For modern sales reps, customer relationship management (CRM) is at the center of everything they do, whether they like it or not.

CRM revenues grew 12.3 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to Gartner — and this upward trajectory is not likely to change anytime soon.

The Future of CRM

Does CRM saturation mean we’ve reached the peak of what CRM can do?

Not even close — the industry has merely reached one summit to see a bigger summit (e.g. opportunity) in front of it.

The industry is just cresting the era of social selling (see Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn), driven by the rise of BYOD and the fact we spend more time online than ever before. But what’s next?

Next-gen CRM will tackle one of the major issues plaguing the industry — data accuracy — by automating the collection of sales activity data as a baseline offering.

More Often Than Not, You’re Wrong

Driven in part by the social selling influx, sales reps have way more prospect touchpoints than ever before, resulting in a level of unstructured data that is often overwhelming to deal with. The quantity of data that is produced and available is inversely proportional to its utility.

Said plainly, the more hay in the stack, the harder to find the needle.

The sad reality is a very small amount of your CRM data is accurate. According to consulting firm ZS Associates, 74 percent of respondents say improving the quality of their data is a top priority, and overall fewer than one in four respondents believe their company’s data is accurate.

Risks of Inaccurate Data

Aside from the fact sales teams won’t have the appropriate information needed to “always be closing,” lack of accurate data leads to enormous issues of mistrust between a rep and the technology they’re provided, resulting in an overall lack of adoption.

Given the size of the investment in CRM, this is a problem that needs to be solved unless you want to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars a year out the window.

Learning Opportunities

Automated Data Capture

Many say the onus is on better sales training. If we can train reps to always input their sales activity in real-time, the problem will be solved, right? Wrong.

In this day and age, reps should no longer need to manually input their activity data for the following reasons: a) between human optimism, error, time lapse between sales call and entry time or pressure to look good, manual data entry is what causes many data inaccuracies in the first place; b) reps should be spending their time selling.

That’s why we’ll see this automated data capture as commonplace.We’re already on the cusp of this with offerings like Base, IntroHive and a few others, but there is still a long way to go.

For sales leaders, any evaluation of a CRM system must include a way of capturing sales activity data with minimal rep work. Otherwise, that evaluation defeats the purpose of what the CRM was intended to provide the rep in the first place — enhanced productivity — and to provide executives with accurate, reliable forecasting and resource planning.

What This Means for Enterprise Sales Organizations

Accurate CRM data has infinite benefits to every organization. Accurate data closes a significant gap between what sales is doing and what executives are seeing.

With real-time information into sales team performance, sales leaders can not only intervene with more tailored coaching if need be, but also have a truer picture of the pipeline which results in more accurate forecasts.

Ultimately, this wins favor with the C-suite and also helps enterprises operate more efficiently via a realistic look at where the business stands.

Make no mistake, CRM is invaluable to provide a central hub of sales and customer information.But if you are going to rely on CRM data to drive your business forward, accuracy matters.The validity of the data that resides in our CRM must be reliable.

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