SMEs: Get smart about relationships, take on Goliaths
By Benjamin Cher December 4, 2015
- CRM needs to change from system of engagement to intelligence
- Customer-centric investments need to be made high priority
THE onslaught of data on the average person can be overwhelming – from emails to instant messages to calls – and information is bound to slip through the cracks.
For businesses, such lost information can mean a lost deal or customer.
While technology such as customer relationship management (CRM) can help, it is not being fully utilised, according to Simon Tate, area vice president for commercial sales at Salesforce.com.
“We know that on average, sales people spend 28 hours a week on email, and 79% of the opportunity data that they collect never make it into the CRM,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore, citing various reports.
“A vast majority (89%) of sales leaders say their sales people can’t keep up with the sheer volume of information they are dealing with,” he said.
Technology has to keep up with the needs of these sales people, and CRM systems need to transition in order to remain relevant today, he added.
It’s about intelligence
What is needed is a redefinition of CRM, according to Tate (pic above), with another pivot needed to cope with today’s needs.
“We have already seen the transition of CRM from systems of record to systems of engagement,” he said.
“What you are now seeing is that pivot to systems of intelligence from systems of engagement,” he added.
This transition will see a fundamental shift as to how CRM will be adopted, Tate argued.
This is “because the intelligence allows everything that was manual to become automated, and allows systems to serve insights that will make sales people and business users in general be much more productive,” he said.
“We see ‘relationship intelligence’ as being the future of CRM,” he added.
Relationship intelligence will allow companies to automatically capture and parse data from various data streams, including email, to populate the CRM with the necessary information.
This in turn will allow salespeople to capture all potential sales leads without having to continually sieve through their emails. Relationship intelligence can also flag when leads have been ignored and bring attention to them as well.
Arming the underdog
While small and medium enterprises (SMEs) might think such systems are only for the big enterprises, Tate disagrees, arguing that the small and nimble nature of SMEs would benefit greatly from these systems.
“It’s [SMEs] a market that needs to pay attention to CRM and customer experience,” he said.
“We have seen so many fantastic examples of SMEs which compete on a global stage with a larger peer group, and we have seen SMEs disrupt legacy industries on a global scale,” he added.
Citing examples such as Netflix and Fitbit as SMEs which innovated in industries that had stopped innovating, Tate argued that they have evolved into disruptors and creators of industries from their SME roots.
“We think there are huge opportunities for the SME market in Singapore – but one of the barriers to adoption across Asia is that technology is expensive,” he noted.
Technology requires heavy capital-intensive investments, and fighting the Goliaths with deep pockets is unreasonable to expect of SMEs in the traditional paradigm, Tate argued.
“The benefit of cloud computing and X-as-a-Service (XaaS) products is that SMEs now have access to those same innovation cycles as the enterprise players,” he said.
“SMEs in Asia have the opportunity to leverage all the benefits of the cloud to compete, and in many cases, disrupt,” he added.
However, there is still an education process that is still on going in getting SMEs to get on board, he acknowledged.
Reacting to the real world
SMEs have to concern themselves with the same issues enterprises do: Customer success, customer-centricity and customer experience “need to be at the epicentre of any successful business,” Tate said.
“The world has changed, everything and everyone is connected. The collision of cloud, social, mobile and data science means that as consumers, it is very easy to voice positive or negative sentiments about any product or brand,” he said.
It has become critical that SMEs recognise these changing demands, he argued.
“They need to put the customer at the very heart of everything they do,” Tate said.
“On that basis, CRM becomes critical. If you break CRM down, and the core components that SMEs can get the most value out of, it comes down to sales, services, and marketing,” he added.
These three components are both strategic and imperative, and the lines between them are blurring.
SMEs need to ask how important customer-centricity is to them as a core competence, Tate advised.
“If they have any doubts, just look at what’s happening in the market and the changing trends in the consumer landscape.
“The answer is pretty clear: This is an area they should be looking closely at, and it should be very high on their investment priority,” he added.
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