Blog & Opinions
The Real Purpose of CRM Systems – Empowering Your Salesforce
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software has become ubiquitous for most companies, regardless of size. Gone are the days where sales people were expected to update spreadsheets or write their active opportunities on whiteboards in the corner of the office. The sales operation, the beating heart of the business, needs to be supported in a more sophisticated way. Since the cost of software has been decreasing over the last few years, with many low cost or even free options for very small businesses, there’s no reason to shun a systemised approach.
But why is CRM essential to the success of the sales function? What value does it add? Ask any business owner and they will quote a number of reasons; from “better customer experience” to “cost savings through automation”. There’s lots of evidence that deploying a CRM system to support your sales function impacts the bottom line by improving profitability.
But that isn’t the full story.
Personally I believe there is just one, simple, purpose for deploying a good CRM system. It is this: It helps the sales person do their job better.
When deploying your CRM system if you do not put this single factor at the heart of your project your team, system and sales process will fail. At every juncture during and after deployment of CRM you should be asking “how does this help the sales team do their job better?”. If the answer is “it doesn’t” then you’re going in the wrong direction. Simply put, if your sales people feel better enabled, they will perform better, the output of which is: more sales.
Looking at some of the more common reasons cited for CRM deployment it becomes very easy to repurpose them from the perspective of the sales person.
Traditional Sales Management is all About Command and Control
This sales person centric approach flies in the face of the more traditional management model of “command and control”. In less sophisticated businesses, a CRM system is used to control a sales team through fear and shame. How many calls have you made today? How do your numbers stack up against your colleagues? Have you logged enough? Are you processing enough? When sales people operate in a culture of fear and shame you are in fact limiting the success of your sales professionals and driving the wrong type of behaviour.
Take, for example, a sales floor where success is measured in the number of outbound calls. You might find a sales person trying to quickly conclude a call, rather than attempt to build the relationship, in order to place the next call. If the message you are sending is one of fear (of not meeting daily quotas) then your sales person will be driven by meeting the quota and not the more financially rewarding task of building the relationship.
Or how about the example of a sales person who has been asked to track every single task in their CRM system in order to demonstrate productivity. Is it the quantity of the tasks which convert to sales or the quality? By focussing metrics and effort on driving the wrong behaviour you fail to enable your sales people to sell better.
Let’s be explicit. Sales people already operate in a sphere of fear and shame just by virtue of what they do. They have to overcome the inevitable hostility they face upon each attempt to reach a decision maker over the phone or by email. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been told “he won’t speak to people like you”. The success of reaching a decision maker is short lived as the sales person tries to navigate all forms of unfriendly and closed communication while the prospect decides whether they should trust the sales person enough to cooperate in conversation. Then they have to deal with the fear and shame inside their own business as they explain to their managers why they were not being able to quickly convert those hostile encounters into sales
Instead, why not repurpose the whole thing. Imagine how powerful a CRM system could be if it actually enabled your sales person rather than enslaved them? How much more profit might you make if your sales people felt empowered rather than disenfranchised? Personally, I see sales as a noble profession. It is one where, if enabled, a sales person can truly help a customer overcome a problem. But only if they feel that’s what their role actually is rather than call more, tell more, sell more.
[Read about how ‘being human’ enables the CFO here.]
Information Should be Used to Empower Not Enslave
Now don’t read into this that I am not a fan of recording information around productivity such as outbound call quantity. I am a big fan of that kind of stuff too. I advocate that the more information and intelligence you have, the better able you are to make good decisions. It’s really a question of context.
As a sales person, if I know that making a certain amount of calls weekly will result in higher sales then I want to be able to measure my call quantity. Likewise, if I can see that all my opportunities get stuck at “quote” then want to be able to see this, in graphical format, so that I can work on my own skill set to be able to unblock it. The clue is in the word “I”. It’s really all a question of enablement. Sales people need to feel enabled to use a CRM to improve their own skill and to gain insight and context into their own performance. Sure, sometimes they will need a guiding hand along the way, as long as it is offered with humility and respect for the sales person.
With that in mind, let’s examine some of the reasons why business owners implement CRM and repurpose those reasons from the perspective of the sales person.
1) CRM acts as a data repository
It’s a single point of reference for all your customer information, the benefits of which are numerous: it’s easier to analyse, it’s easier to access, it’s more secure, it’s easily backed up. Crucially, it’s also easier for your sales people to access all the business critical information about that customer or prospect. From finding out when the customer was last contacted to understanding their buying patterns and even easily accessing contact details, having a complete holistic view of the customer helps your sales people do their job better.
2) Better customer experience
From relevant and timely communication, to an understanding of previous conversations, the improved customer experience which CRM delivers is well documented. Your customers don’t want to have to go back over old ground. They want you to remember their buying history. They want to be called at the right time and they want their marketing preferences to be respected. Swift and valuable interactions are the stuff of dreams for your customers… and your sales people. Being able to competently and confidently interact with your customers helps your sales people do their job better.
Process automation is the buzz phrase of the 21st century. By automating as much as possible you are removing the boring and soulless elements of the job from the human being and delegating to the machine. This saves human time (and therefore money), but it also frees up your sales peoples time to do what adds value to your business – human interaction and creativity. Automating things like the sending of emails or the remembering of tasks and phone calls just frees up time to invest in things which add real value such as relationship building and creative thinking. It also frees up head space to help your sales people do their job better. Sales people bring the most value when they are being human… not autobots.
[Read about how NASA’s delegation of monotonous tasks literally helped them discover new universes here.]
4) Improved cross sell opportunity
CRM systems can intuitively “join the dots” of customer interaction. For example, the machine can work out which products are most commonly purchased together. They can even, in some instances, help to script the conversation so the sales person is prompted to offer additional products or services. In other words, machine learning helps your sales people do their jobs better.
5) CRM system provides visibility
If you can see what your sales people are doing inside the system, then you know if they’re doing their jobs properly or not right? Be careful this doesn’t come across as a lack of trust in the sales team. Instead this can be repurposed like this: if your sales people can see what their colleagues have been doing, they are better enabled to step in and manage the sales transaction in the absence of their team mate. If someone has gone on annual leave or is off sick, but has tracked each interaction in the system, then their colleague can literally pick up where the sale was left off. This creates a more positive experience for the customer, the absent sales person (who won’t need to be contacted) and the colleague. That’s the real lesson in trust – when your sales team help each other do their jobs better.
Go back and re-examine how you are using your CRM system and honestly evaluate for whose perspective it’s been implemented. If it’s for you… the management, why not try and readjust your perspective to that of the sales person? Re-evaluate the process (or at least the reasoning behind it) and realign it to the sales person so as to better enable them.
Insight and context helps your sales people do their jobs better.
It’s really that simple.
Written by Emma Stewart – Director of Business and Technology Solutions at Allied Worldwide
As someone who’s both sold CRM and managed sales people, I’ve had my feet firmly planted on both sides of the desk. If you want to share your own experiences or talk about how to use your CRM system to better motivate your sales people, I’d be happy to have a chat. Call me on 07866 380 349.