“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides, now,” Joni Mitchell famously sang, “but still somehow it’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t clouds . . . at all.”
There’s no way she was referring to customer relationship management (CRM) software, which wasn’t invented at the time. Still, Mitchell’s song almost serves as an anthem for those companies that initially dismissed the idea of using cloud computing to empower their sales teams.
It’s time to dispel some of those cloud illusions, and to get to know the cloud a lot better.
In the early days, for instance, companies might have been wary of trusting a third party like a vendor to run their software remotely, on their own servers, and only pay for it as they needed. Given that most companies once created customer records in paper files and stored them in cabinets that they could see and touch, the cloud might have seemed almost ephemeral, even dangerous.
Illusions about the cloud might also have been tied to disappointment about the very first CRM applications. Before cloud computing hit the mainstream, many organizations spent a lot of money on CRM that had to be installed locally, and which their IT departments had to spend a lot of time troubleshooting. Perhaps as a result, sales reps were often resistant to using the technology. Why would a cloud-based CRM be any different?
Since then, of course, a lot has changed in terms of how cloud computing and CRMs have matured. Companies, however, might be slower to change because they simply have so many other things going on.
With that in mind, consider this a bit of a summer refresher on the business case for a CRM that runs on the cloud. Use it to prompt those discussions you’ve always been meaning to have with your boss, your sales team and those in IT.
Cold call, leave for a meeting, return to the office. Repeat.
That used to be the pattern that defined the life of most sales reps before CRM, or when CRMs merely ran on premise. Even if the application worked well, it still required reps to be physically present in the office to input the data about customers and prospects that might lead to a closed deal.
This assumed, of course, they would be able to remember all the critical details, or decipher their own handwriting from whatever notes they had scribbled.
Just as cloud computing allows software to run from a remote location, it also allows people like sales reps to access their CRM at any point. This accelerates their ability to get at information that could help make a sale, while increasing the time they can spend in customers’ offices, at industry events or performing other high-value activities.
Office workers the world over used to grumble when the printer wasn’t working for some reason and they couldn’t get the documents they wanted. Today much more information stays digital, but you can imagine a similar situation if reps can’t get into the CRM and are left twiddling their thumbs.
From a sales perspective, application downtime isn’t just a productivity killer. It’s a revenue killer, and could damage the relationship with potentially long-term clients because they might begin to doubt the firm’s responsiveness.
Besides freeing up IT departments to focus on other things, CRM that runs in the cloud means if anything goes wrong, the party addressing it will be the same one that created it in the first place, which usually means problems get solved a lot faster.
Competitive as they are, sales reps from different firms are bound to talk shop occasionally, and when CRMs were installed locally, they might have heard when one of their peers was working with a more advanced application.
Those same reps might have raised concerns to their managers that rival firms were making use of features that could put them one step ahead, but it could take time (and budget approvals) to upgrade to a newer version.
As a subscription-based approach to software deployment, the cloud eliminates that worry by ensuring everyone has the same access to the latest version of a tool like CRM.
It was probably bad enough when reps had to go back to their desks to check CRM for customer details. What if a colleague, like a more junior rep or their manager, needed to see a critical file? Those people would just have to wait, and when files were spread across on-premise CRM and things like spreadsheets, there was also the danger of sending around the wrong version.
The nature of cloud-based CRM is such that it almost becomes like a shared office space for the same team where they can all see the things they need in order to avoid duplication of effort or costly mistakes.
Although it obviously has some excellent database capabilities, a CRM is more than a repository. It provides a platform to analyze what’s happening across various accounts and territories in order to improve win rates and hit quarterly or annual targets more often.
A CRM that runs in the cloud makes this possible because it can easily integrate with things like marketing automation, customer service tools and even artificial intelligence applications. Of course, sales will always have its challenges, but the right technologies mean you can focus on overcoming the challenges that bring the greatest fulfillment.