This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
In the past I have written about how your customer-relationship management and sales force automation software isn’t really for sales management, it is for you, the salesperson. It’s truer now than ever, and the tools available to you make it easier than ever to manage your client relationships.
While I don’t make predictions for a single calendar year (the time frame is too short), it’s worth it to think about two big trends. The first is designed to make sales management more effective and it has implications for salespeople. The second could be the killer app in the right hands, but still isn’t being used as widely and effectively as it might be.
More and more companies are developing algorithms that try to predict where the salesperson is in the sales cycle. We are still at the very early stages here, and most of the tools that I have seen are designed to help sales management to better forecast when an opportunity will close.
Because we are capturing so much data, there is going to be a continued drive to derive patterns and meaning from that data. Sales managers are going to move towards seemingly more objective predictions as to when a deal will close as quickly as they are able.
You, the salesperson, are going to be asked to ensure that you continue to provide the data that allows these predictions to be made, right or wrong. In the past, using your CRM or SFA solution may have been “required.” In the future, using your software is going to be enforced as a condition of employment. The data captured is going to be considered too valuable to lose, and you are on the front lines of capturing it.
For my money, I haven’t yet seen predictive modeling built into a CRM or SFA that didn’t make as many tenuous assumptions about when a deal would close as the salesperson makes. Some of these assumptions are made on frequency of communication alone, and all of them lack context (what was the nature of the communication? Did it result in a future commitment?).
Even if these predictive modeling offerings aren’t quite ready for prime time, they are going to begin to be adopted widely and they are going to get better over time.
There are already some great bolt-on solutions to CRM and SFA offerings that allow the salesperson to see which of their client connections know each other. These mostly rely on social media to discover and track these connections. As business people adopt a professional social media presence, these offerings are going to be more useful and more powerful for sales organizations.
There still isn’t a better way to open a new, potential client relationship than through a referral from an existing client. As your existing contact’s connections are revealed (along with the nature and depth of those relationships), it is going to be easier to find the links and connections that can help open new relationships.
As a professional salesperson, you know your contacts well and it is easy to follow them on social media sites to uncover what they are reading or thinking. The ability to identify your client’s contacts will eliminate the cumbersome, time-consuming chore of look back through their links and connections to find a potential introduction.
Both of these trends are built on the relatively new ability to capture data and to see connections. Expect to see both of these trends continue in the coming years, and know that data is going to be a big part of your role in managing your client relationships and your sales process.