Salesforce adds CRM features to support remote-work models for sales teams born in the pandemic and continuing — possibly permanently
Salesforce gave Sales Cloud users an early preview of CRM features planned for release throughout 2023, including new details on Slack integrations, revenue intelligence subscription management and sales enablement.
The features, taken together, help both sales reps and their managers stay connected across disparate locations, said Bill Patterson, Salesforce executive vice president and general manager of CRM applications. Many sales teams still work remotely; prior to the pandemic, sales was typically a team sport played in close office quarters.
Combining Slack and Salesforce Sales Cloud helps bridge the distance between sales team colleagues and managers, said Forrester Research analyst Kate Leggett. It also helps address the reality that large sales deals require increasingly more collaboration between sales teams and the customer’s buying team.
Leggett pointed to a recent annual Forrester survey of 957 businesses globally: Respondents said the average number of interactions between selling and buying teams increased from 17 in 2019 to 27 in 2022. Deals are taking longer to close, too. In 2015, 19% of deals took four months or longer; that number rose to 32% in 2022.
Slack channel integrations with Salesforce Sales Cloud may make those deals move more efficiently, Leggett said. While it’s not necessarily exciting technology, all CRM platforms need to drive online collaboration as Microsoft has done by connecting Teams and Dynamics together.
“There are more stakeholders that need to communicate and collaborate during a sales cycle. Deals are taking longer, involving more people,” Leggett said. “It’s a no-brainer to bring CRM and collaboration together to make it easier to get energy around a deal.”
Sales enablement, subscriptions see updates
At the peak of the pandemic, e-commerce was a lifeline for many consumer businesses. In-person shopping gave way to online ordering and either home delivery or curbside pickup — that is, for those who evolved their operations to handle them.
Businesses that were caught flat-footed are now figuring out how to drive revenue with e-commerce, too, by making their products into subscriptions. Salesforce Sales Cloud will have self-service features for users’ customers to manage their own subscriptions across touchpoints such as on the web, in mobile apps or in-store.
Leggett said B2B deals such as large machinery and its related service contracts may prove too complex for such features. But media companies, software companies, telecommunications providers and consumer brands like Blue Apron that send and bill recurring home shipments would find these Salesforce features useful.
“It’s really going to help businesses plan their transition from products to services [via] subscriptions,” said Patterson, who added that hardware technology companies have also embraced the idea by adding service, monitoring and security subscriptions to their products. “We’re going to make it easy to create direct-to-customer subscription lifecycle solutions directly inside the products and services themselves.”
Also on tap for Salesforce Sales Cloud are revenue intelligence tools that add Einstein Deal Insights to measure the health of a deal with AI; analytics for more accurate sales forecasting; and manager tools that analyze why top reps are successful, to give other sales team members insights to help achieve their own targets.
On the sales enablement side, Salesforce plans to release tools at the end of 2022 that will analyze sales calls and give contextual feedback to sales reps on how they might have done better, or point them to materials to bone up on product or sales education. Other features in this group will facilitate onboarding for sales reps, and give managers a dashboard view of how sales enablement efforts are driving revenue.
Taken together, these features help managers and sales reps work better remotely, Patterson said.
“The process of selling — and sales as a function and as a discipline — has completely changed,” Patterson said. “It used to be, you would sell a product by cementing a relationship over dinner, or even doing something as simple as shaking someone’s hand to say ‘Yes, we agree to business terms with one another.’ In the pandemic, you really haven’t seen people congregating together and physically interacting. So some of the most primitive — and human — elements of what has made up sales now has to go to this all-digital metaphor.”