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Why we must challenge the view that CRM is an administrative overhead for salespeople

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10th Nov 2015
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The overall benefits of CRM technology to organisations’ customer service, marketing and sales efforts is immeasurable. Despite these benefits, however, there is a perception among sales teams that it is actually more of a hindrance than an enabler.

This is largely down to the fact that CRM systems are – for the most part – being used to capture data. The platforms that they are built on, as well as their full potential, are currently not fully exploited. And, while data capture is essential in modern business, it is what you actually do with that data that counts. 

For management, the payback is obvious. Dashboards and reports allow them to make better informed business decisions. 

But the sales teams need more than this. They need support that enables them to become more effective in their sales efforts. Static data like financial, administrative and contact records have their role, but do they really give sales insights in to what the customer needs, how important it is to them, who the stakeholders are and how to engage them?

The answer is no. And that is the single largest issue in gaining CRM adoption and driving the sort of sales behaviour that is required.

In our experience there are a couple of golden rules that enable your CRM platform to evolve so that it’s perceived as more than a box-ticking chore for sales teams, and here are some hints and tips you should consider as you strive to optimise your CRM adoption and usage.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Despite sales people’s opinions, investing in CRM technology does have an immediate payback. It enables businesses to capture all the necessary customer information they need to benefit the wider organisation. Sales, marketing, customer service and product development all require the core data maintained by the CRM system. The responsibilities of these functions overlap and CRM is the glue that binds them  together.

Although this seems like such an obvious statement to make, organisations struggling with coal face adoption sometimes lose faith in the ultimate promise and revert to treating their CRM like the management information systems (MIS) of old -  data in and data out. Priming the business process of sales is then left to sales trainers and management without supporting technology.

CRM is more than data entry

For CRM to be effective, data needs to be recorded and entered correctly, which is one of the reasons that some sales people dislike using it. We need to change the perception that data entry into a CRM system is an administrative overhead for sales.

If organisations want to encourage their sales teams to adopt and use CRM technology, they need to show them not only how to record the data, but how to interpret it and form better sales strategies or account development plans. 

Encouraging sales people to record opinion, fact, conjecture, relationships, and objectives helps them build a canvas of insight that they can interpret and act upon. Aligning the qualitative data with the numbers from the CRM records delivers prompts and promotes internal discussion and external action.

Ultimately, the future of CRM lies in helping us effectively interpret and make use of the data captured. This has given rise to a whole array of applications that provide useful add-on tools that take advantage of the data to glean valuable insight.  It is these tools that often bring the ‘how to do’ of selling as opposed to the ‘what to do’ of CRM.

Hints and tips along your journey

If you have taken the decision to evolve your CRM system from an MIS to a more comprehensive sales enablement tool then there are certain dos and don’ts.

  • Do not take short cuts: there is no silver bullet to implementing a CRM system.  Installing and managing its deployment requires a carefully considered, strategic approach and a sophisticated change management programme that must have senior management buy-in, input from people who will use it and enough resource to implement it effectively.
  • Never look back: when implementing new systems, you must have an irrevocable commitment towards that change. Failure to be committed to the cause at all levels will no doubt result in failure. This is key and should form part of the wider organisation’s culture change too. So, if you invest in a system make sure you have researched all of its features and worked out which ones you plan to use: understand what reports you will run and get into the positive habit of using them.
  • Get operational and executive buy in: normally the person with the least amount of knowledge about a system does not believe in its purchase. Ensure you educate all the necessary people so that this ‘lowest common denominator’ gets it, understands it and does not raise inaccurate and misleading objections.
  • Go for ease of use: changing the way that data is captured and accessed is key to driving further adoption by sales teams. Currently sales teams have to input a lot of information into forms on systems. These are typically complicated to fill in and do not always follow a logical approach. This needs to change and be made much more straightforward.

In addition, users’ positive experience of technology usage counts for a lot these days. If it’s enjoyable and easy, it is likely to be used. It is this sort of ‘behavioural economics’ that is driving technology adoption. You only have to think about your personal experience with your mobile phone and applications to get a feel for this.  The same thinking applies to business technologies these days and the trend towards consumerisation and gamification can no longer be ignored, especially within the sales and marketing environments.

  • Don’t try and boil the ocean: don’t try to do too much too soon. Approach the project with a practical mind-set and consider how you would like to use the tool initially and where you would eventually like to end up with your system.

Conclusion

If CRM programmes are effectively and strategically implemented, with the right kinds of add-ons they have the power to positively transform sales operations as well as the wider organisation. 

Therefore organisations should align their CRM strategies with partner organisations that enable them to draw the most value and insight for their business. By doing this they might just be able to change the sales team’s perception of CRM, drive adoption up and enable them to perform better with the insight and productivity benefits you have given them.

Michael Conner is co-founder & CEO at SalesMethods.

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