Thoughts on what businesses actually need from the Cloud, not what vendors wish they needed.

Chris Bliss

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PipelineDeals Reviewed: cloud-based sales automation

We’re always on the hunt for innovative business software and the holiday season has been no exception. This week we demoed PipelineDeals, a self-proclaimed “simple and powerful tool for your sales team.” Built by a team based in both Conshohocken (wtf?), PA, and Seattle, WA, PipelineDeals is a SaaS sales automation tool aimed at small businesses. At $15/user/mo it’s an attractive choice deserving of a good look…

On the surface there’s a lot to like about PipelineDeals. Despite some wasted space and curious design choices, the UI is generally clean and straightforward, and manages not to be overwhelming, an achievement in its own right. We like that. We also like the “home” tab, which provides an “at a glance” view of your daily agenda, latest activities, deals by stage, and other general information. It’s an instantly usable product.

Dig in a little deeper and the picture gets more complex. PipelineDeals organizes people and companies into three main categories: “leads,” “deals,” and “contacts.” Leads are unqualified contacts that need some sales work: deals are concrete revenue opportunities to be won or lost: contacts are just about everyone else, and can be associated with deals.

We’re not entirely sold on this trifurcation of contacts. It’s an old-school approach aimed at pushing contacts through an automated pipeline (hence the name, Pipeline Deals) and it suffers from being too linear and inflexible. What if leads don’t progress through stages but instead move back and forth between them? What if a contact is at once a lead a contact and a deal? What then? PipelineDeals has workarounds, sure, but at the end of the day it isn’t built for dynamism.

Nor is it built for CRM or project management. If your sales focus is on managing and nurturing relationships, or on project management at all, then this isn’t the product for you. It’s a sales automation tool, nothing more, nothing less.

Of course, there are advantages to PipelineDeals’s approach. Because every lead/contact/deal is assigned pipeline “stages,” the reporting is quite good: it’s easy to create informative, revealing, exportable pivot tables (though line and bar graphs would be welcome…). Within the constraints of contact trifurcation, it’s also fairly customizable, with plenty of custom fields and activity templates.  There’s also a nifty “goals” section where you can set sales targets, and unlimited, sharable document storage. Not bad for $15/user/mo.

All in all, it’s a competitive product if you want straightforward sales automation and a linear sales approach. Otherwise it’s probably worth looking elsewhere.

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Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.