Possibly the most dramatic change to occur in how salespeople function on a day-to-day basis involves the integration of customer relationship management (CRM) systems into the selling arena. CRM is the name given to both the technology and the philosophy that drives companies to gain a better understanding of their customers with the goal of building stronger long-term relationships. The essential requirement for an effective CRM system is the need for all customer contact points (e.g., salespeople, customer service, websites) to gather information so that this can be shared with others in the company.
But CRM has faced some rough times within the sales force for the exact reason it is important: salespeople must share their information. Salespeople historically have been highly effective at developing relationships and learning about customers, but often loath sharing this with others since possessing detailed customer information is an important element in what makes a salesperson valuable. For example, some salespeople feel sharing all they know about a customer will make them expendable since a company can simply insert someone new into their role who will have access to the customer information collected by the person she/he replaced.
While the attitude toward CRM has made its implementation difficult in many organizations, salespeople should understand that it is not going away. CRM and information sharing have proven to be critical for maintaining strong customer relations and salespeople must learn to adapt to it.