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:
What most sales organizations' funnels look like:
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.