This is the 11th article in a January series on the Architecture of the Sales Force. Here are the others:
In a recent conversation with a CEO, we discussed his use of CRM. While his intention was to increase focus and visibility into new business development, the primary usage had become tracking client and delivery activities on large, existing projects. Little attention was paid to tracking the flow and evolution of new opportunities.
In his case, significant non-sales events had diverted his attention. Because his business was driven by large long-term projects, profitability and cash flow had stayed positive.
Last week, during a Sales Recruiting program, we discussed reasons why the recruiting and startup process failed to work. I asked the management team whether their CRM system tracks the internal milestones needed to do business with someone, or a sales process that leads to a prospect wanting to buy from them. After some silence, they acknowledged that it was the former.
These scenarios illustrate ways in which CRM is misused and underused. While sales technology tools have grown significantly in the last several years and companies are investing in them, it is important to look at adoption, usage, and most importantly, outcomes.
What are some of the desired outcomes of using a CRM platform?
- Better data on the status of opportunities,
- Greater accuracy of forecasting,
- Retaining institutional knowledge on clients and prospects,
- More accurate metrics and KPI’s,
- Insight into the sales process,
- Sales Coaching,
- Increased productivity, and
- Earlier adjustments to strategy.
Most salespeople won’t optimize their efforts without proactive debriefing and strategy development. In virtually all cases, this requires the sales leader. Well-planned, adopted and utilized CRM is necessary for this.
I reached out to our partners at Membrain, a world-class CRM tool, for their thoughts. Recently, they were named Best Sales CRM in the 2013 Top Sales Awards.
Leadership adoption is critical. This doesn’t mean just talking about the virtues and critical reasons for using CRM. In the movie “We Were Soldiers”, Mel Gibson tells his troops that the paratroopers have a rule: the officer is always the first one out of the plane. If sales leadership uses the tool daily, the team will be more inclined and encouraged to do so. If the CEO uses it and makes this known, people will pay attention. However, if leadership fails to do this, the initiative will very likely fail.
Many salespeople don’t make the connection between using CRM and it’s value. They see it as an unnecessary burden. Much of this derives from their often unstructured and non-detailed styles. Leadership has to work tirelessly to close this gap and show the salespeople that it’s not just a reporting tool. All efforts should go toward ensuring that it helps the sales team execute the sales strategy, follow their process, get better coaching and win more profitable and satisfied clients.
It must be incredibly easy to use. When used properly, it will impact their workday tremendously. It cannot be an obstacle for the sales people.
It can't be seen as stand-alone software, it needs to tie into and support the overall sales strategy, reinforce the training programs and encourage best-practice behavior.
Visibility and awareness are crucial. Salespeople need to know the rules and have a clear, accurate picture of where they stand. Combining this with healthy competition helps. Spend time discussing with your team (group and individually) what the conversion ratios are, what the optimum sales cycle is, who is getting traction quickly and who’s moving opportunities through the process more consistently. Send out daily updates, based on your observations of the data.
For those of you who may be interested in learning more about being an effective sales leader, our expert team at Kurlan & Associates is presenting an upcoming, complimentary webinar on February 5: "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11:00AM Eastern Time. Please do consider registering.