The World of CRM is Evolving, Are You?

In this digital age, where the heartbeat of business pulsates through lines of code and algorithms, I believe that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) stands as a testament to the rapidly evolving landscape of market conditions and customer expectations in the tech industry. 

But there’s no hiding the fact that in this $60 billion dollar industry, something isn’t working, and people are taking notice. It’s the main reason behind companies shifting customers to the forefront of all go-to-market (GTM) strategies. SugarCRM’s CEO, Craig Charlton, said it best here:

“CRM has evolved in the last five years, and as our customers tell us, it has reached a critical tipping point as they consider the health and wellness of their customer-facing operations. CRM can work wonders for your business, keeping sales, marketing, and service teams in sync so they can successfully provide those great experiences. Almost 60% of our respondents reported that CRM is more important for achieving sales and marketing goals compared to five years ago. That’s a powerful statement on CRM’s evolution.”

                                                                                                                                                       –  Craig Charlton, CEO, SugarCRM 

In order to get a pulse on the market, we spoke to industry peers to see where companies are at as we enter this new year and beyond. Our 2024 State of CRM Report surveyed more than 800 sales, marketing, service, and IT professionals and the results we found not only confirmed what we knew about the market but revealed more than we expected.

Below are a few key insights uncovered through our surveyed conversations with other industry leaders: 

1. CRM Is Your Hub for Building Better Customer Relationships

45% cite getting a complete view of customer interactions as the top priority for maximizing CRM over the next five years. 

Over the years, CRM has evolved into a digital companion that understands, anticipates, and cares. The future of CRM is empathetic; it recognizes the unique fingerprint of each customer, remembering their preferences, aspirations, and history. It transforms the once transactional and stagnant nature of storing customer information into a relational, social platform, forging bonds that will help you find and keep life-long relationships. 

2. Integrated analytics and AI are key tools for tracking customer intent

80% of surveyed leaders report that they will turn to AI to maximize the value of their CRM platform over the next five years.

Like an expert chess player, AI is making strategic moves in virtually every industry and growth-oriented companies are jumping on quickly so as to not suffer a fatal checkmate by quicker competition—obsoletion. 

Artificial intelligence and generative AI  have the potential to revolutionize CRM systems, and businesses of all sizes and industries should pay attention. Generative AI has a knack for crafting deeply individualized customer exchanges. 

Drawing from its existing database, CRMs infused with Generative AI are bypassing the old one-size-fits-all approach to help companies create personalized customer touchpoints and experiences. When joined with the predictive prowess of forecasting, both AI-infused technologies can anticipate and foresee a customer’s desires and actions and deliver on them. This foresight allows sales to jump in with solutions or additional offerings, often before the customer even realizes it.

By harnessing the power of AI in CRM, businesses can significantly improve customer engagement, offer personalized services, and gain valuable insights, all while maintaining that human touch.

3. Majority of respondents want to improve the quality, quantity, and visibility of leads 

When asked about the most important areas of sales and marketing that CRM has helped optimize, the top three answers were pipeline visibility (37%), quality of leads (35%), and quantity of leads (31%).

At its most basic level, lead generation is the process that builds visibility, credibility, trust, and interest with your potential customers. It’s also the first impression that anyone going through the sales process has with your company, so it’s crucial to remember that your first touch has a serious impact on whether or not that lead becomes a customer. 

Spend the time to build a sturdy pipeline because high-quality leads become high-quality prospects, and high-quality prospects become high-quality and high-value customers if you play your cards right. 

4. Terms like “Customizable” and “easy to use” describe the ideal CRM platform

While 60% cite using CRM as a centralized communication hub for nurturing leads or customers as their top priority, 29% see this as a major challenge. 

In the intersection between innovation and practicality, these two terms emerge as a beacon of hope for companies looking for simplicity—something that can’t always be achieved by throwing money at a new tool to solve your problems. Companies need a CRM platform that has the ability to fit the unique needs of their business. 

But it’s more than a feature; it’s a promise that your CRM is not a one-size-fits-all product but rather a solution perfectly tailored to fit the intricacies of your operations. That’s why they’re called ‘solutions’, they’re here to fix your issues, not create more. 

5. Don’t Forget the Human Behind the Data Point

One of the most prominent CRM challenges faced today is internal knowledge and skills (37%).  

As businesses navigate the complex landscape of competition, it is the human touch and authenticity in the end that will set companies apart. CRMs need to be able to recognize the person behind the data point—understanding their needs and being there not just as a service provider but as a partner in their journey.

The current status quo of ‘science over art’ is not only creating a gulf between businesses and their customers but is also driving a customer relationship crisis – ironic for software that touts relationships at its core. 

But the solution is here too: Allowing sales to focus on building relationships rather than maintaining data, searching for insights in reports, or focusing on administrative work. While technology will never replace the human connection needed when it comes to selling effectively, it can enable it, and that’s where SugarCRM is meeting the moment. 

Where We Meet the Moment—It’s Time to Put CRM to Work. 

Start with why. Understand why your business needs a CRM system, why your customers should care, and why choosing the right CRM can be a game-changer for your business. The future of CRM is not just about technology; it’s about understanding and responding to the needs of your customers in a way that is personal, efficient, and meaningful.

When everything is said and done, there’s one consistent foundation to every business: customers. We don’t just need them to survive; we need them to be happy, loyal in order to thrive. And that’s the ultimate promise of the next-generation CRM systems. 

So here’s to the future—a future where CRM is not just a system but the perfect intersection between the people, data, and processes that make up your business.

About the Contributor
Clare Dorrian
Clare Dorrian As SugarCRM’s chief marketing officer, Clare Dorrian is responsible for overseeing the company’s overall integrated marketing strategy. She leads the customer marketing, revenue generation, product marketing, and marketing operations teams. Clare is a results-oriented, creative and passionate marketing professional with a record of driving customer acquisition as well as brand and market awareness working for B2B software companies of various sizes. Highly motivated and known for her energy and commitment to teamwork, she prides herself on inspiring marketers to create real-world results that are good for business and good for customers. While born and bred in the UK, Clare currently resides in San Francisco. She holds an MA with Honors from Glasgow University.