Getting Real – Smarter, Faster, Easier Ways To Improve Your CRM Performance

Selling is like running a business. Every successful business does a great job of accounting via P/L and balance sheets what are their inflows (revenue) and outflows (expenses). The principals live the axiom ‘time is money.’ For sellers, their accounting system is the CRM platform. Accounts, contacts, leads and opportunities are a salesperson’s debits and credits, and pipeline and forecast reports are their ‘financial reports.’ In sales, not having a strong CRM platform that aligns to your sales teams’ objectives is akin to running your business without financials.

Over my professional career I am yet to find a viable company that does not have a CRM system. Effective and efficient use of that CRM system is quite another matter. When their CRM system does not support the way they work, sales people resort to other tools to manage their business. That could be Outlook to manage accounts, contacts and activity. They might leverage Excel for deal tracking, pipeline and forecast reporting. Successful sales people document their opportunities, they simply do it outside of the mandated company CRM platform.

Many a reasons will bubble up as to why they do not use the system – too hard to use, takes too much time, etc. – but the fact is your sales team has opted out, and there is no way the organization can trust your CRM platform as the single source of truth. You wouldn’t run two sets of books to manage your successful company.

Let’s get real. Sales reps will not fully adopt and utilize your CRM system unless it helps them close more business, faster and more efficiently. That’s their WIIFM. This defines the ‘carrot’ and implemented properly with trusted insights aligned to manage their opportunities there is no need for a stick.

This simple blog will not solve your CRM problems, but I can point you in the right direction. Most existing systems require mild to medium changes, along with a strong change management program to drive real and sustainable improvements. Here’s how to start:

  1. Run an analysis on your existing system using historical and current data to uncover process challenges and sales behaviors that drive poor adoption. If your data is bad to start with, that’s a great thing. Bad data tells a better story than good data.

  2. Once you have assessed the platform, bucket what you find into three areas (system, process, people). The system are challenges that need to be addressed with how the platform is setup from page layouts to reporting. Process is related to how your leads and opportunities are integrated into your existing lead and sales management methodologies. People is all about accountability and how to have them want to take ownership of doing their part in using the system.

  3. Create a business requirements document that aligns to how you do business. Make sure that this fits your sales methodology and then document and develop a CRM platform that works the way you do. The requirements document should outline what needs to be corrected in each of the three buckets and take a ‘keep-it-simple’ approach. Sales people, sales operations, marketing and sales leadership must be involved in building, reviewing and approving the document. This system must be for them first and foremost. Any actions and functionality that require sales people to do anything in the system that does not help them win more, faster, should be accountable to those requesting the data. If finance requires specific data points to be populated at the account or opportunity levels, give them licenses to the system and they can enter that data.

  4. Deploy the requirements document with a trusted partner who embraces a ‘keep-it-simple’ approach. The partner should have strong system implementation skills, along with a proven training and adoption programs that focus on how to help sales people use the system to make money. Yes, even the training, coaching and adoption must be about the sales people.

  5. Focus on accountability at the field level with the managers and sales reps. Most people will tell you that it starts at the top. In reality, it should start in the field. Users must want to use the system and hold themselves accountable to doing just that.

Getting real with your CRM system requires some tough decisions. One thing is for sure, if you do not begin to act on your current state, you will never reach your desired future state. Putting the focus back on the sales team and delivering a platform that works for them will drive higher system adoption, data quality and overall ROI.

CRM Optimization Survey: if you know your system is under-performing, take the Quick Start Strategies’ survey and you will receive immediate benchmark results and a full personalized analysis based on your response.