The combination of an increased use of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, WAYN, etc. and the proliferation of data these systems generate – all of which is becoming more accessible – might well see the death of Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMS) as we know it.
What’s more, as sales embraces this technology and drives toward the increasingly more important aspect of buyer relationships – i.e. management of the customer total experience – the demise of CRMS may be precipitated.
The shift could see the historically important Customer Relationship Management concept (as well as the technology of CRM) replaced with Customer Experience Management (CEM), as more buyers demand to be treated as individuals and sales organisations harness intelligent buyer data and clearly defined roles for their sales, service and marketing teams to fulfil that expectation.
And the shift is not all that subtle!
Management sees CRMS as a boon and a way to get a single view of customers; administration and accounting use it to track customer purchasing and payments; however, most salespeople view it as an organisational policing tool that is little more than an over-inflated list/prospect manager that takes too much time and delivers too little value.
CRMS has had its fair share of ups and downs.
But all of that is coming to an end. The increasingly sophisticated demands of customers are forcing discerning sales leaders to re-think their customer relationship management protocols.
Originally technology-led, CRMS has never really been user-friendly. Millions of dollars have been invested and re-invested in trying to make the protocol deliver on its promise of a single view that not only helps organisations develop effective strategies, but also improves sales performance. But if that were true, why would companies like IBM trash their 67,000-seat CRM (as they announced less than a week ago)?
What is forcing this change? The seismic changes taking place in the sales arena: continued fragmentation of buyer segments; the demands of increasingly sophisticated and better-informed buyers with less to spend and greater needs; and ample buyer choice.
These factors have made understanding buyer expectations and their total supply chain experience an imperative. Add to this the complexity that today sales must be driven by its own unique strategy, rather than a panel-beaten marketing plan, and understanding the buyer’s total experience becomes self-evident.
In the era of Customer Experience Management, sales leaders and their salespeople will now be looking for a new kind of ROI (Return on Input). If systems and protocols can’t correlate customer data and provide predictive trends and intelligent ways to reduce the cost of sale, drive sales strategy and improve sales effectiveness, no system or protocol will survive.
The demands don’t end with sales leadership.
With increasing pressure to perform, salespeople too are making a shift and demanding that CRM provides different support. Savvy salespeople realise that to sell effectively, whether their sale is product or solutions based, they need a better grasp of industry, market and customer knowledge. They expect to access – as easily as possible and usually from a mobile device – the information that will help them identify opportunities to discuss solutions with their customers.
Another driving force is the increased need for channel and key account management, coupled with the groundswell in Australia of a more strategic approach to selling – especially as we compete with Asia. This knowledge exchange has become one of the all-important differentiators, along with ease and speed of access.
With the advent of Customer Experience Knowledge, we are likely to see Business Intelligence Systems (BI) drive Customer Expectation Management, not data collection. Sales leaders will shift from looking for data to demanding a contiguous streaming of information, and IT people will have to change their focus to data interpretation and application.
Applying the knowledge that sales leaders can get from understanding their customers’ total experience to sales strategies will help organisations regain some control of their future. Failure to harness this powerful concept and tool may well result in companies seeing margins eroded, unnecessarily!
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is one of the leading female voices commenting on sales today. Sue is an experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting, support system where you can get access to sales assessments, sales consulting, sales coaching and sales training programs including planning, prospecting, selling skills, account management, emotional resilience and more. Visit www.barrett.com.au, Barrett Facebook Page or follow Sue Barrett on Twitter.