How get value from your CRM & your Sellers

I came across an article called “What Salesforce.com Won’t Tell You” on Forbes.com. I found it somehow interesting that the main points highlighted for CRM success were very obvious in turn to me. Reading the article I got reminded of a small Twitter conversation I have had with @applebyj on micromanagement, which was as well related to CRM. I am not going to talk about the different delivery models of CRM (wether on premise, cloud etc) neither about the different vendors. The idea of this post is merely about the “soft” factors which will strongly contribute to the success of a CRM implementation

Preach Champagne / Drink Champagne

Whilst I have to admit that I fully believe in the value of a CRM System, I am afraid that I belong to those users who have not be fortunate enough to work in a company yet where CRM is implemented in way that it can deliver real value. Having users enter data in a System from which it is then extracted in order to make reviews and then loaded into another system in order to get a final view does not seem like a best practice. Furthermore I would say it generates frustration since the users would probably prefer to work with other tools directly, but…

So what is the point here? I agree that the main problem with CRM systems about the way they are implemented but not only from the IT perspective but much more from the management and cultural perspective.

I have referred to communication as a vital part of success previously. It is much more likely that you will be successful with your CRM implementation if you also communicate to the users about the goals and THEIR benefits. If one of those benefits for the users is that it is the only source of truth, than make it happen. There is no point for the seller to enter information about a project into a CRM if nobody reads it but he receives 5 different calls per week on the status of the project. Make sure that everybody in the company knows of the vital importance of the CRM system. If the reports do not suit you adapt them. Offload the seller of calls from different managers & colleagues in your organization and you will see how you contribute to the CRM Adoption.

By not asking questions to which you have the answer in the CRM you show that you do not only preach Champagne, but you drink it as well!

Less is more

There is a typically a very large gap between what is really necessary in information in order to take better decisions and to make a more precise forecast. It is likely that my very own experience working in technology is not necessarily applicable to all sectors but still. Less is more! I loved this sentence when a manager of mine told me this about 3 years ago. In fact he was able to keep his motto. Meetings request for 45 minutes were only give for 30, making sure that everybody kept focused.

Especially when sales are not going all perfect companies tend to ask more information to their users. There is a lot of temptation to fall into the “Poyaque” Trap. Poyaque is Spanish slang and comes from “Pues ya que estamos”, means since we are already on it we could…

If you ask for more information make sure that the sellers feel that this information is being used. An example could be that due to decreasing sales you decide to have sellers register their sales calls. Further you oblige them to make at least n of them per week. If you only tell the seller back that he has done y number of calls last week, but do not make a single reference to what he/she has posted it will likely be a source of frustration. Especially if you apply this rule equally to all of your sellers, independently of their performance.

Ask the questions that really help you to control you business and improve it, make sure that things can be measured. Leave room as well for conversations with your sellers!

Metrics

There is no system that cannot be tricked. Sellers are paid to find the way to make deals happen. I have seen very powerful formulas, which allowed a forecasting to a surprisingly high precision level based on the data in the CRM system. The most surprising thing was that it allowed seeing a landing point based on the data of Week 4 of a running quarter. I will not go into the details of the formula but it was really interesting to see what sorts of parameters were taken into consideration. Funny enough was that this particular formula has been used on all decks but it was just an orientation point we preferred to listen to the sales manager and take his word, needless to say the formula was right in 98 out of 100 cases. Whilst the formula was great it has not been used sufficiently. In turn there are other formula like the “n times target needs to be in validated / Qualified Pipeline at Week X of the Q”. So sellers, who are paid on objectives, have it easy to comply to this. In case one does not comply simple the n will be raised this is it. This is to me an example of a management failure and where as well the best CRM system will not be able to do any good if there is no follow up on all those opportunities which are not being pursued but have been there in order to let us be “green on the scorecard”.

Seller: DNA or Training?

I have had an interesting conversation recently with a newly promoted sales director. The summary is that we have a very different view on sellers. I am convinced that the seller has a certain DNA that makes him pursue everyday his objective to close a deal and take the necessary steps to do it. By default the personality cannot be shy and needs to be able to treat very different situations and profiles on the other side of the table. His opinion was that all these things could be learned.

Probably the truth is in the middle. Even if you have a full-blooded seller on your team you will need to make sure that they adhere as well to discipline.

Whilst the DNA seller is driven by money and success, I tend to call it ego, the Trained seller will be driven by objectives and by getting recognition of having done things well. Managing sellers is not easy and is not only just the metrics & numbers. It is as well motivating each member of the team to walk the extra mile and to make company objectives their own objectives.

This is a very cultural thing and I do not believe that a one-size-fits-all approach is the best.

A well implemented and “lived” CRM can help to early detect possible areas of trouble that might need countermeasures. Depending on your organization and market you might need as well to adopt the decision to micromanage. Some suggestions in case that you need to take this step:

–       If you need to micromanage the entire team then most probably you are the wrong sales manager!

–       Micromanagement is very exhausting for the manager as well as for the employee. Make sure that you communicate well why you micromanage and what you expect of the employee. DNA Sellers tend to have a very strong ego that will make the communication factor even more important! If you fail to communicate you will fail with the micromanagement.

–       Micromanage for short time. I would not do it for more than 1Q. If you do it for a longer time you will see that it looses the strength. As well it would be a indication that your seller is not adapting to your expectations, time for a change.

Conclusion

A CRM is like any system only as good as the data that you feed into it. Yet it is as well very important that you have clear in mind what information you will extract (reports) and to whom you will facilitate the information. The Article forbes.com article I mentioned at the beginning of this post refers a lot to “punishing” those employees who do not adhere to your CRM policy. I would encourage you much more to make sure that you have a clear CRM policy, communicate the value of the tool to the teams and lead by example.

It is once more a much more personal thing than just only business to make a project a real success and not only a green checkmark on a dashboard

Happy 2013 !

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About cnitschke

This blog is purely personal and reflects only my personal opinion. None of the content can be related in any way to my employer or former employers.
This entry was posted in CRM, Management, Motivation, Sales and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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