The future of CRM is here. What it is might surprise you.

Posted on February 3, 2014

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surprise-01The future of selling

I often post on the impetus for social selling; why sellers need to adapt to the changing world of the social buyer. I am not alone of course. It is the subject of any number of books including the New Handshake (Joan C Curtis, Barbara Giamanco) , eSelling (Sean Mcpheat) and is at at the heart of Dan Pink’s latest To Sell is Human where Pink articulates the changing dynamic between buyer and seller as a change from Caveat Emptor to Caveat Venditor. The inevitable question is where all of this taking us?

The future of CRM …

To me the answer is not emerging in the world of CRM but in the thinking around Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) Doc Searls, one of the Cluetrain authors, in his book The Intention Economy, vividly describes a world where the systems that manage the relationship between buyer and seller are owned and operated by the buyer. Communication between the two is not controlled by monolithic supplier side systems and processes  but by a multitude of buyer side applications. The first clue to the future of CRM is that it is not the Customer being managed. It’s the vendor.

… is Apps

I was thrilled then to read a post from Anshu Sharma, in enterpriseirregulars.com which makes exactly the same point. Sharma suggests that the new breed of CRM is here, it is inherently vertical and it manages the relationship from every perspective. It is apps. He points at Airbnb, Uber and OpenTable amongst others  where the customer is driving the relationship not the vendor. Applications like Tripadvisor allow customers to book hotels, flights, restaurant tables but supported with the social validation of others. We are becoming sophisticated social buyers, looking for patterns in ratings from others rather than being swayed by a single positive or negative review. We can all spot the overly enthusiastic and the terminally underwhelmed. Sellers are, quite rightly, getting a voice too. Sellers get a right to reply and they get to describe their own property, menu or venue. They have to keep it honest though. Social is not like traditional marketing platforms and those that misguidedly think it is are taken to task. JP Morgan executives started to think that their tweetup was a bad idea when their #askjpm attracted questions like ‘Is it easier to purchase a congressional representative or a senator?’ When the number of abusive posts reached two out of three they called it off.

The future is here
Sharma uses one of my favourite quotes; William Gibson ‘The Future is already here – its just unevenly distributed’. If we are looking to the future of CRM I would suggest that it still has a long time to play out. Like Sharma, I can see Salesforce becoming a $10 billion dollar baby and adapting to the increasingly social buyer. Beyond this though, you can see the future in fragments of apps and social platforms and sellers are going to have to deal with massively increasing complexity. The future of CRM is a misnomer. It is not one where sellers manage customer relationships at all but one where they are being managed on the customers terms. It can’t come too soon.

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