Presented by NetHunt

When was the last time you had to manually sift through a CRM database to find necessary client information? If it was less than a decade ago, investing in an upgrade might be something you really want to think about. That’s because CRM systems, as a digital Rolodex, are dying away, much to the delight of many salespeople.

You might not have noticed it, but a drastic shift in CRM systems already happened once before. No system left standing exists without some sort of integration with other services that your company uses — such as a website, a messenger platform, or a social network.

But what we’re seeing now is the next transformation of integrated CRM apps. Many popular communication services are not only integrating with these systems but are starting to exercise the same capabilities previously associated with CRMs. And since these services are already the choice of a modern sales team, they might become new focal points of customer relationship management.

Gmail as a CRM

According to Gartner, small CRM apps have taken away significant market share from the Big 4 (Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft) since 2011. Experts partially explain this loss by the lack of integration, especially with services popular with SMBs.

Gmail, with its billion users, is among them. Despite the rise of messengers and social networks, email remains the most effective tool for customer communication. Vendors have only recently started paying close attention to it, with most systems providing a very limited integration with the inbox. But there are benefits to having a fully-functional CRM inside Gmail and G Suite.

And in terms of full Gmail integration, NetHunt CRM comes closest.

“Salespeople want client information immediately, so we show it to them before they even open an email,” says Andrei Petrik, CEO of NetHunt CRM who’s been doing business process management consulting and CRM implementation for over 10 years. “Gmail becomes the one stop for all customer data and deal updates. This way you don’t have to work with several systems at the same time anymore.”

Considering the effectiveness of email marketing (over 3,800 percent ROI), NetHunt CRM uses its placement to perform email campaigns using Gmail. What makes this approach appealing is that it combines the broad adoption of Gmail with the business management capabilities of CRMs. While this is not meant to be a Salesforce killer, hundreds of small companies have already moved their business management processes and client databases to Gmail.

Slack as a CRM

With over 5 million daily active users, Slack is quickly becoming a new central hub for team communications. It’s also turning into a front end for their CRM data management. Multiple CRM vendors were quick to jump on the Slack bots bandwagon to broadcast critical sales data as chat messages.

Instead of creating a full new CRM inside Slack, some CRM vendors like Sellf and Zoho integrate their functionality inside Slack. Such integration makes it possible to get automatic status or deal updates in Slack channels, request customer data, or generate a sales report even without opening the respective CRM systems.

Sharing the important CRM data via Slack is a simple way of improving visibility between sales, marketing, product, and support departments (a goal that Slack team is promoting itself). Right now there are no signs of Slack fully replacing a CRM system for sales, mainly due to the lack of external client communication. However, Slack enthusiasts are trying to use it for customer support and here’s where the instant CRM data might be the most valuable.

Facebook/LinkedIn as a CRM

Selling has gone social and social networks have quickly turned into a conveyor of ads and leads. It’s common for CRM systems to provide some form of integration with Facebook or Twitter (some natively, but mostly via Zapier) — from a profile link in a system to data capturing. Yet, for the salespeople who primarily concentrate on establishing relations using this channel, some social networks might be preparing their own solutions.

While not technically a CRM, LinkedIn has been actively updating its Sales Navigator tool. It has several CRM-like features to help companies establish and manage connections in LinkedIn and even synchronize this data with their CRM. Initially, CRM Sync will be available for Salesforce, but we can expect LinkedIn to expand its Sync functionality to other platforms (especially MS Dynamics) later this year.

A whole new vision of CRM might come from none other than Facebook itself. We’ve learned that Facebook has developed its own internal CRM system for managing relations with advertisers. Facebook is known for developing in-house solutions and then releasing them to the public. For example, the Hive data warehousing tool and the Presto querying engine are now available under the open-source license. We might soon try out the Facebook CRM as a stand-alone service, or, more likely, as an addition to the Facebook Lead Ads.

What lies beyond the integrated systems?

While the CRM market is still dominated by the giants like Salesforce, almost a half of CRM users turn to more agile vendors that are thinking outside the box. They might not replace the traditional systems for everyone, but for the companies dedicated to a single channel of communication, this might become a more appealing alternative.

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