Time for CRM to Get Social

The CRM industry once again hit the headlines in 2007, with Gartner stating that the market is set to slow down in the short-term. But enterprises are actually looking to embrace CRM in 2008 and Social CRM will be the product at the forefront of this interest.

Historically, salespeople have been well known for keeping valuable information close to their chests. However, the climate is changing and we are now a society of social networkers: With an estimated 274 million people worldwide using some form of social networking site (according to wiki.answers.com), people are now sharing information between friends and organizations on a daily basis. This generation will produce the salespeople of tomorrow -- and they expect their CRM systems to work in a similar fashion.

Salespeople are traditionally very competitive and don't see how sharing information with their colleagues will benefit them. However, companies are now becoming more comfortable with using online, collaborative technologies and Social CRM fits the bill. It extends beyond "traditional" CRM, the simple collection and analysis of information, and instead is a knowledge platform to be shared and utilized across all departments within the business, enabling the company to identify the most influential members of its customer base. Social CRM does this by providing salespeople with the critical data needed to build relationships with customers, prospects, suppliers, and vendors -- all via one single interactive network.

It's part of our human nature that we only do tasks that will positively benefit us, and this is where CRM software suffers. Why should salespeople use CRM if they can't see anything in it for them? Most have continued to hit their sales targets without using CRM, so don't see any reason why they should start using it now. However, the emphasis with Social CRM is the adoption of interfaces and models that salespeople are familiar with from the world of social networking, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. This method overcomes the issue of user rejection that so many traditional CRM applications experience, as it requires less time completing forms and focuses more on developing key relationships.

"Tagging" is another resource available within Social CRM. This is a system that allows users to associate clients with keywords or "tags" that represent the customers' interests or tastes. For example, say that a salesperson wanted to contact a CEO of a retail company with whom the salesperson recently completed a deal. If the salesperson knows the CEO enjoys golf, a tag denoting that could be entered into the CRM application. This action would produce a list of all the relevant contacts available for the user, allowing salespeople to categorize and prioritize leads more precisely.

It's easy to forget the basics: the R in CRM stands for relationship, and Social CRM strips traditional customer relationship management systems back down to the basics. CRM is designed to reduce time and effort for the user, helping a company to visualize who it's selling to and to build relationships with the right contacts. Social software provides the user with innovative relationship capabilities that allow the capture and leveraging of relationship assets, therefore enabling salespeople to accelerate the sales cycle.

All CRM resellers understand that installing the technology should support the business strategy. However, implementation is often rejected as potential users refuse to change the way they work and can't see how a new CRM system is going to offer any added benefit, apart from giving them extra work. The familiarity of a Social CRM interface can help to overcome some of these negative perceptions. It should be sold to potential customers as a resource to develop stronger, more-profitable and longer-lasting business relationships, a way to understand what the client values, and ultimately increase sales.

Social CRM promotes pre-existing relationships through a familiar interface, and this untapped market presents big opportunities for resellers. To really stand out in the crowded CRM market, it is time for resellers to introduce new alternatives to their customers and prospects. Social CRM is a perfect fit for businesses looking to grow, react more quickly and, most important, generate more sales from their current and prospective clients.

About the Author
Matthew Crook joined SalesCentric in July 2006 as CEO and manages business strategy, finance and administration of the business. He is responsible for building the company's alliance with Microsoft and its key resellers.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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