In Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” two swindlers convince a vain emperor they can weave him a new outfit only visible to the wise, resulting in nobody admitting the emperor is standing there naked. The story ends when a child exclaims “the emperor has no clothes!” and the entire town bursts into laughter.
In sales tech, the CRM is the emperor. Nearly nine in 10 (89%) sales organizations have a CRM. The ecosystem for CRM sales technology has grown into a $17.5 billion dollar market (Gartner subscription required). We’ve adopted phrases like “the single source of truth” and “if it’s not in CRM, it didn’t happen.” But we dance around one of the biggest misconceptions — the CRM was built to benefit the sales organization, not the seller.
Sellers are the people in the town, pointing and laughing at the emperor. Sellers struggle to find value in and therefore adopt CRM technology. In Gartner’s 2021 Seller Motivation Assessment, 59% of B2B sellers say the adoption of technology is a hindrance to their work. Consequently, frontline managers constantly remind sellers to update their deals and input activities into CRM. This aspect of weekly sales culture is a popular topic on social media sales meme accounts. A back-of-the-napkin analysis of some of the most popular sales Instagram accounts reveals approximately 1 in every 5 posts make fun of CRM adoption culture. To sellers, CRM adoption constitutes a very nice, funny and expensive joke.
Poor seller adoption of CRM negatively affects the broader sales organization. The figure below demonstrates sales leaders’ lack of confidence in their tech stack operations, along with minimal confidence in forecast accuracy and predictive analytics. CRM is not the “source of truth,” but rather, the “source of enough truth to automate key workflows across the business.”
Breakthrough Innovations in Sales Technology Improve CRM Adoption
Multiple new sales technology categories have emerged that put the seller at the heart of product design. These technologies deliver win/win value propositions to both B2B sellers and their organizations. Sellers get more insights for less effort and time back in their day. Sales organizations get better data, which creates downstream improvements to a host of sales processes. These technologies improve seller CRM adoption and utilization with some combination of these two breakthrough innovations:
- High-quality seller user experience (UX) and interface for completing daily workflows, including managing CRM data
- Enabling artificial intelligence (AI) to collect, match, and write-back CRM data from different engagement channels, and provide machine-learning based insights
There is no one perfect silver bullet perfect technology for everyone, but the table below highlights which technologies improve UX and AI to varying degrees along with high level analysis commentary on where they have impact.
It appears that in the future of sales, the CRM may get some new clothes after all.
Co-authored with Daniel Gottlieb, Analyst