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Sales teams are vital components to any enterprise, especially in an economic downturn like we are facing right now. Sales teams need to be efficient and productive to develop relationships with prospects, close deals, and nurture relationships with existing customers. And yet for salespeople today, the selling process has never been more complicated. In the B2B space, traditional buying cycles have gone out the window. People buy products and services when they need them, and it fits their budget. As a result, real-time customer insights, which require data and technology, are more valuable than ever.
But for today’s sales teams the options and possibilities surrounding technology can seem limitless just as the amount of data created seems endless. Sales teams need to be able to gain customer insights from any touchpoint throughout the customer journey. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are most frequently the go to piece of technology for sales teams to capture, manage, and track customer data. However, most CRMs rely on sales teams to enter data manually which often does not happen consistently, leading to incomplete customer profiles and faulty insights. What’s worse? These incomplete or faulty profiles can lead to embarrassing mistakes that can potentially impact the success of a deal.
Despite the potential for costly errors, enterprises are still investing in CRMs. This year it’s projected that the global market for CRMs will be $63.91 billion. That number is expected to grow to $145.79 billion by 2029. Clearly the market is huge, but that doesn’t mean that these investments are being used efficiently. According to a recent survey Futurum Research did in partnership with Microsoft, 53% of salespeople have a love/hate relationship with their CRM. They love the CRM, but they hate manual data entry. Which leads to the question: Are CRMs still the powerhouse tech tool for sales teams or is there a better way?
Survey Says: Salespeople are Under Pressure
Sales jobs today are complex. Prospects are armed with information and choices. Customers are more digital than ever and value trust, convenience, loyalty and even quality over price. Salespeople need to meet customers where they are and overdeliver not just to make the initial sale, but to make repeat sales for years to come.
To do their jobs effectively, salespeople need systems of productivity like chat channels and emails to integrate directly with systems of record like CRMs. The silos between technologies need to come down.
Furthermore, one thing is clear about CRMs that are currently in use: manual data entry is required, and it’s required a lot. In the same survey I mentioned above, many respondents (43%) shared that they feel like they’re spending more time than they like manually entering data. Wouldn’t it be great if CRMs captured data automatically from calls and emails?
Majority of salespeople (69%) shared they would be much more productive at work if they didn’t have to manually enter data into their CRM. An overwhelming 81% said that faulty data has led to an embarrassing mistake with a customer. Something needs to change, and it needs to change now.
CRMs Aren’t Going Anywhere – They Just Need to Be Better
The amount of data we have access to is a boon for sales teams. They can know tons of details about clients and prospects that can help them nurture relationships. And CRMs still serve a purpose in helping teams organize and sort this data. There are tons of excellent CRMs that exist like Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft. But in our current environment, where many organizations are cutting budgets and even considering layoffs as we face a potential recession, sales teams need to rethink and possibly retool the sales process. They need to be more productive with the customer data that is available to them. And that data needs to be accurate and up to date, at all times. To top it off, the seller experience needs to be the main consideration when it comes to the tech stack.
The Rise of the Customer Engagement Platform?
Another thing that this survey further reiterated was the growing demand for CDP, CPaaS, CX Platforms, and a category that I expect to be on the rise, the Customer Engagement Platform. The required rise of the CDP has only become exacerbated by the shifting privacy laws that have impacted third party data. The ability to understand the customer need and to reach them in the right channel, at the right time, with the appropriate offer is paramount—and of course following the compliance requirements will be critical. Putting together the pieces of CDP, CpaaS, CX, and CRM will be an opportunity to up level the already complex MarTech landscape. I expect the above-mentioned CRM leaders to step up with next generation customer engagement tools, and I am betting on CDP, CX, and CpaaS leaders like Twilio, Treasure Data, Five9, Telesign, Nice, and Zendsesk among others to all be building integrations and tools to develop next generation customer engagement tools. Furthermore, I believe these capabilities will become increasingly required in the smaller and middle-sized business space, and I expect the likes of Zoho, Sugar CRM, and Netsuite to be looking at these critical workflows.
Rethinking The Sales Process
Microsoft is tackling this problem head on with their new seller experience, Microsoft Viva Sales. Coming later this year, the tool will automatically capture data from Office 365 and Teams integrating it with any CRM system — not just their own. Sellers can eliminate the arduous process of manual data entry and focus on doing what they do best — selling. Time is money after all so automating the menial tasks will allow CRMs to be tools of action that can generate revenue and not just a place to store data.
Imagine having an email conversation with a prospective client and having all of the data transferred over to their customer record. A game-changer — and according to our survey data, something that salespeople could meaningfully benefit from.
But it doesn’t stop there. Microsoft is tapping into the power of AI to give sellers next steps and recommendations that can help close deals. AI is a powerful tool used all across the organization and now sellers will get to take advantage too — which is a win for everyone.
It’s hard not to see Microsoft’s push into this area being a bellwether for what is to come from our SaaS and enterprise software providers in the near future.
Creating Value in the CRM
CRMs still hold value, but they can be better. Sellers agree that if they didn’t have to manually enter data they could spend more time building relationships with customers and prospective customers, solving customer problems, and closing deals. Eighty-one percent of salespeople say that intelligent tools would help them close more deals.
For salespeople, their job is complicated enough. Improving the tech stack with tools that enable salespeople to get more from their CRM will help drive productivity, efficiency and likely generate more revenue. And in our current economic climate, the value of a piece of technology like this can’t be overlooked—and the investments that companies should and will make to deliver better customer AND employee experiences will prove to be a key demarcation between businesses winners and also-rans as we likely head into tougher swimming for growth in almost every industry.
Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.
Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of Futurum Research as a whole.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.
Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio