Why CRM Systems Don’t Ensure Consistent Sales Process

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 @ 11:01 AM

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Implementing and improving the use of CRM systems is a high priority for most C-Level and Sales Leadership executives.  Many believe, often mistakenly, that CRM ensures the consistent application of a structured sales process.  The assumption, that by defining the opportunity milestones and weighting their values, translates into consistent sales process execution.  While there is great value in using CRM systems, there are two problems which undercut their impact.

First, most sales processes are defined using business-specific criteria.  These functional milestones include getting a signed non-discloser or conducting a technical webinar.  They're important, but don’t force salespeople to accomplish nor defend whether they've met critical sales-specific milestones.  For example, has the prospect articulated the business need, not the application need, to the salesperson?

If your CRM system traps too many company milestones at the expense of sales process criteria, many opportunities, which are forecasted as "late stage" in your pipeline, are likely poorly-unqualified.

To illustrate this, when we evaluate a sales organization, we have the salespeople report on proposal-ready opportunities.  We ask them questions to determine if they are indeed proposal-ready.

What a funnel of proposal-ready opportunities should look like:

sales funnel 

What most sales organizations' funnels look like:

  sales funnel


I challenge you to test this by asking your salespeople to describe the decision process and criteria, which decision-maker can squelch the deal and how they know that the prospect will leave their existing supplier.  Ask them to describe the specific expectations for an upcoming meeting, why this is the strategy and what the prospect is expecting to happen - not what their plan is.

The second problem with CRM systems and sales process is how sales leaders manage opportunities.  They focus on the current month's “closable opportunities”.  The result is a short-term, purely tactical approach, focused almost exclusively on how to close the deal.  Process is pushed aside and, in many cases, the sales manager takes over.  This results in sales process execution accountability and commitment becoming less important than revenue.  Salespeople continue to execute the process steps improperly, get bailed out by their sales leaders, reinforce bad behavior and learn little.

If other company departments, the challenges of inconsistent process adherence and/or execution makes it unlikely that change could come quickly.  Why do companies and its leaders tolerate this?  In many cases, they seem to encourage it.  Are you committed to finding ways to address this challenge?

Take our sales process grader and see what you need to work on.




Topics: Baseline Selling, sales process, growing a sales team, best sales leadership training, convert more sales, crm, Pipeline

Are Your Sales Leaders Great Coaches?

Posted by Chris Mott on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 @ 09:04 AM


I followed a discussion on LinkedIn recently, which started with this statement:

Many business owners and leaders that I speak to believe that “sales training doesn’t work.” What do you think?

If you read the comments, you’d see a range of thoughts, including, “Sales training is a must.”, “They likely have the wrong trainers.”, “Not all salespeople are trainable.” and “It works only when senior management is bought in.”  All of these statements are true particularly if you include the context.  What I found upsetting is that there was little reference to sales leadership.

In my experience, the majority of CEO’s do not come from sales.  They generally have finance, operations, technical, scientific or marketing backgrounds.  Many lack a full appreciation of professional sales, the nature of salespeople or seeing sales as less structured than other parts of the business.  Given this, it’s not surprising that when hiring a sales leader, they choose people who desire autonomy and operate well independently.

Objective Management Group’s research shows that only 7% of sales leaders are truly effective at coaching salespeople.  While shocking, this finding is not surprising when you consider that most sales leaders fail to invest enough time in this critical function.  Autonomous sales leaders were autonomous salespeople first. They operated with little assistance and intervention.  Imagine how much more productive they would have been if they had sales leaders with great coaching skills.  Since only 7% of sales leaders are effective coaches and they work for CEO’s whose core competencies are not in sales, building a high-performing sales organization is almost impossible without sales leadership training and development.

Sales leaders should spend 80% of their time on accountability, coaching, motivating, mentoring and recruiting.  A significant majority fails to invest this much time. Their approach to coaching (and I’m not knocking sales leaders) is to tell salespeople what they should do instead of helping them to discover the right strategy themselves.  They also frequently close the deal for them.  How can anyone learn without making mistakes and learning from them?

Kurlan and Associates, Inc. is hosting a two-day Sales Leadership Intensive at the Boston Marriot Long Wharf in May.  This program will focus on practical strategies and skill development for sales leaders.  Additional Information can be found by clicking here.

Topics: changing salespeople, best sales leadership training, better sales outcomes, coaching salespeople

Nigeria - Africa’s Largest Emerging Economy – Best Practice Sales

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Mar 01, 2012 @ 15:03 PM


Last week I had a life-changing experience while training the sales and management team of a Nigerian firm in the banking sector. Led by an African man who, following his education in the US, had a dream of benefiting the average Nigerian. 

If you want to buy a car in the US, there are plenty of options for financing. Owning a car for us is like drinking water. Getting to work, the grocery store or soccer practice requires this. In Nigeria, a country of 150 million people, access to credit has always been a problem. My CEO's dream was to find ways to help the banks manage their risk better and, as a result, lend more of their capital by creating the country’s first credit bureau. 

My client and I have been working together for five years focusing on recruiting, sales management, sales process and skills. Unlike many CEO’s, he made his first investment in the sales force immediately after he raised his first significant round of financing. Most companies can’t make this claim.

Prior to the training, we re-evaluated the salespeople and sales managers. This makes complete sense, yet many CEO’s want to train their salespeople without knowing what kind of training they need and without helping the trainees to better understand their challenges in advance of training.

As always, there was some resistance. For example, in Nigeria there is a certain deference given to people in authority. The result is that salespeople don’t ask as many direct probing questions as needed. How many of your salespeople demonstrate this problem?

It’s not enough to tell people what to do. You have to show them, discuss mental limitations to successful execution and practice a lot. 

Creating a best practices sales organization requires a comprehensive assessment of the people, systems and processes. It means having a written, documented, staged and criteria-based sales process that everyone understands, agrees with and executes against. It requires management’s daily coaching, debriefing and lots of role-play with the salespeople and sales leaders.  Clearly defined metrics and metrics accountability,  emphasizing daily sales behavior, are also necessary.

So what was my experience? My Nigerian students quickly stepped out of their comfort zone, pushing back when they didn’t agree and found ways to quickly utilize the training. By Wednesday, everyone could recount several situations where they had applied the learning and achieved better outcomes.

Perhaps being a citizen of a country with an emerging economy, including all of its associated challenges, makes people more passionate about improvement. Maybe they value being a great employee more or perhaps I was just fortunate to work with a great CEO who was involved in the training all week, applied the lessons himself and worked with his team.

Unfortunately, some CEO’s and sales leaders want to delegate to their staff and give up the opportunity to learn alongside their people and demonstrate the importance and urgency of personal development.

There is much I learned from my experience in Nigeria, not the least of which is that people face the same challenges everywhere.  What really matters is how we face these challenges and with what degree of commitment and passion for achieving our very best.

Topics: banking, best sales leadership training, Bravery in sales situations, Changing_Behavior

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