Close.io (pronounced ‘close-ee-oh’) is small and simple social app organized in a compelling way around the tight inner loop of today’s sellers ( the people formerly called ‘sales people’ or ‘salesmen’).
I have made the case a number of times recently that the most interesting innovations in social tools are going to come from small and simple application, ones that focus obsessively on the activities of individuals in sales, HR, marketing, customer support, or the like. They will create a social context — allowing low friction communication based on stream-bases social metaphors like the open follower model — but a context that frames and accelerates the work of the individual.
I think this forms the tool complement to the lean social concept I proposed recently (see Lean social means no paving the cowpaths):
I think lean social runs in conflict with the default model in most businesses today, the majority of which are still operating around the concept of fixed, well-defined business processes that people are supposed to ‘follow’ to get jobs done. But we’ve switched to a world of rapidly changing work, where work is becoming more collaborative, and solutions have to be contrived following general principles not exact formulas. Yes, the principles define a sort of meta process, but it is simply a general template for a modern sort of lean learning.
To expand that just a bit: business processes are based around the segregation of the workforce into roles and the passage of work products along a predefined sequence of steps. Notably, the ones doing the work are often not the ones that defined the process, and the processes are often defined to decrease interaction among the participants.
My sense is that the adoption of narrowly defined scope for the software support of work activities will lead to the greatest opportunities in innovation and productivity. This means the tools have to focus at the scale of work undertaken by individuals: at the task level, if you will. And instead of a defined process with work products — documents, reports, sales data — moving from role to role, we have instead the replacement of process-centric communication with social communication. And social communication is based on personal relationships as defined by social networks. Instead of a fixed sales process with predefined communication built into the process, we see people engaged in sales activities not rigidly defined by a process and where the primary form of communication is social: information moving through streamed updates based on following relationships.
And Close.io is a great proof point for these ideas. By focusing obsessively on the fluid and self-defined activities of sellers, and building deep support for the contextualization of sales-related communications, Close.io upends the data- and process-centric model of sales.
To do so, Close.io becomes a sales oriented communication hub for the seller, and the communication take place in the context of the sale. For example, Close.io has an integrated email client, and when pursuing a lead, the sale-related email exchanges with the client take place in context, so there is no additional data entry related to last email sent, etc.
Here’s a discussion I am having with a Close.io contact. It’s not really a discussion with a lead but the idea is the same. At the bottom right is an earlier email, a more recent one in the middle and at the top right a place to add a note. You can also see the notifications pull-down, showing that I have a voicemail in my Close.io voicemail box.
Close.io offers this VOIP telephony integration as part of the same notion: keeping the communications activities of the seller right in the context of the sales stream. I saw a video on the company website — sadly of too low resolution to effectively copy a screenshot — which captures this wonderfully. The seller calls while having the opportunity open on the screen, the call is logged, the sale is made, the seller checks off the closed deal, and all this happens in the deal. There is no context shifting in and out of the sales application to an email client, or to a cell phone: everything is in the same place.
Close.io also has the mechanisms of sales tracking, so numbers are aggregated, calculated, and shared with the sales team:
The Bottom Line
Obviously, this is more of a drive-by review than a deep use-case-based analysis. I haven’t really tried to sketch out the requirements of a hypothetical sales team, and measured this tool against them. However, I think that the design approach motivating the implementation of Close.io is a good example of lean social thinking, and as a result, will meld well with organizations that are adopting a lean social approach.