The Future Of Sales – CRM Is Not Enough

Customer relationship management software is no longer fit for purpose in the as-a-service economy

More than 200 enterprise software company CEOs declared ‘CRM is not enough’ in a letter published by the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, and it raised a crucial question. Has Customer Relationship Management (CRM), the sales world’s cornerstone, become outdated?

CRM revolutionised sales, allowing sales teams to track and record their interactions and results. This has been very effective for the last three decades – but in the age of Everything as-a-Service, it is now falling short.

The Everything as-a-Service subscription model means that sales teams are no longer closing one-off deals and walking away with the commission. Sellers need to show their customers and prospects that their product delivers value month in, month out. 

Not fit for purpose

CRM is fundamentally unequal to this mission. Its rigid, low-interaction format requires significant administration investment in the shape of filling in forms, status updates and contact numbers. It cannot offer the flexibility businesses need to meaningfully follow up with prospects, maintain and enrich existing accounts or create continuous value for their customers. 

In addition, current CRM design does not encourage the flow of information across departments, even those that interact with a customer and whose input is needed in creating a rounded picture of each customer or prospect. This results in customer experiences marred by frustration and poor communication, and a considerable loss on the side of the business from missing opportunities to upsell and cross-sell.

The extended revenue team at the heart of each account

From the initial touchpoint with a prospect through to closing the sale and beyond, several teams are involved in the deal: from Marketing to Sales to Finance and Legal, and on to Customer Success. All these need to share the intelligence they gain in the process and align around what the customer needs, the desired outcomes and the value they receive, to ensure customer lifetime value is extended.

Our customer benchmark study in 2019 found that 64 per cent of enterprises felt their sales and marketing teams work well together. This number might appear high, but in truth it shows much room for improvement. 

It should also come as no surprise that valuable intelligence, gained across these two customer touchpoints, gets lost along the way for the remaining 36 per cent – resulting in missed opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. 

Embracing AI and machine learning

Sales departments, like many others, have been apprehensive about Artificial Intelligence. There is a fear it could make their jobs redundant, creating an automated sales process without the human touch. This could not be further from the truth. 

These technologies will not, by any means, substitute human work in sales, an industry dominated by the power of relationships and the value they bring to both parties. 

What they will do, instead, is take the weight of time-consuming, low-value admin tasks like forecasting, activity tracking and email prioritisation off salespeople’s to-do lists. As a result, sales reps will be able to focus all their attention on what they do best: building solid relationships with customers, creating a great experience every time the customer engages with the organisation, regardless of department, and providing guidance on their desired outcomes thereby establishing themselves as a trusted partner.

In terms of how people and teams work together, these technologies also provide considerable advantages. Crucially, they help tackle the issue of poor information flow between departments, helping share customer intelligence among the extended revenue team and making it accessible to the salesperson in a format they can use, when they need it. 

CRO: putting the customer first

Understanding a customer’s buying patterns is one thing, but the revenue team needs a system that can correlate and organise this in order to create a great experience. This system relies on three pillars: strategy, technology and methodology. Together, these inform the new way of selling: Customer Revenue Optimisation (CRO). 

CRO allows sales teams to harness customer information and streamline their process towards maximising results, retaining and expanding accounts, and ensuring customers remain satisfied. As a result, CRO makes for more than a sales strategy: instead, it builds a strong relationship between a business and its customers, based on common wins and trust.

Taking the above into account, it’s no surprise that the “CRM is not enough” idea is increasingly gaining popularity. Today’s business needs more than a spreadsheet to log activity in: it needs a new way to relate to its customers, and its technology must be able to provide it. In the era of Everything-as-a-Service, only a complete, intelligent strategy will do. 

Could your business feature here? If you’re an innovative digital business in the north of England, we want to hear from you.