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Selling Power Magazine Article
It's in Your Hands
While some sales professionals may still use a PC at the office, many now access CRM while on the road using such smart phones as the RIM BlackBerry or the Apple iPhone, partly because of the convenience. Why wrestle your laptop out of your briefcase when you can simply pull a cell phone out of your pocket? And now that the iPad has blasted onto the market, there’s just no limit to the mobile choices salespeople have.
Here are the four trends that are carrying CRM into post-PC era...and how the new developments can help sales professionals close more business.
TREND: Integrate CRM into the Smart Phone
While early mobile CRM implementations mirrored what ran on desktop computers, smart phones have such relatively small screens that a CRM page intended for a PC looks clunky and awkward. But it’s almost always possible to get a connection when using a smart phone, making offline storage of contact data far less important. Because of these differences, CRM vendors aren’t treating smart phones as if they were tiny PCs. Instead, they’re looking at what smart phones do well and how they can provide CRM functionality in ways that match how people use them.
For example, the CRM vendor Ribbit offers an application service that lets a sales team use its CRM system to keep track of voicemail. In addition to storing the original voice content in the CRM system, the system transcribes the voicemail into text and then emails it to the sales rep’s phone.
“This allows you to keep track of your voicemail without interrupting meetings and other activities,” says Sia Fredrick, marketing programs manager at Ribbit. Sales teams can also use Ribbit to add voice notes and transcribed text to a customer record while they’re driving or doing other activities.
Applications such as Ribbit aren’t just a more convenient way to track voicemails; they’re entirely new ways of thinking about CRM, according to CRM consultant Barton Goldenberg of ISMGuide.com. “The industry is seeing a drive to integrate all the sales professional’s personal information, like voicemail, email, calendars, customer accounts, etc., and present it in whatever computing environment – PC or smart phone – that the sales professional is using at that time,” he explains.
TREND: Make CRM More Contextual
Because traditional CRM simply tracked an opportunity through the sales cycle, many sales reps tended to see the CRM system as clerical work rather than something crucial to the sales effort. That all changed with smart phones.
For example, the lead-generation vendor Hoover’s has a smart phone application that presents contact information based upon the current or future physical location of the sales rep. “Suppose a sales rep suddenly has a free afternoon as the result of a cancelled meeting,” explains Hoover’s product-marketing manager Lindsay Duran. “He or she can fire up the Hoover’s Near Here app on the iPhone and discover which prospects are located within walking or driving distance.
“Such applications as Hoover’s Near Here present information to sales professionals in a manner that’s adapted to the unique situation of the individual, which is a major and important shift in the way that people use technology,” Duran says.
TREND: Integrate CRM with Social Media
CRM was originally a stand-alone application that accessed a closed database. Today’s CRM systems typically have add-on applications that can retrieve information about prospects and customers directly from the Internet. This not only widens the CRM system’s ability to act as a lead-generation tool, but it also reduces the amount of time that sales professionals must spend entering data by hand.
A CRM system’s ability to draw upon the Internet to enrich the information contained in the database has become more powerful and more significant since the sudden rise of social networking. Such sites as Facebook and Linked-In often contain a wealth of data about prospects and customers, much of which is useful to building customer relationships when presented in the context of the CRM system.
Even more powerful is the combination of CRM, social networking, and smart phones, according to Matt Brezina, a founder of the software firm Xobni. His firm has recently launched an email and contact search tool that runs on a BlackBerry. “Every person whose email or voicemail passes through your inbox gets a Xobni profile, which remembers the contact data and generates links to that person’s social network,” he explains.
As a result, the BlackBerry can almost immediately locate any person with whom a sales professional has had contact, making it easier to keep in touch. Xobni even displays a memory-jogging photograph of that person by drawing on data from the popular Facebook and LinkedIn sites.
TREND: Make CRM More Manager-Friendly
Finally, integrating smart phones makes sales managers better informed, according to Travis Nisbett, product manager for SalesLogix, a CRM product from the software vendor Sage. “Because sales managers have wide-ranging responsibility, they often have problems keeping track of all the details of the hundreds of accounts being handled by their team,” he explains.
Having the CRM information available on a smart phone makes it easier for sales managers to quickly (continued on page 2)
– Geoffrey James
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