Are CRMs still the powerhouse of sales teams?

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Sales teams are vital parts of any business, especially in an economic downturn like the one we’re facing right now. Sales teams must be efficient and productive in developing relationships with prospects, closing deals and maintaining relationships with existing customers. And yet, for today’s sellers, the sales process has never been more complicated. In the B2B space, traditional buying cycles are gone. People buy products and services when they need them, and it fits their budget. Therefore, real-time customer insights, which require data and technology, are more valuable than ever.

But for today’s sales teams, the options and possibilities surrounding technology can seem limitless, just as the amount of data created seems endless. Sales teams need to be able to get customer insights from any touchpoint throughout the customer journey. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are most often the go-to technology for sales teams to capture, manage, and track customer data. However, most CRMs rely on sales teams to enter data manually, which often doesn’t happen consistently, resulting in incomplete customer profiles and incorrect information. What’s worse? These incomplete or faulty profiles can lead to embarrassing errors that can impact the success of a transaction.

Despite the risk of costly mistakes, companies continue to invest in CRMs. This year it is expected that the global CRM market will be $63.91 billion. This figure is expected to reach $145.79 billion by 2029. Clearly the market is huge, but that doesn’t mean these investments are being used effectively. According to a recent survey by Futurum Research in partnership with Microsoft, 53% of salespeople have a love/hate relationship with their CRM. They love CRM, but they hate manual data entry. Which brings us to the question: are CRMs still the go-to technology tool for sales teams or is there a better way?

Survey says sales reps are under pressure

Sales jobs today are complex. Prospects are armed with information and choice. Customers are more digital than ever and value trust, convenience, loyalty, and even quality over price. Salespeople need to meet customers where they are and over-deliver not only to make the initial sale, but also to repeat sales for years to come.

To do their jobs effectively, salespeople need productivity systems like chat channels and email to integrate directly with systems of record like CRMs. The silos between technologies must break down.

Moreover, one thing is clear about the CRMs currently in use: manual data entry is necessary, and it is very necessary. In the same survey I mentioned above, many respondents (43%) said they felt like they were spending more time than they wanted to manually enter data. Wouldn’t it be great if CRMs automatically captured call and email data?

The majority of sales reps (69%) said they would be much more productive at work if they didn’t have to manually enter data into their CRM. An overwhelming 81% said bad data led to an embarrassing mistake with a customer. Something has to change, and it has to change now.

CRMs aren’t going anywhere – they just need to be better

The amount of data we have access to is a boon for sales teams. They can know tons of details about customers and prospects that can help them nurture relationships. And CRMs are still used to help teams organize and sort that data. There are tons of great CRMs out there like Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft. But in our current environment, where many organizations are cutting budgets and even considering layoffs as we face a potential recession, sales teams need to rethink and possibly revamp the sales process. They need to be more productive with the customer data available to them. And this data must be accurate and up-to-date, at all times. To top it off, the seller’s experience should be the primary consideration when it comes to the tech stack.

The rise of the customer engagement platform?

Another thing this survey reiterated again was the growing demand for CDP, CPaaS, CX platforms and one category that I expect to be on the rise, customer engagement platform. The required increase in CDP has only been exacerbated by changing privacy laws that have impacted third-party data. The ability to understand customer needs and reach them in the right channel, at the right time, with the right offer is paramount and of course meeting compliance requirements will be key. Bringing together the elements of CDP, CpaaS, CX and CRM will provide an opportunity to upgrade the already complex MarTech landscape. I expect the CRM leaders mentioned above to step up next-gen customer engagement tools, and I’m betting on CDP, CX, and CpaaS leaders like Twilio, Treasure Data, Five9, Telesign, Nice, and Zendsesk, among others, for all to build integrations and tools to develop next-generation customer engagement tools. Additionally, I believe these capabilities will become increasingly necessary in the small and medium business space, and I expect Zoho, Sugar CRM, and Netsuite to examine these critical workflows.

Rethinking the sales process

Microsoft is tackling this problem head-on with its new seller experience, Microsoft Viva Sales. Coming later this year, the tool will automatically capture data from Office 365 and Teams, integrating it with any CRM system, not just theirs. Sellers can eliminate the arduous process of manual data entry and focus on what they do best: selling. After all, time is money, so automating menial tasks will allow CRMs to be action tools that can generate revenue and not just a place to store data.

Imagine you have an email conversation with a potential customer and all the data is transferred to their customer file. A game-changer – and according to our survey data, something sellers could significantly benefit from.

But it does not stop there. Microsoft is harnessing the power of AI to give sellers next steps and recommendations that can help close deals. AI is a powerful tool used across the organization and now salespeople will be able to take advantage of it too – which is a win for everyone.

It’s hard not to see Microsoft’s push in this area as an indicator of what’s to come from our SaaS and enterprise software vendors in the near future.

Create value in the CRM

CRMs are still valuable, but they can be better. Salespeople agree that if they didn’t have to manually enter data, they could spend more time building relationships with customers and prospects, resolving customer issues, and closing deals. Eighty-one percent of sellers say smart tools would help them do more transactions.

For sellers, their job is already complicated enough. Improving the tech stack with tools that allow salespeople to get the most out of their CRM will help increase productivity, efficiency, and likely generate more revenue. And in our current economic climate, the value of technology like this cannot be overlooked – and the investments companies should and will make to deliver better customer AND employee experiences will prove to be a key demarcation between businesses. winners and also -rans as we likely head into a tougher swim for growth in almost every sector.

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