manage customer relationship management securely and remotely. It’s easy to install, can be integrated into any business system and, due to its open-source nature, is free for people to download and use. We mainly use open-source tools internally which reduces our overall expenditure on software.
Throughout the crisis, I focused on being as transparent as possible. Making myself available on a 1-1 or 1-group basis I delivered as much information over conference calls rather than emails. This allowed me to effectively communicate our roadmap through 2020 but also lead visibly through the pandemic.
In an office, we sometimes take for granted the small conversations that happen organically. When remote, these don’t happen as often so ensuring everyone still kept open communication channels was very important and made time to have personal as well as professional conversations.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dale Murray: Our main competitor is U.S. based CRM provider, Salesforce. However, we maintain a key differentiator with our loyalty to open-source software.
Contrary to proprietary software, used by firms such as Salesforce, open-source grants users permissions such as allowing them to inspect and modify the source code. This means that it is consistently improving and innovating with support from some of the world’s best software engineers and technology minds. As the program is publicly accessible and the result of wide-scale collaboration, there is a huge sense of community around the software. We are very proud of the open-source community we have created, which has grown to over 120,000 members. Their extraordinary support and feedback have been invaluable in the success and growth of the firm, especially with regards to new product releases and software development.
With continued support from our hugely active community and a mindset geared towards openness and respect, we hope to lead the way for CRM solutions which are the result of collaboration, community, and transparency.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Dale Murray: I feel exceptionally proud of the team at SalesAgility for the way they have navigated this global crisis. While adjusting to working from home has been easier for some more than others, every single team member has shown even more dedication, enthusiasm, and openness, helping us to continue to grow during an exceptionally turbulent time. There are challenging times ahead for many industries, particularly in travel and tourism. The retail landscape has changed considerably as shopping has moved almost entirely online. As we work towards economic recovery both here and in global markets, CRM strategies will be a central pillar of activity. We look forward to facilitating and supporting global businesses as they build back.
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