The Evolution of Purchasing CRM Software


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I’ve really neglected to talk about “CRM” in a specific way on a regular basis over the past few years. I’ve been very focused on how to prioritize what customers value and that has taken me into the dark world of innovation. Along the way I’ve talked about things like customer experience and customer success, all within the context of customers trying to get a job done – as opposed to trying desperately to buy your product.

Since most companies aren’t very interested in understanding what their customers need in the pursuit of getting a job done (the “Style my hair” vs “Apply hair gel” debate); I thought I would frame this conversation around the consumption of solutions that they have placed their bets on (whether rightly or wrongly). There are some basic common sense things we can probably all agree on. Here, I’m going to demonstrate that Jobs-to-be-done do not change over time. Only the value that we give to solution does.

Throughout this post, I’m using a simple job map depicting the job of purchasing software. In reality, it would be a bit more involved; but not too much so. Here’s a quick snap of the more detailed map

Before the Internet

When the precursors for CRM solutions (Contact Managers, PIMs, etc.) surfaced 30 years ago, many of us were very excited. Most of us had grown up without computers, so DOS excited us (if you don’t know what that is, get a history book). Things were different then; but the job of purchasing CRM software has not changed one bit. While we execute these steps differently (or automatically) today, they are still being executed.

The solutions we had for these steps then, would be extremely painful for any of us to tolerate today. For instance,

  • We learned about computers and these software solutions in magazines or from Sales Reps who stopped by or called us
  • Writer/Analysts and/or Sales Reps evaluated the software for us
  • We ordered the software through Sales Reps, or from a call center
  • There was no way to track an order without calling someone, and they often didn’t have tracking systems available to answer our questions
  • We paid through purchase orders, after going through a capital budgeting and approval process – via fax or snail mail

So, this was a time consuming and extremely inconvenient process – given what we have today

Age of the Internet

The Internet was the next wave of awesome sauce. We could write stuff that anyone could see – if they could find it. Much of the information that we got from magazines and brochures was now popping up on websites; making the process somewhat easier for us…

  • We were able to learn about some CRM solutions “online” through a website or search engine
  • Evaluation was partially done by comparing features from available online material; but often still needed a Sales Rep to “help us” with their sale our decision
  • Delivery was often done through a “business partner.” In other words, there was another layer of cost value add
  • Orders and payment were still done traditionally since a) this was still “on premise” and therefore an upfront capex purchase and b) there was a fear of payment portals and related security (another JTBD story that didn’t change, only the solutions did)

Age of Cloud

Finally, we come to our current world. Things have really gotten simple over the past 10 years. Improvements to the job of purchasing CRM software can be seen in many more steps. However, the steps didn’t change. Nor did the needs customers use to measure success. However, our current ecosystem of technology and solutions have helped us get certain steps done much better than before. Here are a few examples:

  • Learning and evaluation has evolved through more interactive content. No Sales Rep required
  • Ordering can be as simple as swiping a credit card.
  • Fulfillment is usually real-time and requires little monitoring as a result
  • Orders can be easily changed, barring any contractual restrictions seen in larger organizations
  • Payment is possibly online using an OpEx process, which means a smaller up-front investment and simpler approval processes (depending on internal policies, of course)

We still have some work to do; but a job map makes it simpler to see where we have opportunity to get help customers get steps done better. Assuming the technology exists, customers deem the step both important and unsatisfied, the metrics we would also capture in this process would tell us exactly where to target our improvements. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I’ve already written about that first step – Assess CRM Need – in my book-length post on Re-inventing CRM. This framework would work well, but the tools just aren’t there yet that make this step simpler. Selecting a CRM solution can be a collaborative or committee-driven process which could benefit from improvements around step 1. And the last step also falls into that group, since the original criteria would be important to leverage in any subsequent evaluation.

I guess we’ll see what the next innovation gives us.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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