The Future of CRM
Always looking to get an edge on the competition, sales reps have traditionally been among the first to embrace new technology—from PCs and early brick-size mobiles to modern tablets and smartphones. Nowadays, technology is crucial to sales success, and one area where technological advancement is revolutionizing the way sales staff work is CRM.
As a result, the CRM market is constantly growing, as more and more businesses of all sizes adopt tools to streamline their sales activity and improve the data they gather. This market growth is currently being driven by new technology that present organizations with new opportunities and reflects the changing way in which we conduct business. Here are some of the key trends that are shaping the world of CRM.
Until recently, CRM tools were not designed with the traveling salesperson in mind. While office-based sales teams have had access to a wealth of resources and customer knowledge, those out in the field have largely been left to rely on their own skills, making it harder for them to improve their performance. The initial mobile offerings from the major CRM providers did not provide field sales reps with the functionality they need.
But new, truly mobile CRM solutions are making life easier for sales reps with features designed to facilitate the daily activity of sales staff. Mobility is now a requirement for most sales professionals, not just those who are based in the field. They need access to customer information and sales material wherever they are, and on any device, to ensure that they don't miss out on opportunities.
Mobile CRM means more than simply using a CRM system on a mobile device; mobile CRM solutions offer a wide range of features to help sales reps manage relationships and increase their productivity. This includes geolocation technology that pinpoints accounts nearby while also providing access to presentations and other sales material that can be shown to customers. This set of features is only going to expand as CRM providers respond to the BYOD trend and the shift toward mobile devices as the main source of Internet traffic.
Linked to mobility is the advent of wearable technology such as smart watches. Although the wearable revolution is still in its early stages, sales of wearable devices are predicted to grow rapidly over the next five years, meaning they are likely to become increasingly common in the business environment. A number of CRM providers have already launched applications that are compatible with devices such as the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear.
These apps complement and integrate with mobile solutions, offering sales reps even greater mobility and access to CRM data. Using a smart watch, sales reps can check their calendar at a glance, access and call their contacts, report on the outcome of meetings using voice-to-text technology, and identify nearby opportunities using geolocation—all without having to reach into their pocket or bag. Although wearable CRM is in its infancy, the technology will certainly have a future role to play in sales, providing enhanced mobility and a further platform for data collection.
Due to the previous lack of CRM tools aimed at those on the road, field sales reps have not enjoyed the same level of support that office-based staff have had. They have traditionally seen the process of reporting on their activity as a burden and a waste of time—something to be done at the end of the day, week, or even month. This has left sales managers with limited and poor-quality information on the activity of their field sales force, hampering their ability to improve performance.
This problem is now a thing of the past, with the latest CRM technology offering better reporting systems for field sales reps and thus a larger pool of data for organizations to look at. Modern CRM applications record every interaction the sales rep has with the customer, whatever device they're using, and enables the rep to report on their activity in real time. This in turn gives sales managers and directors better insight into what their field sales teams are doing, enabling them to identify areas where opportunities are being missed, evaluate staff performance, and provide more tailored support and training to individual reps. Furthermore, good data collection can help accurately predict sales trends and assist in making informed decisions that can ultimately save time and resources, so that organizations can productively focus on the most interested targets.
CRM systems of the not-too-distant future will ensure that the reporting process is no longer a chore but instead a vital tool that empowers sales reps to meet and exceed their targets. In turn this new wave of CRM will deliver enhanced, real-time analytics and provide organizations with greater insight into the activity and performance of their sales teams, enabling businesses to be more successful than ever before. In short, the future of CRM is one that is truly mobile.
Jaime Lucea is director of Strategy and Business Development at ForceManager.