The past few days I have been at the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco where I presented on the use of social media for b2b sales. I attended sessions and engaged in some interesting discussions with attendees around the concept of Sales 2.0. For those not familiar with Sales 2.0 it’s similar to Enterprise 2.0 but just focused on sales -- in other words addressing how sales professionals can adapt their methods and strategies within the context of how culture and technology has changed over the past few years.

The Trouble With CRM Tools

I should point out that I don’t consider myself a sales professional by any means. In fact, during my session I joked around and said, “How many people here remember what it was like to sell without these new tools and platforms and without social media?” Many of the people raised their hands at which point I said, “Well, I don’t.”

At one point during a presentation by a Salesforce executive I raised my hand and asked the audience, “How many people in this room actually like or enjoy using their CRM platform?” Out of around 300+ people, no more than 5 raised their hands. At that point, the Salesforce executive awkwardly tried to divert the discussion to adoption problems. Yet there we were talking about how platform X has the ability to extract data and find information online from company Y. There is something very wrong here and yet nobody seems to want to address the elephant in the room.

The Enterprise 2.0 space has led to new technologies and solutions which allow employees to effectively collaborate with one another. The difference here is that many of these platforms were built from the ground up instead of being built on top of existing legacy systems; something that I am finding quite common in the Sales 2.0 environment with many CRM systems.

Platforms such as Salesforce are adding new features and functionality but the core legacy platform still exists. We are still learning a lot about how these new tools, platforms and strategies are fitting in and changing our existing way of work. However, what I am hearing in the Sales 2.0 environment is that CRM platforms and many Sales 2.0 tools are not that intuitive and do not fit within the schema of how sales professionals think and operate.

How CRM Software Needs to Evolve

Some people might be wondering, “Well if these platforms are so horrible, then why are the companies making so much money, clearly companies are spending money on them for a reason, right?” Good point. Based on the discussions I have had and from what I am seeing, companies are stuck.

Organizations spent money on CRM years ago (and still do) so that is where all of their data resides. Transferring data from one platform to another is extremely tedious and, oftentimes, error prone. The other alternative is to stop using a platform all together but then where does your data go? Companies are stuck using these legacy systems that bolt on social features because they have no choice, and vendors know this. I run a small business and we use the enterprise version of Salesforce, I’ve considered switching but the hassle and cost is just not worth it.

Here are a few quotes from some of the speakers and attendees at the event which echo a similar sentiment.:

A lot of Sales 2.0 vendors are adding social networking on top of their existing offerings as a bolt on instead of creating the core offering around social and building capabilities around that as the core concept. It's only a matter of time before Facebook has an internal version of their software where there is business content that you can collaborate around and share best practices." said Corey Sommers, Principal and Co-founder of WhiteboardSelling.

A lot of the vendors (especially Cloud) are propagating the notion and the idea that these tools are so simple to use and that you don't need manuals or installation. However, what companies actually find is that it's not that simple. Issues such as change management, process integration, worklow, and user adoption need to be considered and addressed and vendors need to do a better job of helping companies with this." said Anneke Seley, CEO & Founder of Phone Works.
It’s becoming apparent that sales executives are no longer able to delay the deployment of social media training for their sales teams. Social selling is going to be as common as sending emails in the next few years and sales teams that understand how to leverage social networks first are going to reap the largest rewards. This is not some magic elixir that’s going to solve every challenge but there is no denying that there is an impact on revenue by making your sales teams visible in social networks that your customers are already congregating in." said Koka Sexton, Director of Social Selling University -- InsideView.

So where do we go from here? I think the answer for a true Sales 2.0 system is going to be the equivalent of what WordPress is for blogging. There are millions of sites online that are all built on WordPress, yet every site has its own unique feel, customization and feature set. The beauty is (as anyone who uses WordPress will know) that the platform is dead simple to use. Adding plugins and dragging and dropping widgets to where you want them takes a few seconds or minutes at most.

We need a WordPress for the sales/CRM environment that allows sales professionals to customize everything to match their own ways of selling in a simple to use and intuitive way. I’ve spent the past few months demoing and researching all sorts of CRM vendors but nothing comes close.

I’d love to hear from you, am I way off base? Thoughts/comments/ideas?