Sales people often have animosity towards customer relationship management (CRM) systems. I know this, because I used to be one of them.
The general feeling towards CRM is that it is a waste of time – something else to keep up to date when quite clearly we don’t need it. What’s wrong with a spreadsheet or having it all up top, in my head?
I agree that it can initially be difficult to see past the laborious task of updating every conversation that takes place, loading every opportunity against each client and generally keeping information accurate.
Of course, time isn’t the only problem. Training can be a challenge and users simply don’t know where anything is in the system, which makes tasks long winded and reinforces the first impression that this is another thing for them to do.
So, why should sales teams care about CRM? Here are my thoughts…
I’m an Account Manager at K3 FDS. CRM is the one place that I can go to find out pretty much everything I need to know about my client. In preparation for a meeting, I can find out what the recent history is, how many calls have they logged, any outstanding issues, are they up to date from an accounts point of view? This helps me get a better picture of the client going in, improving our relationship. Post meeting, I can record any nuggets of information that came up during our session, as well as loading opportunities that came off the back of it. And if I update my records there and then because I can access CRM remotely then it’s done before I’m even back in the car.
This all ultimately improves sales productivity – meaning we don’t have to spend as much time rummaging for information the next time we need to engage with a client.
The software can also be used to make the sales process smarter. An interesting piece of research I saw recently caught my eye. Aberdeen Group’s ‘Trigger events: Making the most of real-time sales intelligence’ report explained that through technology, professional sellers have access to the same sources of data that their customers do. This includes ‘trigger events’ – the real-time changes in social, economic or business climates.
Sixty-three per cent of best-in-class firms use formal trigger event tools – including notifications, RSS feeds and alerts – among front-line sellers. Indeed, a better utilisation of data has been linked to increased customer loyalty, better sales forecasting and a higher percentage of individual success. In an industry where commission is a huge factor, sellers that want to get ahead certainly can’t afford to ignore the benefits!
Aberdeen Group research shows a 7.9 per cent average year-on-year increase in the percentage of sales reps achieving their quota using trigger event data. A 9.3 per cent rise in deal size or contract value was also noted.
There’s another reason why sales can’t afford to ignore CRM of course: in a world of real-time information, with customers demanding swift services, we need to act quickly and be responsive.
Sixty-seven per cent of best-in-class companies have at least some degree of automated “push” sales intelligence support, made possible through CRM. This improves efficiency and speed of deployment, giving us the ability to react as and when things happen.
Making Sure Sales Teams are on Board
Of course, explaining all these things to sales isn’t always enough to get their buy-in. I’ve found there tends to be a eureka moment among CRM users. I had mine whilst looking after a multi-site organisation that never ordered anything centrally and I was asked to review the overall spend for the business for a three month period. Before CRM I would have been entrenched in bits of paper, spread sheets, purchase orders and so on. Now, it’s simply a case of setting out the parameters within CRM and running a report. A process that saved me at least six hours of work, allowing me to optimise my sales time.
This doesn’t mean businesses can afford to sit back and wait till sales people grow to appreciate CRM. The more work that can be done up front before implementing a new system the more buy-in you will get from the people actually using it. The end result can reflect how a sales person structures their time and if putting in and extracting information from the system can be logical and make sense – then the system starts to work for them rather than the view it’s working against them.
Training is also key. The tools are there, right in front of the users but sometimes unless they are pointed out by flashing neon lights and an oversized hand, it’s far too easy to just not bother. After all, time is at a premium and we need to know in no uncertain terms what we need to be concerned with, how it works, and what the impact will be.
Changing Perceptions: Act sooner rather than later
CRM is definitely here to stay and with the market place being as competitive and aggressive as it currently is, knowledge is key to gaining any advantage over the competition. There’s no point putting off addressing negative views of CRM if you want your sales people to be as effective as possible.
Sales activity, figures and success rates are being scrutinised more than ever to understand why we are winning business and more importantly why we are unsuccessful. The key thing for me as a user and seller of CRM is to see it become part of everyday life for users, for them to live and breathe within the system and for them to be completely bought in as to how this can transform their working day for the better.