Critical examination of a digital sales platform – opportunities and risks for CRM 2/2

Critical examination of a digital sales platform – opportunities and risks for CRM 2/2

Welcome to our series of articles on current theses by our students!

Alumnus Janik Orth wrote an outstanding master’s thesis in the field of digital sales as part of his master’s degree at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Cologne. The topic: “Critical examination of a digital sales platform – opportunities and risks for CRM”. In the following, further important findings of his thesis are presented. Click here for the first part! Are you looking for topic suggestions for your bachelor or master thesis yourself? Visit us here and get inspired.


Research question and results of the research

To answer the research question, a total of five hypotheses were formulated. In order to confirm or refute these hypotheses, a qualitative survey was conducted in the form of several expert interviews. The experts were selected on the basis of their in-depth knowledge in the field of sales. The interviews were intended to provide information about the development of sales communication and to highlight the importance of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The evaluation of the answers to the interview questions revealed that sales communication will become more digital in the future due to the effects of the Corona crisis, sales communication will become more digitally oriented in the future. In times of a customer-centric orientation of a company’s sales processes, it has become apparent that the integration of a CRM system into a company’s communications ecosystem is essential for the success of the company.

The Corona pandemic had a strong impact on digitization in general and also on the digitization of corporate processes. Internal communication with colleagues and external communication with customers had to be digitized, which led to major upheavals in companies. For example, employees were increasingly sent to the home office and customer meetings were conducted via digital communication platforms. As a result, customer loyalty or proximity to the customer suffered, regardless of whether it was an existing customer or a new customer. In communication with the customer, the goal before Corona was always to arrange a personal appointment with the customer. The results of the expert interviews showed that despite exclusively digital communication, it was easier than expected to maintain the relationship with existing customers because they still trust the company. Communication platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams are becoming increasingly important for keeping communication with customers as personal as possible. Trade shows have been replaced by virtual roadshows, but the interview results showed that these were not well received by customers and need to be more interactive in the future. As mentioned earlier, it has been shown that it has been easier to maintain communication with existing customers, but socialization continues to play a critical role. People have a need for personal communication.


As a result of the crisis and digitization, the entire communication with the customer has become highly virtualized, i.e. the salesperson takes on more of the role of advisor than salesman. The focus is no longer on the product, but on the solution. This accelerates the trend from product to customer orientation and companies must establish methods to be able to work in a customer-centric way. Digital CRM solutions offer an indispensable method for remaining competitive in times of customer centricity. CRM systems use modern information and communication technologies to establish individual customer relationships. This is done with the help of customer-specific concepts, such as customized advertising, tailored customer information and cross-selling. However, in many companies CRM systems are not seen as a holistic system, but are integrated into the company processes in a more or less rudimentary way, which leads to unused potential. Thus, the established CRM system is usually only used for the operational purpose of customer data management and the possibility of analyzing the data is neglected. The integration of a CRM system should cover all customer contact points, from interest generation in marketing and acquisition, through the sales process and purchase of the product, to service and repurchase.


Another trend accelerated by the Corona crisis is location- and time-independent information procurement on the part of customers. B2B customers today want autonomous, digital self-service across the entire procurement process. So it’s essentially about synchronization in sales and breaking down the silo thinking of the various players and technologies. The results of the expert survey showed that silos are created primarily between the marketing, sales and service departments, but that it is fundamentally up to the company’s mindset to break down these silos. Thus, scientifically valuable results could be obtained to answer the research question.


In order to further develop customer communication into active and integrated sales communication with the help of digitization, both analog concepts and digital communication concepts must be combined. The extended digitalization push caused by the Corona pandemic has opened the eyes of many companies, especially those with a traditional setup. Exclusive face-to-face communication with the customer or even with the sales representative is no longer appropriate. The inclusion of digital concepts has shown companies that they can communicate with customers more effectively, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Customers can communicate both qualitatively and quantitatively more effectively as well as more cost-efficiently, as many business trips can be replaced by online meetings. Nevertheless, the need for face-to-face communication should not be neglected. Accordingly, physical contact should take place, especially for complex topics, discussions of offers, or even workshops. The focus should be on supplementing and expanding all forms of face-to-face communication with digital modules to ensure proximity to the customer even in times of crisis. In addition, the possibilities of integrating CRM and the associated customer-centric orientation of the sales process should be taken into account. One instrument for implementing active and integrated sales communication is a digital platform that makes it possible to replace value chains with value networks. However, many companies do not yet have a platform for active and integrated sales communication, let alone communicate uniformly with customers via a corresponding platform. They use isolated solutions that are not linked with each other, which means that customer interaction takes place from different perspectives and thus has a different impact on the customer. The use of platforms currently lends itself primarily to areas with direct customer contact.

Accordingly, in the author’s view, the future lies in the design of customer communication along the entire customer journey with the help of a digital CRM system. The link between a platform for uniform communication with the customer and the connection to the company’s internal CRM system would fulfill both: the trend toward customer-centric orientation and the trend toward platforms.