NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When the digital age decides your time is up, it is up. To wit, the once-invulnerable customer relationship management maker Salesforce.com ( CRM) is looking straight down the barrel of the digital gun at an itty-bitty -- but still lethal -- social relationship management tool called Rapportive.For anybody who uses software to sell, it's nothing new that San Francisco-based Salesforce faces stiff competition from lower- or no-cost CRM tools such as Capsule, Timely, Solve360 and, what, a dozen others? What is new is that Salesforce now faces a real threat from what amounts to nothing more than software that plugs into Web browsers such as Google's ( GOOG) Chrome or Mozilla Firefox (just not Windows ( MSFT) Explorer) -- in this case, Rapportive.
|This free, public Web tool provides a dead-easy way to be in closer touch with clients.|
This is, without question, the fastest, cheapest way to manage a relationship using Gmail. Rapportive is all about easy. Downloading the plug-in for Chrome, Apple's ( AAPL) Safari or Firefox is a few-click affair. Once installed, when Gmail's Web-based interface is launched, you'll see a long list of available public social content tied to that email identity on the right side of your mail account where the paid ads used to be. Usually that amounts to the sender's Facebook, LinkedIn ( LNKD) or Twitter feeds, but Flickr and many other social media services are supported.
Don't expect any sort of Windows support, the team collaboration features of Salesforce or anything close to a secure service. Rapportive is a remarkable tool, but that does not mean it is a remarkable business tool. Windows-based shops will groan, since neither Explorer nor Outlook is supported. And if you sell with a heavy team approach, Rapportive is not for you; there are no group functions. But the real killer is that Rapportive is impossible to centrally administer. How secure it is, therefore, is based on how your overall network is managed. So if you forbid Facebook at work, or prefer that people not use Twittter, Rapportive will have little value. Rapportive is a free, public Web tool that happens to fill a business role. Not the other way around. Bottom line
If you are looking for a low-cost, dead-easy way to be in closer touch with your clients, and you use Gmail, download Rapportive now. You will find it a handy, time-saving way to mine fresh sales leads and nurture existing ones. Just don't expect it to be a centrally managed, corporate business communications tool. It's not. And yeah, in these digital days, three bright guys really can take on a 20-some-odd-billion-dollar giant such as Salesforce.com. And win. >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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