It's smart to keep things simple.
When it comes to business tools, somehow, we err on the side of more. More functionality, more features, more complexity… until we end up with tools so unwieldy and stiff that they need other tools to help users use them!
Of course, the intent comes from the right place. We already service our clients, and we know what else they struggle with. So we expand our toolset to take care of this one scenario, and that one business case and before we know it, the tool is a laggardly behemoth.
But it doesn't need to be. Complexity doesn't need to feel complex to the user. Take the iPhone, for example. I don't know a single person who has ever had to read the iPhone user manual (aficionados do, but that's beside the point). I remember making the switch from my Blackberry to my first iPhone, and wondering how I was supposed to do everything I did with my convenient keyboard and eight or nine other buttons… with an iPhone.
Of course, the iPhone was a giant leap forward from my Blackberry (sorry RIM, you were the greatest… till you weren't!). I remember the delight I felt at figuring out in just 10 mins, everything I needed to do with my phone, by just fiddling about with it. It was that intuitive. Not by accident, of course, but by design. I didn't need to be all that smart to use my very, very, very smartphone.
So, why do we expect less from our business-critical applications, than we do from a personal device?
Personally, I think it's just a carryover from our early experiences with tools - if we were struggling with a tool, it was because we didn't know how to use it right. In other words: it's your fault.
As someone who has built my own SaaS baby, I'm here to tell you, it is NOT. Tools are supposed to adapt to the user, not vice versa. The best tools out there, do. They spend time and effort to get the customer experience right, they design their UIs with intent, and they are serious about seeking feedback.
In this post, I'm going to list a few tools that absolutely nail usability, while delivering complex, well-thought-out functionalities, and have an enviable feature set.
Sales Intelligence: LinkedIn Sales Navigator
In my research on Sales Intelligence tools, the LinkedIn Sales Navigator is head and shoulders ahead of the competition when it comes to simplicity of use, and intuitive process flows. For instance, with the search feature, you get to search on all parameters: title, seniority, years at the company, and location. Then, not only can you reach out to prospects, leads and recruiters but also send more targeted messages to all the right people, by creating relevant and filtered lists of leads and accounts. You can push all these lists into your CRM, which it will integrate with easily. Messaging someone on LinkedIn is, of course, the easiest thing.
Email Tracking: MixMax
Email tracking is one of those areas where we're spoilt for choices, but MixMax is my clear favorite. Mixmax can eliminate busy work like no other. It automates so many tasks and workflows, and 'MixMax rules lets teams design their own automated workflows across productivity apps such as Slack, Salesforce, DocuSign and Gmail. The reminder functions are par excellence, and it lets you set up several rules for alerts. My team, for instance, has set up a rule for when someone opens an email we've sent them thrice, allowing them to reach out to the customer right when they're thinking of us.
When it comes to the core function of managing email campaigns, MixMax truly delivers. It is very easy to set up templates, and it comes pre-loaded with a bunch of smart templates, to begin with. Designing sequences is easy and fun - my teams have been doing their own A/B testing to work out which approaches work best (without having to train themselves on it). Of course, it integrates well with CRM.
Proposal Software: Proposify
When it comes to creating proposals and responding to RFPs through tools, flexibility and ease of use isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But, Proposify delivers. According to my research on this one, it arms you with customizable templates, proposal analytics, and a live customer dashboard; everything you need to create effective proposals. The templates are pleasing to the eye and really easy to use, and it comes with a library full of them. Modifying these templates doesn't involve much effort (yay! Flexibility!) and you really can build a proposal in a few clicks, based on your own rule set.
While CPQs do a whole lot to automate and streamline the lifecycle of the quoting and proposal process, most can be tricky to navigate. Not so with DealHub. Configuring your settings and rules takes no coding experience, and you can complete customization yourself, without having to hire a consultant. This means that your team doesn't get stuck with the customization they once thought made sense - the tool evolves, just as their process does! Moreover, DealHub comes with great support, and at a great price for the value it delivers.
While the larger umbrella of sales enablement tools tends to include some fairly complicated tools, the tools that focus on content management seem to have their usability down pat. Both Guru and RELAYTO are a dream to use. Guru works like your personal company Wiki and does a great job of making information available at your fingertips. Its intuitive interface makes it very easy to create content that combines video, text, and graphics.
RELAYTO takes this one step ahead by automating a lot of content creation by allowing you to import existing documents. The UI is simple itself, and the outcomes are so polished looking, you won't believe your interns did it. At SmartCue, we use Guru, but we also dabble with RELAYTO from time to time.
Live Chat: Intercom
Of course, the front end needs to be simple itself, or our customers won't interact with them. But live chat tools also need to be very easy to program, customize, and source data (and analytics!) from. This is where Intercom really, really shines. The chats land in what looks like a standard inbox, everything gets ticketed, the analytics are sophisticated, and the UI is easy enough for my team to run their own A/B tests on what is working, and what isn't!
Demo Automation: SmartCue
Of course, for me, the touchstone of a good user experience is when things are just obvious. I want SmartCue to be the iPhone of the demo automation world. So far, I'm proud to report, no one has had to ask me how to do something on SmartCue. Clearly, we're doing something right.
The idea behind SmartCue was that sales reps carry far too much information in their heads during demos - scripts for starters, 'must cover' features that change with every custom demo, a running list of jargon that must be pronounced just so… it's endless, and it doesn't help their confidence. SmartCue takes all of that away by providing smart, in context cues based on where the mouse pointer is at. It can also cue the presenter on what the next steps are, and it takes care of the agenda. So if the prospect wants to explore the functionality out of sequence, they can, without giving the sales rep hives.
Also, I wanted to create a tool that takes the sting out of demo creation. Sales Engineers spend far too long creating demos, and really, that's not where they add the most value! I wanted to free them up from this task by making it incredibly easy. And yes, no sales engineer has asked to be trained on SmartCue yet!
Tools work for you, not vice versa. Demand more from the tools you use - both in terms of functionality and ease of use. You needn't have to choose between one or the other. Of course, there are cases where the task itself is complex enough to require training (see how I skipped CRM tools here?), and we have to make allowances for tools when the underlying processes are complex and non-standard.
However, by and large, between the SaaS model and the no-code low-code framework, tools are getting easier to use. I would recommend jumping off this article to each of the tool links. Watch their demos - even if you have no intention to adopt them! It'll reset your expectations for good.