How to Support Your Sales Process with CRM

By Warren Shiver on Dec 21, 2012

Want to know what’s ailing your sales process? Look no further than how your reps are using CRM. Most of our clients use some kind of sales force automation system for sales operations. But probably only 10-20 percent of them are really using it in the way that it was designed to help them run their businesses. Instead, they rely run “shadow accounting” on the side and pass around cumbersome Excel spreadsheets.

This is a shame, because CRM is a critical tool to help sales leaders gain insight into how well their business is performing. But if sales reps aren’t entering data consistently and sales leaders are not doing anything to address that disconnect, the general result is poor pipeline management and inaccurate sales forecasts. 

The number one problem I see with poor CRM adoption is that companies are asking reps to enter too much information into the system. One of our clients in the hospitality industry is rolling out Salesforce.com, and the amount of data they’re trying to capture from reps is overwhelming. Based on their parameters, their reps could easily end up spending an hour or more per day to keep up with reporting.

The solution to this common problem is simply to focus on the critical data points that help you run your business. Ideally sales reps will spend no more than 10-15 minutes each day to make their updates and move on. (The exception here would be inside sales reps who interact with a high volume of customers.) Ultimately sales leaders want to get quality information into the CRM system so that they can use the best data possible to make strategic decisions. 

No matter what data points you choose, you need to make sure that they map back to your sales process. We worked with a major data systems company a few years ago that was getting killed selling hardware. Technically, their product was superior, but their competitor was a selling machine. So our client made a decision to sell more services and software -- not exactly a novel business strategy, but it was a new direction for them.

The first thing we did was help them take a hard look at their sales process and figure out what they needed to change to support their new strategic goals. In order to have that conversation, we asked reps to start examining the defining factors of success and find new indicators of pipeline growth and sales opportunities. In the end, involving reps in the planning process actually encouraged CRM adoption. Michael Perla, a Senior Consultant here at Symmetrics Group, wrote a great point-of-view article about this (read it here: “Who Cares about CRM Adoption by the Sales Force?”).

Because we held workshops and solicited feedback, their top reps became CRM adopters and champions, which encouraged greater adoption from the rest of the team.

How well are you using CRM to support your sales process?

Warren Shiver

Written by Warren Shiver

Warren Shiver is the founder and managing partner of Symmetrics Group, a management consultancy focused on end to end improvement in sales force effectiveness. Through Warren’s leadership, Symmetrics Group has helped numerous organizations build high-performing sales teams focused on the right go-to-market strategy, disciplined sales process and well-designed enabling tools. Clients and consultants appreciate Warren’s uncompromising focus on quality and measureable impact and how he embodies the firm’s core values.

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