Your CRM isn't performing as well as it could be. Here's how to change that

Your sales department likely has some form of software solution installed - whether a collection of specific tools or a full-blown CRM. But are you really making the most of this investment?

It’s a tricky question, and all too easy to fall into a checklist approach when answering it - “Do we have (CRM feature du jour)? Do we use it? Good.”

Unfortunately, as with all things enterprise software, things are rarely that simple. To use sales software to its maximum potential, you’ll need to move beyond checking whether your tools meet your basic requirements to examining how your staff use them. Turning them from an asset that costs your company money to a central part of your sales team’s ability to compete is a crucial step to improving your CRM performance.  

It’s often difficult to know where to start with these things, so we’ve asked experts with a breadth of sales experience how they would go about it, and outlined three broad steps below. It’s not a definitive process, but it’s enough to start you off.

1. Look at people first

Even the shiniest new CRM with the hottest pipelining functionality on the market won’t help you increase sales if your people aren’t up to the job.

This is because sales remains - for all the exciting reporting software and real-time data analytics available - a people-focused discipline. Failure to realize this is a stumbling block that Gilmore Heating’s Director of Sales Geno Gruber sees frequently.

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All too often, he says, it’s an exercise avoiding admitting that sales staff may be substandard. “I have seen companies that have pricey tools and great sales processes suffer due to sales departments that flounder. And I have seen companies with poor or no sales systems that dominate their competition. The difference is people, not systems.”

“I have seen a number of companies stuck in a never-ending development cycle for systems intended to increase sales. They never actually finish these projects because they are always tweaking it to improve the performance, as opposed to actually finishing and implementing the system.”

Similarly, an over-focus on automated sales processes can have a negative impact on client relationships - and ultimately, your bottom line. According to Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, relationship building is at the forefront of successful sales department.   

“It is more important to create a relationship than a sale. Engage, think strategically and the sales will come”

“It is more important to create a relationship than a sale. Engage, think strategically and the sales will come” she says. “It is also important to create messages (email, online marketing, telephone calls) that speak to the customers. Don't just talk with them about what you offer. Talk with them about how what you offer can help them.”

2. Avoid the “see what sticks” mentality

This isn’t to say that sales software holds no benefits - rather that it’s not a magic fix for a broken sales team. Used wisely, the benefits CRM offers are substantial.

With this in mind, it’s easy to take a ‘throw everything against the wall’ approach. You need analytics. You need a full suite of marketing features from a best-of-breed supplier. You need the fastest, most optimized, real-time 360o reporting tools with whatever other adjectives vendors throw at them because your competitors have them, and heaven forbid you fall behind. The fact that you don’t use these tools to their maximum potential doesn’t matter, because by just having them you’ll see at least some of the benefit. Right?

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Take a step back.

Consider what you really need, and whether your department could benefit from simplifying its sales stack. Adam Peterson, CEO of all-in-one CRM VipeCloud, explains: “Our belief is that productivity focused sales tools are marketing a message which is penny wise and pound foolish. Our reasoning is that the more tools in a sales stack, the less productive the sales team.”

“For each and every addition to an organization's sales stack, regardless of any productivity metrics quoted by the product, inertia is added to the system."

“For each and every addition to an organization's sales stack, regardless of any productivity metrics quoted by the product, inertia is added to the system. Another software system needs to be managed, organized, updated in a way that doesn't affect any other tool in your stack, and on and on.”

Take a strategic approach to sales software. Best-of-breed solutions can offer highly-specialized tools, but does your sales department really need them? If you think they would be useful, weigh up the money and time you’ll need to spend to integrate several standalone systems into a functional CRM against potential benefits before you do.

3. ...and remember to think outside the office

Sales technology has come a long way over the last ten years, and it’s no-longer apt to talk about the advent of mobile CRM as if it’s some huge new discovery. This isn’t 2007, after all.

Nevertheless, we do still center our perception of CRM on office-based - or administrative - tasks. Emails. Meeting requests. Reporting. The like. To give your reps a competitive advantage, you’ll need to go beyond this and consider when advanced CRM functionality like analytics and reporting aren’t a priority, and only distract sales reps from the task at hand.

Use this CRM comparison guide to find the software that best suits your sales reps' needs

One tool that can help you do this is Geo Productivity Software. “GPS is integrated with CRM and becomes a natural part of the sales workflow” according to John Stewart, CEO of MapAnything. “It uses pipeline data from within CRM to prioritize meetings based on the value of the prospect, the likelihood of closing a deal, and where the prospect is located. It can identify which high-value prospects are geographically close to one another and fill in time gaps with new prospects and leads. With this prioritization, GPS applies sophisticated navigation technology to plan optimal routes between meetings – minimizing travel time.”

Look for technology solutions that can transform mundane aspects of your sales reps’ days into an opportunity to get one up on your competitors. If your team are getting more appointments in with higher priority leads than those who compete with you, you’re onto a winner.    

Similarly, think about why your staff need mobile sales software - it’s not usually to replicate the reporting and analytics features they’d use whilst at the office. A good mobile solution should emphasize the features that sales staff use on the go, and make using them as seamless as possible.

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Kathryn Beeson

About the author…

Kathryn is the editor of discovercrm.com. Whilst she spends a lot of her time coordinating and editing content from the Discover CRM writing team, she sometimes finds time to write articles herself. Outside of work she can usually be found running, bouldering or playing squash

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Kathryn Beeson