The Gartner Hype Cycle of CRMs

This article originally appeared on journeysales.com.

Just about everyone in the B2B tech world is familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle, or Gartner Curve. For those that aren’t, the premise is simple: “The Gartner Hype Cycles provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities.” (Source: Gartner) Here’s the framework:

Walking Through the Hype Cycle Stages

The Technology Trigger represents the moment at which there’s a breakthrough. There’s an opportunity for something big to happen. The Peak of Inflated Expectations is when the hype is the loudest. Then comes the Trough of Disillusionment, when the solution fails to stick with those that adopt it.

But wait! All is not lost. The Slope of Enlightenment is where a solution recovers from the Trough of Disillusionment, is better understood and thus gains more traction. Then things level off. This phase is the Plateau of Productivity. Despite it’s lackluster name, this is where the solution settles into its place. This is “mainstream adoption.” (Source: Gartner)

When a B2B sales organization adopts a CRM, they go through this cycle. They adopt the solution, get their sales reps pumped up, see real usage… and then comes the Trough. Data entry becomes low quality and less frequent. Reps revert to what has always worked for them, personally. The solution, while fantastic for internal tracking and data record-keeping, isn’t terribly great at supporting reps where they need it most: customer engagement and actual selling.

CRM use then climbs the Slope of Enlightenment. Data gets better, reporting improves, and executives lower their expectations of value from their CRM system.

But it is directly at the peak of the Slope of Enlightenment and just before the expected level off that there is opportunity. Sales teams can get back to that level of Peak Expectations and they won’t be Inflated at all. They’ll be supported by data.

Let’s Sell How Your Buyer Buys

Customer engagement throughout the buying cycle has become increasingly challenging for B2B sales reps. That’s not to the fault of the rep, but the changing nature of the buyer. The buyer does its homework. It builds internal consensus. The buyer doesn’t pull in a sales rep until the end, when it’s time to sign. That flow, in a nutshell, follows the Gartner Hype Cycle, straight on through to Plateau.

But with tools that can super-charge your CRM so that it becomes a client engagement device (that clients actually will want to engage with), sales reps can keep climbing; they can exceed the Plateau and hit Peak Expectation. Here’s our DIY illustration:

So What Are the Tools?

Yes, our Smart Rooms do exactly what’s prescribed above, but the appropriate insight here is to offer a set of criteria that B2B sales organizations should consider when evaluating a CRM bolt-on that can pull that Plateau higher.

  1. Customer Readiness — A customer engagement product that sits on your CRM is only going to be as effective as your customer’s level of familiarity with the environment. The best way to determine whether or not they’re ready for something like this? Ask them. Simple, eh?
  2. The Right Assets — Releasing a customer engagement solution that doesn’t come with the assets necessary for success is a waste of time. (Hey, here’s this thing that could help you better engage your prospects! It doesn’t have any of the stuff you need to do that yet, but here you go anyway!) Customer engagement solutions need consistent and relevant content right out of the gate or else adoption will be limited.
  3. Know What You Actually Want to Do — There are hundreds of sales enablement products that solve a number of different problems. Before you go poking around, know what problem you want to solve. Do you have a stagnant pipeline that needs un-stucking? Do you want your sales reps upselling and cross-selling better? Do you want to give your channel partners what they need to sell like you?

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