Making CRMs Valuable for the Sales Person – not just Management

Whenever we talk to sales people about CRMs, we get various different reactions:

  • “What a pain in the butt – it takes too long and they are only in place so big brother can watch me.”  This is typically followed by “I would rather spend my time in the field.  Do you want me entering everything in CRM or do you want me out selling?”
  • “They are ok – I use it to keep notes on my clients and set call backs, but that is about it.  The rest of the functionality is really for the managers.”
  • “I couldn’t live without it – I use it for everything I do.”   Wait…What?  Where did that last response come from?

I would say the majority of sales reps fall into one of the first two buckets.  But there are a growing number of reps that have figured out how to make this more of a sales tool and resource and not just something that their bosses use to keep an eye on them.  With the advancements in many of the systems, the “admin” part of CRM has become less burdensome and they systems can actually be used to for so many more things to make the sales person’s life easier.

What’s in it for the sales people
I am truly amazed at how many things are put into these systems FOR THE SALES PEOPLE which the sales people don’t know anything about.  Many CRMs have functionality designed specifically to help the sales person.  However, few of the reps I talk to know about them.

  • How do I find more prospects? – something most sales people need to do.  They are looking for new companies to pursue and new contacts to call on.  Guess what, lots of CRMs are building data right into the systems so you can use filters to identify prospects.  Salesforce.com incorporates Data.com.  I can use the filters to specify size of company, geography, branch or headquarter, industry and more and get a list of companies that fit that criteria.  I can even specify what kind of people I am looking for (C-level, VP, Manager) and position (Sales, HR, Finance, IT) and the system will spit out who those people are.  How valuable is that?
  • Who’s looking at my emails? – would it be valuable to the sales person to know which prospects have opened their email?  How many times it was opened?  When it was opened last?  Well that’s built in.  And “no,” there is nothing that pops up in front of the email recipient to show that they are being tracked.
  • Who are the hottest leads? Many CRMs have option lead scoring services that can be incorporated into them.  Leads are scored based on number of visits, which pages were visited, if they downloaded something, if they watched a video, etc.  The more things they do, the higher the score.  The highest scores get pushed to sales people to follow up so the sales person does not need to sift through every lead to determine which is best.
  • How do I maximize my sales trip? Say you are a sales person and you have a trip planned to Pittsburgh to see some clients.  How easy is it for you to pull a list of other prospects or people you could call on in the area to make the most of your trip?   Again, pretty darn easy if you know how to create custom reports.  A few clicks and there is a list.
  • Pre-call/Pre-meeting research – any good sales person will tell you that it pays off to do some homework on the people you are meeting with.  This allows them to make connections and establish rapport faster.  Guess what, CRMs have been integrating social media and with a few clicks you can learn more about the people you are meeting with.

There are many more valuable tools like this, but not enough space to list them.  So why don’t sales people find them valuable or use them?   Most of the time, they don’t even know they are there or they have never been trained on how to use them.

How can managers be more effective?

Managers are no different.  They WANT to use the system to easily track pipelines, measure activity levels and manage performance.  But the vast majority all complain about the same thing – I can’t get accurate data because nobody puts their information in the system.   Why don’t they?   Let’s look at a few reasons:

  • It is “another system.”   A large number of sales people work out of Outlook or Gmail.  They use the email, calendars and even tasks.  Now you want them to duplicate it all into “another system” just for you?  Where is the value to them?   My advice – make it easy.  Most CRMs allow you to integrate the two.  Let them work out of their favored system and have the system synch the data or allow them to add the data to CRM by clicking a button.   This alone typically increases the quantity and quality of data immensely.
  • Sometimes they “do” put their data in CRM, then YOU ignore it and ask them “What’s going on with ABC Company?”  What a great way to give them an excuse to not put information in the system – “You don’t look at it anyway.”
  • Shadow systems – you ask them to put data in, but then you manage them off an Excel spreadsheet when you review pipelines, activities, etc.   Yes, this may be a little more efficient for you, but the salespeople quickly find out that the data in the CRM doesn’t matter – they can instead just tell you what to update in the spreadsheet.  Result – no data in CRM.  If you really want accurate info in the system, manage from it.  When you do your one-on-ones, turn your monitor sideways and review the data together – right from CRM!
  • Wrong training – most training is focused on “Here is what I want/need you to fill out” and almost never about all the cool things listed above that benefit the rep.  No wonder they don’t want to use the system.
  • Don’t ask too much – I’ve seen some managers see all the things that COULD be tracked and then come up with a list of the 87 things that they want sales people to track.  Don’t do that.  Pick the few critical things that matter and track those.  If you ask too much, you get none.

Just like the salespeople, there are lots of things that CRM can do beyond just tracking pipelines and activity, but they don’t know about the functionality or have not been trained on it.  Managers COULD do some of the following:

  • Structure territories using data about accounts, revenue, potential, etc.
  • Create heat maps – based on revenue, product penetration, account types, etc.
  • Spot trends – is the close rate going up or down vs last year?  How is account growth year over year?  What about our average deal size?  There are tools to help you analyze this and make adjustments as needed.
    • Create custom reports - Want to know if sales people are capturing all the relevant data about an account?  Rather than click through account by account, create a custom report?  Drop the fields in the report that you want to track and see if people are filling them out.
  • Neglected accounts – do sales people have accounts that they are not touching?  Would they be more valuable if someone else were on them?  Run the reports periodically to find out.

There are tons more examples of items like this.  Unfortunately a large amount of companies just use it as a big tickler file that contains the pipeline.  And oh yeah, the data is not very accurate.

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