Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is key to a business's success. The industry, however, is at the cusp of innovation and change, making a company's ability to keep up equally important.
CRM solutions are at a transition. Whereas businesses once adopted CRM solutions based on industry trends, newer solutions aim to better speak to a company's customer base and provide salespeople with the exact tools they need to succeed.
Nikolaus Kimla, CEO and founder of Pipeliner, a CRM startup used by more than 600 companies worldwide and named one of the top CRM software by Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, explained how CRM solutions have changed over the past few years.
"To utilize a somewhat tired analogy, there once was a wizard who ran the land of Oz," Kimla said. "The wizard had the whole place convinced that he was all-knowing and all-powerful — and until a teenage girl from Kansas happened along to reveal the truth about the wizard, everyone in the land took everything he said at face value."
For decades, a similar scenario has been carrying on in the CRM industry, Kimla said. "Powerful software giants — that elsewhere had revolutionized corporate computing — developed CRM solutions that were so dazzling in their complexity and features that information technology (IT) executives came to believe they had to be the ideal solutions."
Taking the advice of IT executives, decision makers approved purchases of sophisticated CRM solutions and wrote them off as a cost of doing business. On the frontlines, however, were salespeople who actually used the CRM software in the real world, yet had never been consulted regarding what they actually need in such software to effectively and efficiently do their jobs, Kimla said.
"After being heavily burdened with data entry duties and creating cumbersome reports, [salespeople], of course, gave little positive feedback for these CRM applications," he said. "To them, the term CRM became synonymous with drudgery — a situation that continues to this day."
It became evident that the widely accepted CRM solutions had shortcomings, leading to a new paradigm for CRM systems, one which is rapidly being adopted by forward-looking companies today, Kimla said.
"Instead of being the 'top-down' enforcement onto sales that it always has been, CRM becomes an empowerment to sales, allowing them to fully control their sales pipelines and thereby meet and exceed their quotas," he said.
This new approach to CRM doesn't just benefit salespeople, but the business as well.
"Interestingly, when a CRM solution actually empowers sales, so does it empower the remainder of the company," he said.
In keeping up with changes in CRM and adopting new CRM solutions, Kimla said businesses should keep the following things in mind:
1. Your sales team's job is to close sales, not data entry.
Executives should empower their salespeople with a CRM solution that truly benefits sales. Traditional CRM applications make salespeople into data entry clerks, which they are clearly not. A solution such as Pipeliner CRM makes it possible for salespeople to easily and accurate manage their sales pipelines instead of simply entering data into CRM with no return to them.
2. Find a solution that optimizes your salespeople's potential.
Salespeople have the same qualities as entrepreneurs. They are creating their own lives, taking charge of their own income potentials,and are capable of seeing opportunity where others would not. These are the traits of entrepreneurs: the kinds of people that possess the fortitude to strike out and make a brand new start, that routinely make "something out of nothing."
Decision makers should bring out their salespeople's entrepreneurial skills and motivations. By not viewing them in this light, they are not utilizing salespeople to their full potential and effectively crippling the company.
3. Value your salespeople's opinions.
Companies should allow salespeople input into matters which clearly affect them and their ability to make sales. This can include issues such as marketing campaigns and even product development. Salespeople are on the front line of customer relationships and know the company's prospects and customers better than anyone else. They possess a wealth of information usually left untapped — to the company's considerable detriment.