Feeling burnt out from the holiday gift-giving season? Well, here's a sobering thought for the CRM industry: The watchwords in the new year may well be shop till you drop. Many companies will continue to purchase additional technology throughout 2007, despite previous large-ticket expenditures. CSO Insights asked companies that have implemented a core CRM platform--Oracle, Salesforce.com, Microsoft, SAP, and others--about their plans to make technology purchases this year.
The report, "2007 Sales Performance Optimization Survey," polled more than 1,000 companies worldwide; about 70 percent of the participating firms said that they will be buying additional tech. Top of mind for many project teams is CRM sales process integration. CRM systems for years have allowed the mapping of sales methodology to the opportunity management system. It allows reps to see how many deals are in which stages of the sell cycle, what calls have been made to date on the account, what the planned next steps are, and more.
Now project teams want to take mapping farther, providing integrated sales process coaching to salespeople. That is, as a rep updates what she has already done in pursuing an opportunity, the CRM sales process system gives her direction on what specific actions to take next. Based on an analysis of past sales, the system may suggest she get other decision-makers involved, prepare for certain questions or objections to arise, or provide a sample template to use to build the business case.
Sales methodology vendors are working with major CRM players to develop some of these capabilities. In addition, new players like Landslide, White Springs, Market-Partners, TAS Group, ShadeTree Technology, and Involve Technology are stepping in to fill this gap.
These systems can, in fact, improve a rep's effectiveness, but CRM teams will also be investigating ways to shore up sales management's performance. Number two on the list of CRM platform additions is sales management analytics. The goal of these systems is to give managers detailed visibility into the overall sales pipeline, and more specifically the current sales forecast. Sarbanes-Oxley pressures executive management to run tighter, more predictable ships, and management in turn looks to chief sales officers to take some of the mystery out of if, for how much, and by when will deals close. CRM vendors like SPSS, SAS, and Teradata are working to extend the analytics they provide, but also stepping up are firms that provide sales management with multidimensional analysis tools to mine the gold from all the data input by salespeople.
Third on the list is lead generation/management solutions. This segment of the CRM space is exploding. As companies try to build systems to provide salespeople with more and/or better leads, they find the game involves lots of moving pieces. First, enterprises need prospect-targeting help provided by firms like OneSource, Harte-Hanks, and Factiva. Then, marketing campaign management support provided by systems from Unica, Eloqua, and Manticore comes into play.
Once leads are obtained reps may need to do more work to flush out data on the prospect. Here, business network firms like Spoke and LinkedIn enter the mix. And what about lead incubation? Consider setting up microsites using technologies like iCentera, Landslide's i/o channel, or Eloqua.
So, for 2007 market trends suggest that the CRM system you implemented in the past couple of years is a good start, but it is exactly that--a start. CRM project teams will want to review current activities and goals, but should not forget to examine what remains to be improved, and then get out there and go shopping again.
Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at www.csoinsights.com.