Pounding sales reps to enter sales activity data into CRM doesn’t sound like much of a future. People hate entering data into CRM, especially sales people. It’s just not in our DNA to want to spend lots of time entering data into a system that provides limited return on data entry.

The good news—things are improving. Automated CRM data entry is starting to decrease some of the pain. Email system plug-ins that automatically inject emails into CRM, and call tracking software that adds phone call activity are now more widely adopted.

All this sounds good, but let’s take a minute to look ahead.

The Future: Where CRM is going

Up to this point, CRM has largely been in its infancy—requiring lots of care and feeding. And like an infant, it has required more from the sales person than it’s delivered back in value—at least from the sale rep’s perspective. In some ways, sales reps have been slaves to the CRM system: entering data, adding contacts, adding notes, entering tasks, and updating opportunities, with very limited payback.

As CRM moves from infancy to adolescence (where we are now), it begins to add value—help around the house. It begins to do things on its own: asking questions, collecting and displaying useful data, sharing some insights, and making recommendations. But like adolescents, it still needs care and feeding. There’s still a long way to go before CRM matures and becomes the valuable selling assistant it can become. But we’re making good progress, and at a faster pace.

When CRM reaches adulthood in 3 to 4 more years, it will be amazing. CRM will no longer require painful data entry from reps, because it now collects the data on its own. It may ask you a few questions about buyers, meetings, and opportunities, but only so it can help you prepare your next steps to move the deal forward. And like a good research assistant, it will actively conduct research on your behalf, and then analyze that research, boiling it down into useful information you can use to connect more effectively with buyers. In short, CRM will become a dynamic source of information, insight, and recommendations that actually help sales people sell.

Sales managers will finally get the visibility they’ve always needed, but couldn’t because of spotty activity CRM data. They will see a complete picture of sales activities and how effectively their reps generate meetings, achieve milestones, and ultimately produce results. Easy to process visuals will help them quickly ascertain sales situations enabling them to coach and guide more effectively.

Sales leaders will get much more accurate forecasting—alleviating a major pain point—and better visibility into their sales pipelines. People decisions will be easier with clear visibility into the activity and effectiveness levels of all their reps and managers. Clear understanding of the behavioral traits of high performing reps and managers will help sales leaders hire more effectively—reducing wasted investment in hiring and retaining low performers.

Marketers will benefit in a big way too. They will be able to see how buyers respond to their messaging and content, and receive recommendations on which types of content to produce—improving production decisions in content resources and increasing return on investment. They will gain greater insight into buyer personas showing the most interest and likelihood to purchase—allowing more precision and personalization in their marketing campaigns.

I am leaving out sales operations, sales enablement training, and other great contributors to sales effectiveness. Sorry. No disrespect. But you get the picture: complete data = greater visibility = better execution = higher sales productivity.

CRM will soon come alive and start contributing like a valuable revenue team member (revenue team: that’s what they’ll call the combined sales and marketing team in 3 to 4 years). It will be a fantastic time for the industry. A true transformation. The day CRM comes alive.

Today’s post is by guest author, Pete McChrystal, President and CEO of Accent Technologies, a sales enablement platform that accelerates sales productivity by taking a scientific, data-driven approach.