As you were growing up, did you or anyone you know say, “I want to be a salesperson?” If you answered, “Yes,” you are likely one in a million. Sales has never been thought of as a career—rather thought of as a job one falls into. You went for marketing and found out you could sell, or you ended up starting a business and found the lifeblood of the business is sales.
But, over the past decade, we’ve seen the sales industry grow and evolve. Today, it is more and more a career choice – still not at the level of a doctor, barrister or even firefighter – but at an increasingly rapid pace, sales is transforming into an art and science. We’re finding that the best salespeople possess more than talent – they understand the fundamentals of sales – just as a footballer understands the fundamentals of kicking the ball.
It is these fundamentals, and the success in repeating them that make salespeople excel in their careers. Understanding the critical steps in the sales process, and turning that process into a technology platform created the sales CRM industry. That was version 1.0 of sales CRM.
Now we are moving to version 2.0. This year big steps have been taken to improve key CRM functionalities that have enabled salespeople to improve conversion rates, use data to inform better decision making and improve customer satisfaction. These features will allow salespeople to say goodbye to time-consuming and resource-intensive tasks, freeing them up to focus on identifying and closing new leads. During this phase of disruption, three key trends have started to emerge and will continue to shape the sales industry in the near future:
- The rise of automation & AI
Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to transform the CRM space in a number of ways. These include:
- Lead Management – lead management technology can instantly engage web visitors, qualify prospects to identify hot leads, and book meetings so salespeople can close deals faster
- More accurate personalisation by delivering smart, actionable insights at the right stage in the sales process
- Increased efficiency by identifying and removing wasted time in a salesperson’s day. Repetitive and necessary tasks can be automated such as tracking emails, filling in spreadsheets, and calculating conversion rates. Time can instead be spent on getting to know your clients and having those all-important sales conversations. Using CRM software that is designed to manage and track the unique nature of sales conversations, will help to eliminate manual admin and allow salespeople to unlock their full potential.
- A greater role for voice technologies
With the rise of Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and other IoT devices, voice technology is quickly becoming an integral part of our daily lives. People are using virtual assistants to do everything from adding milk to their grocery list to scheduling get-togethers and key life events.
These technologies are completely transforming the way we interact with the world around us and have the potential to enhance sales professional’s ability to do their job. Salespeople are constantly on the go and need CRM solutions that work with them whether they’re driving or walking between meetings. Voice assistants can execute common tasks hands-free, such as checking upcoming activities, scheduling calls, adding notes to activities, and setting follow-up activities to assure prospects advance through the sales pipeline. This ensures every interaction is captured and nothing slips through the cracks.
- An increase in consumerisation
CRM software is becoming far more user-centric, with new features and updates being built with a consumer-focused mindset. Simple, powerful visual solutions empower professionals. These solutions will see greater uptake with AI tech become increasingly ‘smart’ and able to step in and take over the time-consuming, resource-intensive tasks.
In line with this trend, we can expect to see more consumer-focused features come to the fore within the CRM space, such as personal sales coaches. These could act as a guide, boosting confidence and delivering support, visibility, certainty, and control over sales. In the years ahead, a sales CRM can and must offer these unique and personable features to deliver better support for professionals and the outcomes they’re looking to achieve.
The gamification of CRM is also set to increase. The best solutions are the ones users are choosing to “live in” each day. The use of gamification is a great way to onboard, educate and keep activity levels high within a sales team. A successful CRM needs to be easy to use, adaptable to real-life sales, and ultimately fun.
The benefits of adopting new and innovative technologies within CRM applications has the potential to drive efficiencies and boost profits. However, this doesn’t mean that technology can replace the value of a high-performing salesperson. Businesses need to keep in mind the importance of being human, particularly when it comes to sales, as customers want to speak to real humans, and technology can’t yet secure a deal.
Vinay Ramani is the CPO of Pipedrive.