• June 5, 2023
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

Moving From CRM to VCRM

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When doing sales enablement strategy reviews, I am occasionally asked, “We are currently using XYZ CRM; would we be better off using another of the established CRM systems?” Historically, my response has been that based on the technology research we’ve done, on average companies that use a CRM system outperform companies that do not. But I’ve also asserted that this performance delta shrinks noticeably when you start to compare the sales effectiveness of organizations using one CRM over another. In my mind, a key contributor to this trend has been that traditional CRM capabilities, like account, contact, forecast, and content management, are all mature and the differences between what solutions provide in these areas are minimal. Well, a recent reality check showed me that that is no longer a valid assumption.

The start of my change in attitude came when I attended a briefing on CRM. One of the participants stated that for firms installing a new CRM system, implementations of industry-specific solutions were now outpacing traditional one-size-fits-all solutions. As soon as I heard that, I thought, “Can that be true? Have I been so focused on looking at new innovations in sales enablement technology that I am missing out on real advances in the core CRM marketplace?”

To explore the issue further, I got a briefing from Sunil Dixit, senior vice president of product management, financial services, at Salesforce. He walked me through various versions of Financial Services Cloud that are designed to meet the unique needs and requirements of sales professionals working for banks, insurance companies, investment firms, and wealth management firms. They go beyond traditional core CRM capabilities.

For example, the wealth management version of Financial Services Cloud provides features such as account aggregation, performance reporting, workflow automation, and financial planning. This in turn provides a complete view of the client’s financial profiles, including accounts, assets, holdings, and personal and professional networks. We also discussed how AI advances, like Einstein GPT, were laying the foundation for CRM solutions to deliver even more profound value to vertically specialized sales organizations.

Since Dixit’s briefing, after realizing I had been viewing this segment of the sales technology space with blinders on, I spent time researching what other vertical industry versions of CRM were available. I found applications designed for the unique selling needs of commercial real estate brokers, HVAC contractors, plumbers, venture capitalists, even a solution optimized for yoga studio operators.

Much continues to be shared on how buyers are demanding more from sellers these days. They want to work with sales professionals who display new levels of competency, expertise, and effectiveness. It is now clearer to me, much to my chagrin, that I’ve been underestimating the role that vertical CRM (VCRM) solutions have played (and will continue to play) in helping industry-specific sales organizations. (For more, see the April issue’s “Vertical Markets Spotlight”.)

Having gone through this reexamination, my new perspective is that even experienced CRM sales organizations would be well-served to evaluate the VCRM space. They may well find a solution tailored for their industry that offers far superior user experience, customization capabilities, sales effectiveness functionality, and so on than traditional CRMs provide. Making that transition now will allow them to proactively upgrade their sales teams’ efficiency and effectiveness vs. having to play catch-up if their competitors move to VCRM first. 

Jim Dickie is a research fellow for Sales Mastery, a research firm that in benchmarking case study examples of how companies are leveraging technology to transform sales. He can be reached at jim@salesmastery.com or at @jimdickie.

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