David Ferguson served as president of the Oracle Applications Users Group in 2010 and has more than 25 years of experience working as a business process manager with enterprise technologies and applications within customer service and sales operations. Here, he weighs in on how social customer relationship management (CRM) is changing the game for salespeople.
Companies engaged in deploying CRM applications have in the past faced difficulties striking a balance between collecting data from and returning useful information to the sales team. Early attempts at automating the sales process resulted in a one-way feed; sales associates would gather and report data on customers to management with little in return. Consequently, the tools were not easily sold to the people doing the selling.
Social CRM might be just what both sales management and associates need to fully embrace the tools geared to improve productivity. Social CRM takes advantage of socialized technology and business intelligence to surface opportunities of merit and separate the wheat from the chaff. Data is mined from customer order history files, accounts receivable files, and other repositories containing the collective experience of the company. Purchased data assets from outside sources are included to provide information such as credit history, competitive intelligence, and news feeds affecting the business climate. The combined information brings clarity and perspective to the opportunity at hand.
Sales associates pose questions, such as which product to sell to a customer, and the system searches all of the available data to provide the best answer. This is very powerful information in the hands of a tenured sales associate, and a shortcut to greater productivity for a new hire who does not have the benefit of selling experience.
To support the selling effort, peer review and endorsement are leveraged to rate the quality of collateral and presentation materials. Sales associates can rank the effectiveness of the material they present to the customer and view the most-successful material recommended by their peers. Collateral ratings are particularly useful when companies are introducing new products and determining which assets are the most effective. Marketing efforts can be targeted to creating collateral pieces that are proven to deliver results, avoiding costly creations that have no traction with the customer base. This saves real dollars over time.
The introduction of technology is becoming increasingly attractive as well. The new social intelligence tools will plug and play in most CRM environments. There’s no need to replace your core sales application to take advantage of the data-enriched deliverables that bring value to the sales associate. This is in line with a philosophy long embraced by Oracle, to protect the existing application investments companies have made to run their business.
This new direction for CRM applications is a sign of significant progress on the sales front. Finally, modern and intuitive tools are being put in the hands of the salespeople—who, after all, make the business happen.