The initial CRM drivers were used to enable sales management to view forecasts of the sales team. They could track the activity of individual sales representatives, their accounts and prospects. Managing the pipeline and predicting future outcomes were paramount for internal reporting up the corporate food chain. In addition to internal reporting, maintaining contact lists (protecting the company if a sales rep left the company) became the second most common use.
These were really the two main reasons I was asked (forced) to use the CRM tools as a sales rep and why I have asked (forced) my sales team to use them as well. In my experience, it was evident that sales people who were best at managing the CRM tool of the day were often the least successful sales people. Also, if you had a sales rep who was consistently obtaining and exceeding quota and wasn't great on updating the CRM tool, you let them slide. CRM in the early days was really just database management and, at best, database marketing. I hired people to sell, not to build and run reports.
Fast-forward 20 years, and the tools have progressed. Some of the CRM tools are the same, and there are a few new ones as well. Customer database tracking became customer database marketing, and now this has morphed into customer relationship marketing. The "database" is integrated with email marketing tools and allows sales and marketing to run comprehensive campaigns. The database software exists in "the cloud" and can be accessed and updated through mobile devices. It's customer relationship Nirvana!
Sounds great, right? There are a few fundamental challenges to consider when utilizing these tools that have existed through CRM time immemorial:
At the end of the day, or should I say at the end of the month or quarter, the sales tools are as good as the sales people who use them. This is why the organization needs to train sales people to incorporate the CRM into their deal cycle. It will help sales track the relationships, provide better customer service and give management a firsthand view of the deal cycle. There will always be great sales people who are not so great using the CRM tools. There will always be great "CRM updaters" who are lousy sales people. The key is finding the right balance that makes the CRM a utility that drives sales and more successful customer communication.