Knowing the Customer: How CRM Skills Have Come to Define Careers | Burning Glass Technologies

The days of the sales order book and Rolodex are over, and one of the fastest-growing areas for digital skills in the job market is Customer Relationship Management (CRM), the catch-all term for a range of software packages that track sales and fundraising contacts. Many fundraising, business analysis, and data analysis roles are now requiring CRM skills and knowledge of software programs such as Salesforce or Oracle CRM.

The Digital Edge: Middle Skill Workers and Careers by Burning Glass Technologies and Capital One, highlighted the leading role that digital skills play in helping workers both take the first steps onto career ladders and climb them over time. But what specific digital skills are worth learning and in what order?

Roles that require knowledge of CRM software skills often require basic digital and non-digital skills. Knowledge of productivity software along with sales, customer service, and communication skills are key to many of these positions. In other words, the CRM and productivity digital skills demanded across this diverse set of roles complement the important non-digital talents that are crucial to sales—and that remain relatively difficult to replace with technology.

This brief provides a roadmap for workers wondering what types of positions require CRM skills and how those skills can lead to advantages as workers navigate career ladders across various occupation families.

Demand for CRM Software Skills Outpaces the Overall Labor Market

CRM skills are a core requirement of sales and customer service positions. All roles within these two career families, from assistants to executives, require familiarity with CRM software, such as Salesforce. The demand for CRM has been high and continues to grow across these positions. The number of total postings requiring CRM skills grew 11% faster than the overall market; Salesforce skills grew 1.5x faster than the market from 2012-2016.

At each step of the sales and customer service career ladder, knowledge of CRM software skills yield salary premiums. Entry-level positions like Customer Service Representatives pay up to 16% more with knowledge of CRM software. More advanced positions, like Account Executives, pay up to 11% more.

Top 10 CRM Positions by Number of 2016 Job Postings

OccupationAverage SalaryGrowth of Postings Indexed to Growth in Total Postings (2012-2016)*
Customer Service Representative$34,27477%
Account Manager / Representative$59,26223%
Sales Representative$66,45951%
Account Executive$70,59128%
Business / Management Analyst$73,048-1%
Business Development / Sales Manager$76,03617%
Systems Analyst$78,842-47%
Marketing Manager$80,6673%
Software Developer / Engineer$93,798-55%
Business Intelligence Architect / Developer$102,822142%

Figures in the last column represent the growth of postings for each occupation relative to the growth of the overall labor market over the same time period (e.g. growth in Sales Representative postings was 51% higher than the growth in all postings)

Salary Premiums for CRM Skills

 Without CRM Software SkillsWith CRM Software Skills 
OccupationAverage SalaryAverage SalarySalary Premium
Customer Service Representative$34,274$39,71016%
Account Manager / Representative$59,262$64,1598%
Account Executive$70,591$78,24011%
Business Development / Sales Manager$76,036$81,7398%

CRM Skills Are Important Beyond Sales

CRM skills are not merely found across sales and customer service career ladders. Over the past several years, CRM skills have gained importance across a variety of other career families. Positions in fundraising, data analysis, and business analysis have all seen growth in demand for CRM software skills during the 2012-2016 period. A few occupations – such as Fundraising Managers and Clinical Data Systems Specialists – have seen substantial growth in CRM demand. The growth in number of postings requiring CRM software skills for these two positions outpace the growth in the total number of postings for these two positions by 44x and 13x respectively.

CRM skills are especially important in entry-level positions. Demand for CRM skills across positions such as Fundraising Specialist, Data Mining Analysts, and Business Analysts have all increased substantially in recent years. Some of these positions also offer large salary premiums (10-20%) for knowledge of CRM.

Selected Occupations with High Growth in CRM Requirements

OccupationGrowth with CRM Skills,2012-2016Growth relative to occupation overall
Fundraising Manager63%44x
Fundraising / Development Specialist63%16x
Clinical Data Systems Specialist / Manager258%13x
Business Intelligence Architect / Developer194%3.7x
Business / Management Analyst77%2.1x
Data / Data Mining Analyst87%2.1x

Importantly, success in these roles relies on more than simply learning CRM software. More advanced positions, such as Fundraising Managers, demand knowledge of staff management, project management, and supervisory skills. Like other digital skills, CRM software knowledge is crucial to begin a career; however, climbing the ladder continues to rely on more human skills. In sales, the management and interpersonal skills that allow a sales representative to close a deal represent critical advancement skills. Similarly, success in customer service requires an ability to connect with clients and understand their unique needs. CRM knowledge is critical, but it isn’t enough to build a career.