Intuitive CRM: Wresting CRM back from the boffins

‘Intuitive Customer Centric CRM’ was voted by our readers as the number 10 sales trend of the 12 Sales Trends of 2012.

The goal of a CRM solution should be to drive growth (i.e. revenue) and maximise efficiencies (i.e. profit) in business practices and processes, developing relationship management (sales) with customers at the centre of every decision.

However, for too long CRMs and sales automation have essentially been technological concepts foisted on salespeople by IT specialists who convinced management (not sales) that CRMs and SAs would improve sales.

As leading global CRM and technology expert Ray Wang, of the Altimeter Group, recently acknowledged: “The promise of closer relationships between buyers and sellers, of more effective selling supposedly delivered by CRM, has failed”.

No more than a year or so ago, Ray spoke about the rules of relationship management. He admitted that CRM developers were only now beginning to figure out the relationship part of CRM. He acknowledged that CRM has until now really focused on the management part of the equation and little else.

Well, even these IT boffins – most of whom, like management, make their living from something other than selling – have had to concede that the answer to re-engaging the customer and rebuilding relationships is in building trust through meaningful interactions and “social insights” not simply by inadequately fed data.

In 2012 we are seeing CRMs move away from being a contacts database and pipeline/forecast management tool to becoming the system that places customers at the core of a company’s operation.

This means integrating marketing, sales, service and support to provide a single view of the customer as they move through the engagement lifecycle.

CRMs are out and are being replaced in sales-enabled organisations with the more strategic Marketing Intelligence Central Knowledge Base that embraces a 360 degree view of the customers’ total experience with suppliers and their supply chain. This means that CRMs finally have to do what they originally promised. In turn, that means getting technology experts out of the way and including sales specialists in the solution.

Now that may seem like revolutionary talk in an environment such as this. But the reality is that IT experts, architects and programmers understand technology. Salespeople understand the sales process and the people involved in it. Together there is the potential for a strong partnership. Separately there is even more potential for a greater and costly disaster.

In 2012 and beyond, smart companies will make sure their CRM has a simple, intuitive interface easily configured for integration to finance and legacy systems presenting a single source of truth concerning customers.

In fact, CRM is likely to be renamed as CEM – Customer Experience Management – to reflect its true role. Your CRM/CEM will also easily embed social media to aggregate all content concerning a customer. As for employee productivity, it also needs to be mobile to give staff flexibility to access and update information efficiently while they’re on the move. And in 2012 and beyond, CRM/CEM goes where you go.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au

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