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The state of CRM in 2021

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It is 2021, yet distribution and manufacturing businesses are still struggling with the age-old ‘user adoption’ issues of customer relationship management (CRM). If this sounds familiar to you, don’t sweat it.

Here is a little secret… so are the big tech companies.

Don’t let Mark Benioff’s (Salesforce.com CEO) $7.93 Billion dollars in 2020 Marketing spending convince you that you are the only one who is struggling to prove CRM ROI. According to CSO Insights, recent data reveals only two-thirds of organizations ever reach 75% user adoption.


The truth about CRM

At sales-i, we have spent the past 13 years meeting with thousands of distribution and manufacturing Executives at Fortune 500 organizations down to independent owners. Over the past decade, we have found that while the magnitudes of disruption may be different, the fundamental issues within their CRM platforms are not. Below are a few quotes we’ve heard from Sales Leaders across the industry:

 “CRMs aren’t providing any actionable data back to my sellers to help them make decisions on how to spend their time or what to talk about” 

"I have tenured salespeople with tons of tribal knowledge, and they struggle to see the value in CRM”

“My sellers are spending entirely too much time inputting data into CRM, and it has caused a loss in productivity” 

“Most CRMs do not understand my route to market. They think of sales in a ‘one-time, linear sales process’, not understanding the nature of our business”

The underlying challenge with traditional CRM is that they were designed to input data but not interact with it.

  • Take an activity, log an activity
  • Find an opportunity, log the opportunity for management to get visibility
  • Meet a new contact, save their number in my phone, and enter it into CRM



None of these actions have saved the user time or even greatly benefited that user. That is not to diminish the value of having the data; each piece of data has tremendous value to the rest of the organization but very little to the user who logged it. The age old ‘What’s in it for me’ acronym, ‘WIIFM’, had quickly become a standard response when it came to CRM.

In about 2010, the tech world started to recognize the real root problem with CRM: an imbalance in the give/get ratio. Sellers would input massive amounts of data and get very little back. For every piece of information that was input, there was nothing that would give them warning signs or help guide them in their sales efforts. It left users ‘give tank’ on empty.


AI and CRM

Fast forward to 2021, and we have the great emergence of AI. The most ‘forward thinking’ and innovative distribution and manufacturing organizations are enhancing their CRMs with actionable data that helps sellers sell the right products at the right time to the right customers. CRM platforms now have the ability to give more information than is ever required to be inputted. With AI, every input does not have to be an analog, stagnant piece of data. In 2021, your CRM should be:

  1. Proactively alerting reps on drastic changes in buyer behavior
  2. Suggesting new sales opportunities
  3. Prompting sales messages using Natural Language rather than numbers or graphs
  4. Combining ERP and CRM data to understand a 360-degree view of the customer
  5. Coaching new sales reps with boarding based on the years of data your most seasoned reps have logged 

In 2021, sellers can now have a reason to WANT to log into CRM before each and every sales call. So, it acts like a caddy in golf and tells your reps where the bunkers are and how the greens are sloping. For the first time, distribution and manufacturing organizations are weaponizing their CRM into a revenue-generating platform rather than a line item on your P&L.


Make your CRM work for you

sales-i has been designed to unlock the insights from your existing CRM data whilst delivering faster ways to log new data, saving you time and giving you more time to interact with customers.

Our cloud-based app works on desktop and mobile devices, acting as your business caddy, giving your team advice on their next ‘shot’ no matter where they are.

Want to find out more about how sales-i can mix your hard and soft data together (2)


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