CRM is a scam. Yep, I said it. It's not that CRM systems are not useful. It's just that they are marketed as "sales software" and that's simply not true.
A CRM is really just a customer database. And having sales people use your CRM platform means nothing else than having sales people spend a major portion of their day doing data entry.
Let's look back for a second on the history of technology and sales. Let's start with the biggies first:
In the early days Sales people would have a briefcase and walk door to door in their territories and sell their products and services. Then a big invention changed the reach a single sales person could have - the telephone! This was big and empowered sales people to reach people around the country (and later around the world) and sell them either via the phone (so virtually) or set up appointments and do follow ups without having to leave the office.
The next big step forward came with computers & later the internet. All of the sudden sales people could connect with a global information network and take advantage of that new medium. One of the biggest new communication channels was email. Sales people could send information to prospects, set appointments, and communicate asynchronously for the first time in history. It was great!
The telephone and Email probably where the technologies that empowered and improved sales people's performance the most. After that we had a few new technologies that today are part of sales people's toolsets and that have some positive effects. Here some simple examples:
- Power Point
- Web Conferencing
- Social Networking
A Brief History of the CRM
Now let's get back to the (evil) CRM. Here is my take on what happened. At some point companies needed to keep track of all their customers and have up to date information on them. Since sales people are the ones that are constantly communicating with our customers and changing their status they seemed to be the best group of people to be responsible for doing all updating of data.
Now what is one thing that sales people hate more than anything else in the world? Yep, you guessed right. It's data entry and any other kind of administrative task that doesn't involved communicating with customers and closing deals.
So in order to "trick" sales people of using CRMs we told them that CRMs are actually "sales software" that will allow them to close more deals and make more money.
And slowly but surely we trained them to spend half their day with data entry (non revenue producing activities).
CRMs are not Sales Software
Now you never heard me say there are no benefits to CRMs. Quite the contrary I think that CRMs are important and necessary. I just don't think they deserve to be called sales software. A CRM is a database.
In order to be "sales software" it has to be a tool that empowers sales people in the way they communicate with customers. So software for sales people is really communication software. Can you see how a CRM is not really checking off on that criteria?
There are approximately 21 million sales people in the world that have forced into "data entry slavery" and I think that needs to change quickly to make sales people happier and more productive participants of our corporate environment.
My prediction for the future of CRMs:
I see a world where sales people will never again interact with CRM software. I see a world where sales people will have powerful communication tools and will be empowered to spend most of their day with what they love doing - communicating with potential customers.
And I see a version of our future in which CRMs are always up to date and where data is being updating in a much more intelligent way that manual labor.
And since we don't like to simply complain about things but love to be part of the solution - we're already working on this in our secret sales labs in silicon valley ;)