The CRM is dead

The CRM as we know it has become a commodity.

Adoption of business software tools and enhancements to software as a service means powerful software is no longer reserved to large multinationals with the budgets and a level of sophistication that were once a pre-requisite for such purchases. By browsing through pricing pages of top CRM providers, it’s evident that these B2B tool giants now cater for all types of organisations, starting at the micro-enterprise level. Most providers even offer freemium accounts for small teams or for a limited period of time. These are tell-tale signs that CRMs are here to stay. According to Gartner, the CRM market has a yearly growth rate in the double figures and cloud-based CRM revenue is growing by over 25% each year.

Undeniably, CRMs provide a myriad of benefits on an operational-level. A well set-up system is the gelling element between marketing and business development teams. It’s where sales reps manage their pipeline and customer success teams keep track of engagement with clients. The reporting functionalities are a micro-manager’s wet dream as one can track granular detail of interaction and response. Anyone who has ever tried to manage a sales or marketing campaign using spreadsheets knows the amount of frustration a CRM can help to avoid. Oh and Rolodex. Lol.

But what does the data say? Are CRMs actually helping productivity and moving businesses forward?

A study by CSO Insights highlights that, despite ever-increasing adoption rates of CRM systems (more than 80% of global B2B firms surveyed have implemented a CRM system), over 55% of global sales targets are missed. But unfortunately that’s not surprising because spend on average a third of their time selling. The rest is mostly wasted on data entry and finding information on prospects. Despite high-adoption levels on a company level, 73% of CRM data activity is recorded within the half-day before internal sales meetings. This data suggests that CRMs are perceived as mere activity reporting tools and don’t provide enough perceived benefit to the sales teams on the ground. They simply aren’t helping sales people sell better and sell more.

If we look at global B2B transaction trends, there’s a move towards online purchasing that relies on automation and doesn’t involve any humans on the seller side. This is a clear win for marketing teams and reflects two things. First, an evolution in the way business professionals buy tools. In our personal lives, we’ve been buying products online for over a decade and are only starting to adopt this habit at work. Second, and more importantly, marketing tools are highly sophisticated and far superior in terms of helping productivity than CRMs: mail-out automation, hyper-targeted advertising, browser pop-ups etc the list goes on. This means that marketing professionals can rely on technology to find, qualify and convert customers online without the need for their business development colleagues.

In contrast, the CRM market is only just starting to explore ways of helping sales professionals. Thankfully, start-ups are disrupting this market by offering innovative ways to increase productivity and conversion rates. This is improving the time ratio of when sales professionals spend actually selling, helping them identify their best targets, when they should approach them and with what content. However, if sales teams want to keep their job, it’s really time to step up the pace in adopting emergent technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and embrace the realities of selling to a highly informed 21st century audience.

The CRM as we know it is slowly dying. Long live the modern AI-powered CRM.