There was a lot of hype and promise over CRM systems last decade, especially with the collaborative value of Salesforce.com in the cloud along with many other CRM systems. Essentially, CRM moved from independent sales people with their own desktop contact management to a team selling environment.
Managers loved the new environment because there was visibility into the sales funnel and pipeline stages. The data was real-time. Sales activities could be accounted for by what team members were doing, regardless of where they were located. A manager could manage their entire team across the globe from anywhere, anytime.
The feeling of accountability and control created high value for managers and executives. They didn’t have to be sold by their team or held in the dark anymore. The data was transparent and metrics were visible. This made sense and still does today in industries where outbound selling was or is still acceptable. You need a CRM system in such environments to manage the workflow and process of selling. Sales people created the opportunities to pursue and the importance of building relationships, providing value and following up regularly needs to be tracked.
However, we live in a completely different world today which is continuing to change, especially in business to business sales. Think about how limited a person was ten years ago in their buying. They did not carry around an iPhone or maneuver the web and have social tools that they configure and customize themselves as they did previously. Buyers relied on a sales person to act as a concierge. They provided guidance and information about their products, services and industry with consistent and persistent follow-up.
Today, buyers feel much more comfortable and capable of getting information themselves. They educate themselves all the time. You likely do this as well and may not notice how empowered and different you are compared to years ago. Furthermore, we do not welcome a sales person too early in the process. It is disruptive and creates tension rather than a natural connection.
The model of buying has turned more into a self-service process for the buyer earlier in their process. It is their preference and they do this across their buying habits.
So what does this mean to CRM? Is it obsolete? No, it is still required, as long as there is a selling process. The selling process has to be married to the buying process set up to allow for inbound marketing leads. The buyer’s behaviors should be captured digitally. Every click, open, request and other online behavior should deposit into a CRM record.
The sales person can use this information just as they would with their own manual follow-up information in a lead record to understand how to approach and service a new prospect. It is much more leveraged and part of how buying is done via inbound marketing.
So, again, is your CRM obsolete? No, the old selling process is. Your CRM needs to support the new processes and play a more integrated role with the up front process of buying. It’s great news in that what large sales teams once did can now be done with fewer people augmented with marketing automation. It’s sobering news in that how a CRM works in your environment needs to likely change.
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