From the Rolodex to the latest cutting edge CRM solutions (and everything in between), uncover the history of sales and the platform that has transformed the business over the past three decades.

In the Beginning

The Ledger

The humble paper pad and pen (well, quill depending on how far back you go), which allowed businesses to track basic sales and customer information.


The Rolodex

The spangly desk accessory of a million execs, the Rolodex offered companies the ability to spin through paper records, adding customers while updating existing customer information, details and more. Useful for a small business, but once you started scaling up……

Early 1980s

Database Marketing

This new process allowed companies to amass and analyse customer information, enabling businesses to create customised communications to attract prospects.

Late 1980s

Contact Management Software

The arrival and mass rollout of PCs and server/client architecture saw businesses collecting and organising customer data into what were effectively digital Rolodexes. The net result though was clunky, limited insights into customers and company interactions with them.

Early 1990s

Sales Force Automation

The first real push into CRM begins in earnest as software development explodes, ushering in Sales Force Automation that enabled companies to hone their sales processes and boost productivity.


The acronym ‘CRM’ is coined.

Late 1990s

Mobile & SaaS

CRM continues to evolve and by the end of the century, the world’s first mobile CRM solution is introduced plus the first ever Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CRM product.



CRM continues to breakdown barriers, increasing its huge potential for creating ever-deeper relationships with customers by shifting from a ‘transaction’ focus to an ‘interaction’ focus. Companies begin to see CRM as a way to manage all business relationships via a single platform. Key advances include:

  • Increasing CRM’s operability with legacy software.
  • Offering the platform via the cloud.
  • Increasing the power of mobile and subsequently social CRM dramatically.


The sky’s the limit; the breadth and depth of a fully optimised CRM platform is vast – and companies know it. After all, the CRM scene is set to be worth £36.4 billion by 2017 according to Gartner. But there is an emerging issue which could threaten CRM’s importance in the future – how well a company exploits the platform. After all 63%of CRM projects fail to deliver on their investment. To secure your platform’s future, hire a CRM consultant to ensure you’re exploiting your CRM investment to its full potential – plus help prepare your investment for the years ahead.

Discover how to maximise the potential of your 21st century CRM system in the eguide, ‘The Ultimate Guide to: Increasing sales performance’ to double response rates and outperform last month.

This article first appeared on the Redspire blog.

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