You won’t recognize your Old CRM in a Year!

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CRM’s evolution of Conversation Intelligence will be as game changing to SAAS was to Premise Deployed Software.

Conversation Intelligence will do to CRM what Grub Hub did to grocery stores – who wants to shop for the food, clean it, cook, and then clean the dishes when you can just order what you want, and have it delivered to your front door?

The CRM industry has a long and interesting history. I know; I founded the first CRM company to go public (Brock Control Systems) in 1984 and have been in the industry ever since. Some of the major paradigm shifts we have seen over the past decades include:

Marc Benioff built the wildly successful Salesforce.com by redefining how software was implemented. In a very gutsy move, he defined his competitive advantage as a simpler, quicker, and less expensive way to implement a core business tool – CRM. He was so successful in leading this change in software implementation that all his competitors had to play catch up to offer SaaS solutions after he had locked down the leadership position in CRM by competing on ease of implementation rather than more features.

Based upon Tom Siebel’s positioning, CRM is a tool for CEOs to impress their Boards with the accuracy of their forecasts. CRMs were purchased by CEO’s and VPs of Sales as a back-office tool, getting to the point where – as one senior sales manager told me – “my CRM has more dashboards than NASCAR”.

Neil Rackham (author of the SPIN Selling methodology) offered an insightful analysis of why CRM was initially “done to sales reps” – not “done for sales reps” in the interesting movie that was produced by Salesforce.com (and is still hosted on the Salesforce.com website) – The History of Sales.


All of these events directly contributed to the evolution of CRM. Several recent events will cause dramatic changes that will render your current CRM unrecognizable.  The new generation of CRM will save Seller’s time and make them more effective. Most importantly, Sellers will willingly embrace the “new CRM” as something being done for them. Here are a few of the events that are causing those changes:

The Work from Home (WFH) environment has sales managers scrambling to find a way to get visibility into what is happening in their sales opportunities.
Those reps returning from WFH to the office on a staggered basis will present additional management and measurement challenges.

Sales Leaders finally recognize that sales reps will never take the time to manually update their CRM accurately and comprehensively after every call – even if their memory was good enough to remember all the key points discussed during them. Sunday night batch updating of contact records will never be as accurate as those done during the call.

Call Recording was the hope of capturing what was happening in the sales calls.  But it is now obvious that Sales Managers don’t have the time to listen to the 160 hours per week of recorded calls that their direct reports are making (8 direct reports recording 20 hours of calls per week).  I was surprised to read the CEO of a major call recording company openly admonish his customers that they are not listening to enough recorded calls

On the positive side, there are two Sales Metrics that Call Recording uniquely provides:

The percentage of time your rep speaks versus the prospect.

The voice intonation of your reps(are they confident / competent). 

These metrics only require infrequent sampling of recorded calls (at most only a few calls selected weekly or even monthly) to give the Sales Managers the insights they need to coach their reps on these metrics.


The Challenges of Call Recording

Call Recordings track the duration of time your rep and the buyer speak before “yielding the floor”.   However, they don’t (and can’t) record the actual time a key subject is discussed.  Isn’t the amount of time a key subject is discussed the most important metric of what is important to the prospect?

Call Recording attempts to give you a measure of the key topics discussed by supporting “key word” searches.  However, is there only one word to describe a key concept?  This Context Confusion (the use of many words to describe the same feature) and voice recognition (accents, slang terms, etc.) prevent accurate summaries of the key points of interest to the prospects. 

The Next “Best Thing” for Conversation Intelligence – Call Transcription

Call Transcription is now being touted as the solution in lieu of having to listen to recorded calls and is the cornerstone of many software vendor’s Conversation Intelligence solution. However, this methodology has many challenges with it as well.

The Challenges with Call Transcription

Call Transcriptions suffer from the same Concept Confusion and language/enunciation errors that users face when the same AI technology applied to Recorded Calls is used to transcribe the calls. Have you ever compared the automatically generated transcript to the actual recording, only to discover that many key words are mis-transcribed? What do those errors say about the accuracy of your keyword search results?

If you do a Google search, you will see the average person speaks 150 works per minute.  If your average sales call is 20 minutes, each call with will be at least 6 pages of single-spaced typing (average is 500 words per page).  Will a busy Sales Manager take the time to read the 6 pages of the transcribed call looking for important discussion points –  for every 20-minute call?


What Should CRM’s Look Like Next Year?

These challenges above are sure to be felt across all industries to varying degrees as we continue to evolve into our new normal. As a result, I believe these features will need to be table stakes to meet the expectations and requirements for sellers moving forward:

In lieu of Call Recording or Call Transcription as clunky tools for Sales Leaders to use for coaching, a clear Interaction Insight Report should be available that tracks individual calls with roll up at the rep level.  One that shows how consistently the reps are following the Recommended Best Practices for what should be discussed and for how long they will be discussed tailored to each deal?    

CRM’s must include an Interaction Chronicle (a comprehensive Story So Far) that tracks every interaction with a prospect – and the time spent on each key topic – visible to the entire sales team so that any team member can easily pick up where they left off with the prospect.

Ideally, CRMs should include AI functionality to not only automate the usual, mundane chores of contact record updating, but also provide dynamic AI tools which allow sellers to have Relevant Dialogues with every prospect, based on individual personas, i.e., every call will be personalized to the prospects know that your team can meet (or exceed) their requirements for any solution you are offering – your reps will always be perceived as Competent and Relevant!