CRM Alone Will Not Help Your Sales Team Win


Kevin Miller

Customer relationship management systems are meant to manage the selling process, but marketing automation systems to manage the buying process are also needed.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is the venerable granddaddy of front-office technology. Now a mature software on the back end of the adoption curve, CRM systems have been widely used for years now. Aside from new features and add-ons, CRM has not really changed much in the last 10 years.

At its core, CRM systems are built to help a sales team manage, track, and report on their sales process. CRM systems are essentially designed to help a company manage the process of selling. While a great many benefits are derived from these systems, one of the fundamental shortcomings of CRM is that it has not adapted to the rapidly changing, Web-enabled buying environment that is now pervasive in the B2B world.

When you look at how people find, evaluate, and purchase for business today, a huge percentage of the interactions that occur are performed by the buyers, with little or no interaction between the buyer and the seller. Today, people find and evaluate the products and services they will purchase in what we refer as the social Web. Not to be confused with social networks, the social Web is a conglomeration of all of the digital assets and information about products and services.

These digital assets may exist on your website, blogs (yours or others), social networks, business directories, and Web-based publications. Marketers have, through technology and process, adapted very well to this changing environment and push a huge amount of content to the social Web in the hopes that it will be consumed by potential buyers.

But where does this leave your sales team and the CRM systems they use to manage their day?

It leaves them out in the cold in many cases. See, today’s buyers really don’t care much about how you sell or your sales process. The Web-savvy buyers are going to do a lot of their own homework, consume digital assets, and interact with you (person-to-person or buyer-to-seller) only when they are ready. The problem with this is that sales is getting left behind in the process and engaging much later in the “buy cycle” than they have in the past.

This may mean that firm opinions and preconceived notions about your company are well formed by the time sales speaks to a prospect. This may be good, bad, or neutral, as leaving as much as 70 percent of the buying cycle up to the buyer alone is a risky proposition.

Marketing automation platforms have skyrocketed in adoption recently and there’s no slowing down in sight. These platforms are like the CRM systems for marketing – they are built from the ground up to help marketers plan, execute, and track all manner of lead generation activities. You could say that marketing automation is designed to manage the buying process while CRM is designed to manage the selling process. Both are needed to be successful in today’s social-Web-enabled world.

What’s interesting about marketing automation systems, however, is not the deep set of marketing features they bring to bear. These are great and any marketer worth their salt will be like a kid in a candy store when they get their hands on a good MAP. What we’re seeing in the industry that’s fascinating is the adoption of marketing automation-generated data in CRM by sales.

Sales people are quickly seeing the value in what MAPs add to CRM. Most notably, the Web interactions captured by MAPs can tell a sales person exactly who is on their site, why they are there, and what content they are consuming. Savvy sales personnel can use this information to their advantage and that, combined with real-time campaign response history, can help them engage with buyers more quickly – giving them and advantage over their competition. And what salesperson doesn’t want that?