Thanks to the large number of CRM software programs on the market today, most people have heard of CRM software. But many of those people have an incorrect or incomplete understanding of what CRM is capable of doing. This article will describe what CRM can do for your sales. After a brief overview of the concept of CRM, we’ll identify some typical sales problems that CRM can solve.
CRM became a buzzword in the 1990’s. It referred to a technology-driven initiative to unify the efforts of a company’s customer-facing departments. This new strategy would restructure these departments around the company’s greatest asset – its customers! CRM would allow customer information from across the company to be available to any employee who happened to interact with the customer, enabling the sales team to sell more successfully, the marketing team to segment and market to customers more effectively, and the service team to provide more personal, more effective resolution to customer complaints or requests.
Simply put, the technology available at the outset of CRM was insufficient to allow the concept to deliver on its promise. Today, however, the technology is available, and companies of every size and budget are realizing the benefits of CRM technology. Is your company one of them? Do you know what these benefits are?
Why Do I Need CRM?
Below are some typical problems that can be solved by implementing CRM….
“I want to improve the performance of my sales team this year.”
Well what do you mean, “improve?” How did you measure the performance of your sales team last year (meaning can you identify important metrics other than total revenue or number of sales)? Here are some specific questions you may ask yourself:
o Can I identify the areas of performance in which my sales team did well, and those in which they underperformed?
o Can I identify which of those areas has historically had the greatest impact on overall sales performance?
o Which of those areas can be improved with the least investment of dollars, time, or training?
o Which specific behaviors should I encourage to drive the performance increase I seek?
For example, it may be that you had good lead generation and qualification numbers, but fell short in your more advanced sales stages. Or maybe your sales reps seemed to stall out in a certain part of your sale cycle, taking much longer than you would expect to achieve the objectives there and move into the next stage.
There are many ways a sales team can underperform. But if you don’t have a well-implemented CRM system, the odds are good that you can’t accurately answer the questions that will help you improve. The truth is that measurable improvement can only come from measured results. Otherwise, your message to your sales team will continue to consist of frustrated admonitions to work harder or close better.
“I think my sales team is doing a poor job of following up on the leads we receive, although I can’t say for sure.”
There are two problems in this statement – the first is the suspicion that your valuable leads are falling through the cracks; the second is the fact that you can’t measure the degree to which effective follow-up is occurring on the leads your team receives.
CRM is designed to chain together a prospect’s progress through the different stages of your sales efforts, from campaign to close. You can see exactly how many leads your sales team receives, and what actions are taken to pursue those leads. This information is available in high-level percentages and in detailed specifics about each lead.
“I only know what’s in the pipeline once a week – after spending hours calling my direct reports. By the time I’m done aggregating the data, things have probably changed anyway.”
It’s hard to proactively manage your sales team in today’s sales environment without knowing exactly how the pipeline for your team and for each rep looks. Identifying regions and reps that aren’t performing well isn’t possible without pipeline information. When this information is available real-time, you can use your valuable time for coaching and enabling your team rather than collecting their numbers.
Opportunity management in CRM gives you and your sales reps and the ability to see what’s in your pipeline in real-time. Information can be organized to show where each opportunity is in the sales stage, when it’s expected to close, and what the rep expects it to be worth. Furthermore, if you know your sales process well enough to identify factors that indicate high chances of success or failure in an opportunity, certain opportunities can be flagged to help you take the necessary steps to close those deals or keep them from falling out of your pipeline.
Over time and with enough accumulated pipeline data, you can begin to understand the probability related to pipeline values in different stages of your sales process. This understanding will help you forecast sales more accurately and identify the optimal pipeline numbers in each sales stage that will maximize pipeline through-put.
“My sales reps don’t execute the sales process properly. It’s hard for me to identify the degree to which they’re really following the process. It’s also hard for me to mandate change in sales rep behavior.”
When CRM becomes the tool your sales team uses to manage the information relating to potential sales, it also becomes the medium through which you can mandate positive change. Your sales process can be integrated into the CRM system, allowing you to monitor the tasks and stages that each rep completes for each deal, or giving you high-level statistics to see the degree to which the sales process is being followed by your sales team as a whole.
“My reps are not productive enough – they spend too much time doing things other than selling.”
CRM is designed to automate the tasks that take your reps away from selling. Whether it be
· creating quotes or proposals
· churning out follow-up communications
· communicating internally with others involved in the sales process
· saving or hunting for saved customer communications
or the host of other tasks that cut into the time reps spend in front of potential customers, CRM can streamline or automate these tasks to free up more selling time for your sales team.
“It takes too much time and effort for my reps to collaborate with other groups who could help in the sales process – we don’t collaborate as much as we’d like to, and the collaboration we do engage in is inefficient.”
This is a CRM sweet spot. The whole concept of CRM is to allow information to flow across the enterprise in the instant it’s created. Sales data will be made available to key players in your organization who can help move a sale to completion. This information flow can be automated, eliminating the need for manual communications. Tasks will be automatically created, both to remind your team members to complete assignments and to allow you to monitor and follow-up on tasks that aren’t being completed. All of this drastically reduces the time your team needs to spend on the phone or sending emails to inform others of details relating to a sale.
“My company’s customer and prospect information is unreliable.”
Today is a great day to start reversing this trend. While you may or may not be able to improve the quality of the data you already have, you can certainly ensure that the customer data you create from now on will be complete and reliable. Good data keeping requires 2 things: a policy and a place. CRM gives you both. You define the policy by deciding what information is required for CRM records like accounts and contacts. Duplicate detection tools and other validation procedures defined by you can be created to ensure the purity and entirety of your customer data.
And, of course, CRM is the place – the new center of all customer-facing information in your organization.