How to Integrate Web Conferencing and CRM

By Geoffrey James

Software companies like to talk about “synergy,” but most of the time they’re just regurgitating buzzwords. However, if there ever were a “synergy” that actually added value to the CRM user, it’s the recent alignment of advanced Web conferencing (like WebEx) and hosted CRM (like Salesforce.com). The combination of the two technologies truly makes each more powerful and more useful than they are standing alone.

Today’s hosted CRM systems offer the ability to quickly create new, easy-to-track fields in the CRM application as well as the ability to link directly from the CRM application to a separate application. This quick customization allows sales managers to create a tracking mechanism for Web conferencing, so that important information, like action items, instant-poll results, attendee lists and so forth, are stored within the CRM system. And because the linking feature of advanced CRM systems can make the Web conferencing appear to take place within the context of the CRM sessions, it’s easier to get sales reps to record key data about the Web conference. In many cases, the sales rep can record the data while the Web conference is taking place.

To see how this works, let’s go through four common Web conferencing scenarios to see how the addition of CRM makes things better:

Scenario 1: Reinforcing the sales process. With Web conferencing, sales managers can set up a Web conferencing environment where sales reps have everything needed to follow a pre-defined sales process. Furthermore, Web conferences can be recorded and archived and later used as examples of what worked (and what didn’t) in various sales situations, further reinforcing and tuning the process. With the addition of CRM, the sales manager and the sales rep can actively and immediately input notes and observations, as the Web conference is being conducted. Those notes can be retrieved the next time the customer is contacted, and also provide a context for other reps to better understand how the process worked.

Scenario 2: Coaching the sales rep. With Web conferencing, the ability to record a session provides the sales rep with an exact record of what took place and what action items came out of the meeting. This allows sales managers to use the archived meeting as a coaching tool, replaying portions and providing additional suggestions for improved performance. With the addition of CRM, coaching information can be tracked, so that both the rep and the sales manager can see how well the rep is executing the sales managers’ suggestions.

Scenario 3: Investigative sales calls. Because Web conferences can draw attendees from multiple organizations (even those located a continent away), sales reps find them a convenient venue for posing questions about organizational structure, internal business processes and so forth. Instant polls also provide an opportunity to assess whether the customer’s firm really needs a product and whether they’re ready to buy. Integrating the Web conference with CRM helps ensure that the sales rep records the valuable information that’s being gathered, so that sales management and the other reps can access it in the future.

Scenario 4: Identifying upsell opportunities. Because Web conferencing encourages more frequent interaction between sales reps and decisionmakers and stakeholders in your customer’s firm, reps typically find Web conferencing a good way to uncover new requirements and new sales opportunities. The advantage of conducting such conferences in the context of the CRM environment is that it’s easier to record these opportunities in real time, so that either the rep, or a colleague, can follow up on the opportunity in the future.