What Every Sales Leader Needs to Know and Do to Turn CRM into a Strategic Advantage

October 16, 2013 Nancy Nardin

crm blackboard What Every Sales Leader Needs to Know and Do to Turn CRM into a Strategic Advantage

CRM as a strategic advantage

Implementing CRM across your sales organization is a big and exciting deal. After what was likely a long needs-analysis and a long period of researching the various CRM options, you have—or had—high expectations. What were they? Were you expecting to have a great deal more insight into your sales pipeline? Were you expecting to gain a better way to judge the forecast? Were you hoping to instill more accountability across the sales organization? Were your expectations meant?

The disconnect between expectations and actuality

I recently wrote a post about what I called the 9B CRM Debacle. Companies spent approximately $18billion on CRM last year alone. Research studies show that as much as 50% or more of CRM installations are failing. That means the return on as much as $9billion of investment is in question.

When early experience is disappointing, it’s tempting to accept lackluster outcomes as the norm. Do not let that happen. CRM can and should be a strategic advantage for your organization. Don’t accept anything less.

The cause of poor CRM adoption typically occurs when the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) factor has been neglected. Managers hold the budget. Managers look to CRM for the reporting and accountability functionality. Salespeople on the other hand, want functionality that will help them do their jobs faster and easier.

The good news is that salespeople will use CRM if you can discover and provide the WIIFM factor from their perspective. Furthermore, you’ll find that what salespeople want from the CRM system are the very things that will lead to higher and faster revenue growth (e.g. a way to speed call reporting which consequently leads to more time to make calls). Find a way to get them what they need and you’ll get what you need.

A CRM deployment that delivers results will be a competitive advantage.

Perhaps you can compete by differentiating on product, price, and service.  But most complex deals rely on one more important factor—the ability to out execute the competition. As a result, execution is imperative for growing revenue. Examples where execution is paramount are: timely follow-up, following-up with the right people at the right time, making every activity count, always being relevant, and making every conversation count (58% of customer loyalty is derived from sales rep interaction).

Given the high failure rate, it’s reasonable to assume that your competitors aren’t getting strategic value from their CRM. This is the window of opportunity. Who will climb through it first? Will it be you or your competitors?

5 Signs that your CRM is failing to support key business issues.

There are a number of indicators that warn you when your team isn’t executing at the highest level. Your CRM system will either enable or cripple your team’s ability to perform at the top. Here are five signs that your CRM is failing to support key business issues.

  1. Seeing the same deals in the forecast week after week without any visible progress
  2. Closing dates repeatedly pushed into the future
  3. Uncertainty and doubt as to the validity and accuracy of deals and closing dates
  4. Large, seemingly healthy pipelines consistently produce lower than expected sales that aren’t enough to reach quota
  5. Sales team members are uncomfortable walking away from unlikely or unprofitable deals

What to do if your CRM isn’t delivering record breaking revenue
The definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again, and expect a different result – Albert Einstein

I don’t mean to be sarcastic. But the answer to “what to do” if your CRM isn’t delivering revenue growth is to “find out why.” To do that, you need to take a look at the type of activities that CRM is supposed to help your salespeople with. Those activities can be grouped into the following basic categories:

- Knowing what to do
- Knowing when to do it
- Knowing how to engage stakeholders
- Knowing how to prioritize time
- Learning and improving

If your CRM isn’t adding value to those activities, it’s failing. It isn’t enough for CRM to simply enable salespeople to perform their tasks. It should enable salespeople to do those tasks faster, easier, and more effectively. Anything less and you’ll be getting no more strategic value than you get with the use of Microsoft Word. It will be an office tool. It will not be the game-changer you wanted and expected and as a result it will be worth a fraction of the investment you made.

Why you need to be involved (and not leave it to Sales Ops)

As a business executive or sales leader, it’s your job to over-see the business and make important decisions that will impact the company’s success trajectory.

The need to adapt to a new world of complex selling is a strategic issue. The main tool salespeople use to execute on that vision is CRM.

Defining the outcomes needed to support the vision is Management’s job. Translating that and implementing it through the CRM system is SalesOps job.

Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert increasing sales productivity through the use of tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digest with invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Sales Productivity blog. Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation click here.

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