Dreamforce Interview with Raju Vegesna, Chief Evangelist, Zoho

Raju Vegesna
Raju Vegesna

“As machine learning algorithms develop at an alarming pace, it won’t be far-fetched to say that sales would be a much easier job by 2020.”

Tell us about your journey into software and how you reached Zoho

Our software journey began in 1996 with Adventnet, which was into network management software. It was quick to pick up pace and before long, we started serving some of the biggest telecom brands. Our cloud journey began in 2005, with our bestselling product — Zoho CRM. Today, Zoho consists of over 40 different apps and serves over 35 million users worldwide.

What’s the biggest attraction for you at Dreamforce 2018?

The very fact that we have so many prospective customers for Zoho, all in one place. The opportunity to tell them that our Voice AI platform (Zia) finally has company, thanks to the just-launched, Einstein Voice.

Do you think the lack of CRM innovation is hurting the MarTech ecosystem?

Definitely true. The MarTech ecosystem can grow stronger only if CRM stays at the center of an organization and marketing technologies grow on top of it, not away from it. AI/ML, IoT and pre-cognitive marketing/buyer preference prediction are some of the emerging technologies that are sure to impact CRM/MarTech in a huge way.

Do you think it’s largely because of the ‘Buy versus Build’ delusion? How does Zoho close the gap on this?

To a considerable extent, though not entirely. To build a competent MarTech ecosystem, you need to procure different bits of software from different vendors and then need to build an integrated system combining all these bits. Though each of these bits might be effective products individually, whether they will produce equally good results working together is an important question.

Zoho currently has over 40 different products across various functions — that’s the largest number of products from any single software vendor. What’s more, Zoho even has a customer engagement suite called CRMPlus, that combines the power of CRM with tools such as Marketing Automation, Social Media Management, Live Chat/Team Collaboration, Help Desk, Analytics and Project Management.

If you’d go the traditional way with a build approach, you would have to source these from different vendors such as Salesforce, Mailchimp, Hootsuite, Slack, Zendesk and Jira for example; and then address the question of making them work together.

What is sales myopia with regards to data platforms? How does sales myopia impact productivity and revenue?

Software buyers are often carried away by many superficial factors and fail to look beyond the obvious. Many still want to fit in, and feel ‘they’ll never get fired for buying IBM’.

Most of the popular software vendors today are neck-deep in debt and haven’t made a dime of profit to date. Despite that, they continue to be valued, funded and trusted heavily. It is here that myopia is most dangerous. How can you trust these vendors will still be around 10-20 years from now? How can you trust them with your business if they couldn’t run theirs?

Software and data platforms are crucial investments, and you need to be very far-sighted in such decisions. Look beyond the obvious, and evaluate thoroughly before you decide — because a wrong move can cost you a lot in terms of productivity, growth and even cripple your company.

What are your predictions on the way SDRs and AEs help customers make an unbiased decision while buying enterprise software?

When your SDRs and AEs are in sync, the customer receives more relevant information at each stage of their journey. The benefit works both ways — for the buyer and seller.

AI/ML will be crucial in predicting factors such as closure rates and likeliness to buy, enabling SDRs and AEs to prioritize and decide the best course of action.

How do you plan to improve the adoption of newer technologies for ABM, Customer Experience and Content Management?

We have already invested heavily in customer experience management with CRMPlus, our customer engagement suite. This has received positive feedback from marketing and sales teams alike.

ABM has been here for a while, though it might have been known by another alias; the basics remain similar. AI-based prediction for account nurturing and activity tracking of an account across multiple channels will play a crucial role going further. Education and training will be essential to improve adoption.

Would you provide us your take on turning AI-driven and enabled by 2020?

1) Voice Interface – Over time, the way we interact with software has been evolving. It is the time for voice, and by 2020, we think manual data entry might vanish.

2) Prediction – As machine learning algorithms develop at an alarming pace, it won’t be far-fetched to say that sales would be a much easier job by 2020. This doesn’t mean salespeople will be replaced by machines. It means that they will spend much lesser time on regular activities such as cold-calls or requirement gathering and spending more time closing deals instead.

An inspiring quote from the past editions of Dreamforce that you have ever heard — (Zoho spin here!) 

Take a test-ride with Zoho. (Salesforce doesn’t have to know)

Thank you, Raju! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Raju Vegesna is the Chief Evangelist at Zoho.

Zoho logo

Founded in 1996, Zoho Corporation is the software company behind three great brands: Zoho, ManageEngine and WebNMS. Zoho offers beautifully smart software to help you grow your business. With over 30 million users worldwide, Zoho’s 40+ products aid your sales and marketing, support and collaboration, finance and recruitment needs – letting you focus only on your business. Zoho CRM is our flagship service and has won many awards such as the 2012 CRM Magazine Market Leader Award and the 2012 Sleeter ‘Awesome Application’​ Award. ManageEngine is an easy-to-use enterprise IT Management product used by over 60,000 customers worldwide. WebNMS is a highly customisable Network Management Framework with over 25,000 carrier deployments worldwide. Zoho Corporation is a privately-held and profitable company headquartered in Pleasanton, CA, with offices in North America and Asia.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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