Salespeople have a love-hate relationship with technology.

I'll start with the "love" part. Salespeople have been early adopters of (going backward in time) tablets, smartphones, BlackBerrys, cellphones, and laptops. They've embraced technology so quickly that they usually purchase their own devices just to get themselves up and running.

Where salespeople have not been so enthusiastic (perhaps "hate" is too strong a word) is CRM, which has historically suffered from a failure rate of around 50 percent. Salespeople complain that CRM is difficult and time-consuming and, more important, seems more of a sales management tool than a tool that helps them sell.

However, as I explained in my earlier post "The Future of Sales Technology," CRM is undergoing a massive transformation as the result of big data (which lessens the need for salespeople to become data entry clerks) and the "touch and swipe" environment of smartphones/tablets (which makes CRM much easier to learn and use).

On Friday, September 26, at 3 p.m. Eastern, I'll be discussing the near-term and long-term future of sales technology in a free webinar/panel discussion, featuring two true luminaries of the sales technology world:

  • Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social, board member of Starbucks, and author of the groundbreaking bestseller The Facebook Era.
  • Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO of Selling Power Inc., host of the Sales 2.0 Conference series, and author of numerous sales and sales management books.

As I mentioned, the webinar is free and, based on the one-on-one conversations I've had with Clara and Gerhard in the past, I'm 100 percent certain that the discussion will be both lively and informative. Here are some questions that I intend to discuss:

  • Do the big vendors "get" it? As I see it, traditional CRM vendors aren't doing a very good job at adapting to the smartphone/tablet environment. Companies like Salesforce.com and Oracle--and many of the add-on vendors that work with them--seem wedded to the old client/server model, which assumes that the salesperson will be using a PC or a laptop.
  • Who owns customer data? Corporate lawyers insist that customer data belongs to the corporation and not to the salesperson. Salespeople, however, insist that customer data belongs to them and that they will, if necessary, keep their own copy of that data if there's a danger it might be yanked away when they leave the company.
  • Is top-down CRM still viable? When CRM is implemented as a top-down strategy, there's a tendency for sales management to try to cram it down the salespeople's throats, by (for example) withholding commissions if the electronic paperwork isn't complete. Salespeople can now select the CRM software that they want to run on their own device. This changes everything, IMHO.
  • Where does social media fit in? Most CRM systems assume a sales process that proceeds through specific steps. Social media, however, makes vendor/customer communication topsy-turvy, creating situations that are so interactive that imposing a predetermined sales process becomes a meaningless exercise.

If these questions interest you, you'll want to register for the webinar now. When I did a free webinar last week, registration ended early because interest was so great there was concern that the servers would crash.