Jon Lee is the CEO of ProsperWorks.
In this exclusive interview, Lee discusses the importance of high-quality data to CRM success.
CRM Buyer: What are some of the current trends you see in the CRM space?
You’re seeing the trend of AI and machine learning. There’s this notion that software is primarily something you have to work for. There’s a lot of data entry, a lot of navigating screens and moving between different windows.
Software as it was designed in the 1980s was a database for recording information. The trend you’re seeing today is that instead of working for my software, what if my software works for me? You see companies trying to use machine learning and AI to record calls and help them sell. Rather than being just a recording device, it’s now a coaching device. That can include recommendations about what to do next, and what to do on your sales calls.
The key is, does the existing software have really good data? AI and machine learning rely on lots of different types of data. That’s the future — software that’s able to take all your data and ultimately provide you with a recommendation for what you should do next, what you should focus on, how you should conduct your sales calls.
The other theme we’re seeing is that CRM is becoming increasingly more important. What’s happened on the macro level is you’re seeing the relationship actually change between the buyer and the seller.
You largely relied on the sales rep before, but now there’s so much information online, and you build a relationship with the community, and the community can tell you want you should buy and purchase. What’s happening is that the original sales person is being intermediated by technology. Companies are moving away from middle people and going direct. We’re seeing it with Tesla, which doesn’t use third-party dealerships.
We live in the relationship era, where human beings still are influenced by a connection with other human beings. It’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself in the market by building a relationship with the customer. Being able to provide a better relationship through personalization is key.
CRM can now help you customize that customer relationship, which can build loyalty and increase sales. CRM as a concept is now bleeding into the tools that we use on a daily basis. The concept of staying within one CRM tab is going away. It will ultimately become transparent and work with the tools you already use. Wherever you communicate with your customer, you’ll have context-rich information.
CRM Buyer: Why is it important that CRM is easy-to-use?
If you want to get value out of your CRM, it requires great data and the ability to extract that data. If it’s easy to use, it’s easy to create records and find information. When things take a lot of time, you lose productivity, and you’re less likely to do it because the friction is really high.
If you don’t have the data, CRM becomes useless. The purpose of CRM is data and automation — being able to establish a repeatable sales process based on data, so you can make decisions about who’s your target customer, who’s your best-performing salesperson.
All those decisions are based on data. If it’s not easy to use, people won’t use it, and if people don’t use it, you’re not going to be able to get the data.
CRM Buyer: Do businesses of any size need CRM? Why?
I think all businesses can benefit. The value of CRM is organization, and having a single source of truth. If you’re a productive person with a lot of contacts, you’re going to have to track all of that.
Once you get larger, you have a team, and you have to provide a platform for them to collaborate. As you get larger, you really need to see the larger picture. As you get larger, every CEO loses sleep over numbers and hitting revenue targets.
CRM can help you better understand your customers, so you can market to them better. The utility goes up substantially for larger businesses, but there is real utility for smaller business.
CRM Buyer: How is the CRM industry evolving and changing? What’s in the future?
You’ll see the future is AI. It really is. It’s being able to make recommendations about what you do next. CRM’s been a backwards-looking tool, since hasn’t been telling you what you need to do. That’s part of the problem, and that’s why people often don’t use it. It’s difficult to use, clunky, and requires data entry. Does it actually help you sell more? Sort of, but not really.
Technology that lets you analyze data and recommend data-driven decisions on the fly before you walk into a meeting, and after you step out of a meeting: That’s the future.