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Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, the foundational system for sales teams, has reached a tipping point. New research shows that sales reps spend very little time selling (36% of their time), even less in the CRM (18%) and too much time in spreadsheets managing CRM-related tasks.

CRM has been around since the 1980’s, when it was pivotal to automating much of the contact list management for sales reps. This single piece of software has accomplished so much since then. It has managed organize sales efforts for millions of companies, and CRM adoption has been staggering.

According to Gartner, CRM software was an industry estimated at $31 billion, and for 2017 it was estimated to reach $40 billion, with two-digit growth year-on-year.

Everybody is using – or aspires to be big enough – to use a CRM, and it’s an incredibly powerful system.

However, its strength is proving to be its downfall. With the CRM, the sales process is organized according to a linear construct, with opportunities following a single-threaded, phase-based path toward the close, showed Ken Krogue, in a recent Forbes article.

In a traditional sales model, a user makes a call, asks about features and price, and closes or not, based on circumstance.

The Internet and the Rise of Inside Sales

Today, customers are following a non-linear path to the purchase. Thanks to the Internet, they are more empowered than ever to find the best solution for their needs without any assistance from a vendor.

They educate themselves about products, they know what type of product they need and they follow other customer’s recommendations in terms of features and cost-efficiency. They download ebooks, data sheets, read product specifications and read reviews. In Marketing, we know this well: B2B customers consume around five pieces of content before making a purchase decision.

Here’s some stats to show exactly what we mean:

  • 70 percent of the buyer’s journey is completed before they even get in touch with a sales rep
  • Over half of B2B customers now rely on content to make their buying decisions
  • 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

This is the driver behind the rise of sales organizations and the inside sales role recently. Stats show that there has been an increase of 89% of inside sales roles in organizations in the last four years (State of Sales 2017 research).

Inside sales reps are the first point of contact with users who are interested in a company’s products and services, and they have had prior contact or knowledge about the company. 

The classic sales funnel has been disrupted, and the CRM no longer equipped to service modern sales reps needs.

CRM, Rated the Lowest in Terms of Useful Sales Technologies

InsideSales.com Labs recent study polled 721 salespeople to determine how reps divide their time between sales tasks and sales systems. The analysis showed there are 13 tasks sales reps to in a typical week.

Surprisingly though, they spend very little time actually selling – and they are incredibly frustrated with the CRM, which they rate as the least useful system.

CRM is dead - sales time management statistic

The eye-opening take-away of the study was: sales reps don’t spend a lot of time actually selling:

  • 35.2% of a sales’ reps time is spent on revenue generating activities
  • 64% is spent on non-revenue generating activities

Administrative tasks such as dealing with internal policies and approvals (14.8%) and customer meetings (14%) take up the most time for sales reps. Admin tasks are also the ones they find least effective for the job.

In fact, sales reps rate spending time on social media 7% more effective than admin tasks or meetings.

What CRM Is Still Lacking – A Way to Be More Than a Spreadsheet

Sales reps spend only 18.0% of their time in CRM, shows the study. The majority of sales reps’ time is spent in sales technology (61.7%) with email for sales related purposes taking the most time (33.2%), and tools to gather sales intelligence taking the least. (0.4%).

Because of the inefficiency of CRM, sales reps report that 9.7% of their time (over half the amount of time spent in CRM) is spent in spreadsheets trying to more effectively manage CRM related tasks.

Is CRM dead - time spent in spreadsheets by sales reps

What the data is showing is that CRM works well as a recordkeeping system. But without knowing the answer to important questions, salespeople cannot succeed:

  • Which are the most important leads that I need to focus on?
  • How do customers prefer to be contacted, and when?
  • When are they most likely to answer the phone, and what should my pitch be?

Prospecting technologies that provide sales cadence capabilities are one of the most effective technologies (80.0% effective) but they are also one of the most underutilized (only used 1.9% of time).

I work in a company that has a professional sales organization. And although I’m not in sales, I’ve heard salespeople say they have a love-hate relationship with their CRM.

It’s not that it’s useless for their profession, but that they feel is so much more functionality that they need in order to be efficient and productive.

“My favorite sales tool is definitely Salesforce. I use it the most, because it offers total transparency into the pipeline. You’re able to keep track of all your leads. That being said, I don’t know how much I would say that if I didn’t have a sales cadence tool. Playbooks gives me so much more information inside of Salesforce that I wouldn’t have if I just utilized Salesforce,” told us one enthused sales development manager, Jon Dyer.

How Artificial Intelligence Has the Power to Change CRM

I think by now, we have the answer to the question that’s been on everyone’s mind for the last five years or so – is CRM dead?

Not at all.

Sales reps still use their CRM – and they want to do more of it. They want it to be smarter, faster, intuitive, and to offer information beyond just a name and a phone number.

Sales reps need their CRM to help them close bigger and better deals.

Sales acceleration technologies with incorporated Artificial Intelligence have the power to change the way sales reps work and close deals. More importantly, they can save sales reps from spreadsheet hell and bring back the productivity to working within the CRM.

Built on top of CRM’s, smart sales systems can offer insights that go beyond the data that exists in your database and make a difference to sales productivity and revenue growth. They can enhance the functionality of CRM by offering:

  • Customer behavior predictions
  • Accurate revenue forecasting
  • Funnel analysis and deal predictions.

Artificial Intelligence has the power to change the future of sales, and it’s here. We should embrace it.

The latest research from InsideSales.com Labs, “Time Management for Sales,” shows exactly how sales reps use their CRM.

You can download the study here or get this bite-sized infographic if you’re short on time.

Download the infographic here.

Is CRM Dead infographic - how artificial intelligence has the power to change the future of sales