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Your CRM Framework Probably Needs to Grow
A survey of executives reveals the top sales tools
For the rest of the December 2016 issue of CRM magazine please click here

For those of us who have successfully implemented a core CRM solution, we know this inconvenient truth: We are far from done. While core CRM provides a set of clearly needed tools, it doesn’t address every challenge sales teams face; you’ll need to enhance your solution framework.

As part of CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization study, we surveyed more than 500 sales executives on how they leveraged technology to optimize their teams’ performance. The chart shows which technologies were most frequently adopted to augment core CRM functionality.

Topping the list are social selling tools (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) to help reps identify prospects, generate leads, establish credibility by building their brand, and so on. Firms are also adopting web-based meeting technology (WebEx, Adobe Connect, etc.) to enhance virtual selling.

The chart shows how the rest of the tools rank:

Sales intelligence: This refers to services such as Data.com, InsideView, and Avention, all of which support prospect research and aim to increase data accuracy.

Sales force collaboration: This category includes tools such as Chatter, Jam, and Jive; they create internal sales social networks to facilitate best practices sharing.

Sales content management: Solutions such as Showpad, Seismic, Brainshark, and App Data Room are designed to help salespeople easily access and leverage the kinds of content and tools they need to effectively engage clients.

Compensation management: This category refers to sales performance management solutions from the likes of Xactly, IBM, and Callidus; these systems can design and manage comprehensive incentive programs for sales teams.

Configure/price/quote (CPQ): This technology automates specific aspects of the quote-to-close phase of the sales process and includes CPQ applications from Salesforce.com/SteelBrick, Oracle/Big Machines, and Apptus.

Account planning: Systems such as Revegy, 5600blue, and Axiom can automate the creation and management of strategic account plans.

Sales analytics: This final category, which includes tools from vendors such InsightSquared, Insidesales.com, and Lattice Engines, aims to increase sales management’s visibility into the health of the pipeline and forecast.

If this sounds like a lot of options to consider, let me add that this list leaves off a number of emerging technologies that also promise to optimize sales performance. Which begs the question, is all this technology really necessary?

The simple answer is this: It depends. Since companies vary widely in regards to how they go about selling, a technology that may be mission-critical for one sales force may be simply a nice-to-have option for another. The key for creating a CRM technology framework that helps optimize the performance of your sales organization is to understand the specific challenges your sales teams face, and why those challenges exist.

With those insights in hand, you can determine which capabilities should be added to your CRM platform. And trust me, there will be several of them. But the ROI from optimizing sales performance will be orders of magnitude more than the cost of adding the right technology.


Jim Dickie is a cofounder and strategic adviser to CSO Insights, a Division of MHI Global, a research firms that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales transformation initiatives. He can be reached at jimdickie@icloud.com or on Twitter @jimdickie.

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