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It’s time for CRM applications to fulfill their promise

Nate Skinner Profile picture for user Nate Skinner October 12, 2021
CRM systems have historically overpromised and underdelivered. Nate Skinner of Oracle argues that a new generation of intelligent systems will finally deliver the automation B2B sales and marketing teams need.

Businessman using tablet analyzing sales data and economic growth graph chart. Digital marketing and CRM. © PopTika - Shutterstock
(© PopTika - Shutterstock)

Twenty years ago, sales leaders around the world were sold on the promise of a new, cloud-based CRM that would replace the moribund legacy applications that ruled the roost. Fast forward to today and those same sales leaders — and many who came after them — are still waiting on a tool that delivers on those promises.

The notion of salesforce automation has been lost. CRM has become a system of record that reduces salespeople to administrators, rather than a system of recommendation that proactively helps them succeed at their job. With B2B sales becoming increasingly digital, we need better.

Just how short has CRM fallen?

The current generation of CRM applications simply don't help marketers market or sellers sell. They do a poor job of aggregating data from sources outside their respective systems of record. They don't proactively make suggestions that help marketers identify the right targets, or the right content, or even the right channel — let alone launch targeted ad campaigns.

It's gotten so bad that marketers and sellers abhor their CRMs to a shocking extent. In a recent piece for Harvard Business Review, Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research, shared the following half-joking yet highly telling survey results — two-thirds of sellers would rather do the following tasks rather than update their CRM:

  • Jury duty
  • Wait in the line at the DMV
  • Clean their bathroom

CRM has gone from the promise of ‘salesforce automation' to the unfortunate reality of ‘salesforce administration'.

A promise fulfilled

The problem was not in the promise of a system that was better integrated with the information sellers need, that made useful suggestions when a seller most needed them, or that tailored offers to customer wants. These promises were fine, it's just that they were never fulfilled. These systems never got past the first base of digitizing sales records.

But the world of CRM is changing. The realization of an application that does away with information silos, unifies marketing and advertising, automates lead qualification, and automates many of the mundane tasks that get in the way of creating and selling is closer than people think.

Machine intelligence is enabling a new generation of CRM platforms that allow sellers to target both known and unknown contacts within specific accounts, through multiple channels, with campaigns that are launched simultaneously. They give a single view of an entire marketing — and advertising — campaign without having to jump from one application control panel to another.

With these solutions, algorithms can help you select the target buying group that is most likely to engage based on predictive intelligence, then assist in selecting the right content to display in each channel and generate and automatically schedule a campaign based on your pre-set budget and timing needs. Marketing actions such as display banners, emails and paid social ads — all automatically produced — drive prospects to a landing page that dynamically serves them content and relevant customer-win stories appropriate for their industry.

AI algorithms score each lead so sellers don't have to wait for the lead to sit in a queue to be scored and either approved or retired. These new systems operate the opportunity scoring model at the account level, taking into consideration the number of people within the same company who have engaged with your marketing campaign. This provides much greater accuracy when qualifying opportunities, compared to manual scoring, which looks only at the individual prospect.

Because the system automates and unifies marketing automation and account-based advertising technologies, you can be sure the same reference content is used within emails, in ad creative, and on web landing pages, so that your prospect has a consistent experience across every channel.

If the system scores the prospect highly enough, they go straight into the CRM system as an opportunity. There's no need to haggle with sales or business development consultants to hold things up while assigning a lead, and so no good opportunity is wasted. Because these marketing and advertising processes have been engineered to work together, they overcome organizational silos, and reduce the number of missed opportunities and delayed or inappropriate ad campaigns.

A new era of selling

These new systems deliver real, qualified opportunities to salespeople in just minutes from when a prospect engages, as opposed to weeks. Marketers can get paid advertising campaigns into the market within days as opposed to months. Marketing campaigns have real results that make a difference to a seller's day-to-day, such as helping uncover new contacts to expand relationships at an account or re-engage an existing opportunity that had stalled out.

Now, marketing automation can finally keep up in an increasingly digital world. The next era of CRM — one where marketing campaigns generate highly qualified sales opportunities, and the CRM system proactively helps to accelerate deal closures — is closer than ever before.

There's still work to do on refining our analysis of customer wants and matching propositions to the outcomes they desire, but at last we have the technology in place to move forward on these goals.

It's time to stop promising and finally deliver.

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