Most companies received passing marks...but we discovered six sales-knowledge gaps.
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I had the opportunity to attend a CustomerThink forum recently, where CRM experts from Asia, Europe, and North and South America gathered to share their experiences on how this marketplace is evolving. One of the issues explored was the reasons behind the low CRM system usage rates--companies select and implement these applications, but sometimes large groups of end users fail to integrate these tools into their work lives.
Attendees of the forum agreed that one cause for this was the issue of maintaining good data in these systems. If users, especially salespeople, lose confidence in the quality of the information contained in those applications, they will balk at using them.
Data quality is clearly a major concern, but reflecting on a study CSO Insights had just competed across 102 companies regarding the information needs of salespeople, I realized that it is not the only problem. In addition to CRM users worrying about whether the data they need is accurate, another key concern is, "Is the knowledge I need in the system at all?"
As part of our study we asked companies to assess the information needs of their sales teams: What do they really need access to to sell effectively? We asked them to consider 22 different types of sales knowledge that reps normally use in selling, and to rate three factors: how valuable that information type was on a 1 to 5 scale, ranging from 5 (critical) to 1 (minimal); how easily it could be accessed on a 1 to 5 scale, ranging from 5 (no effort required) to 1 (cannot find); and how complete and accurate that information was on a 1 to 5 scale, ranging from 5 (always accurate) to 1 (often inaccurate).
Most companies received passing marks for giving reps access to data sheets, price lists, customer contact information, etc., but we discovered six sales-knowledge gaps:
Customers' business objectives
User reference/case studies
Sales best practices
Although all six of these items rated at or above a 4 in value, they also all rated about an average of 2.5 for ease-of-access and completeness/accuracy. Far too often these information types are not in the CRM system or sales portal that organizations have deployed to their reps.
As one executive we interviewed said, "When my people come back from meetings with customers they often bring back a whole lot of questions they need answers to. Watching what they do when they get back to their desks tells me that CRM is not meeting their needs. I know that, because instead of going to their PC, signing into the CRM application, and looking for answers, they instead pick up the phone and start dialing around the company. Why? Because the answers they really need are not in the systems they use."
That may be an interesting reality-check exercise for all of us to do--watch how our people get answers to the questions they have. Data quality is not the only challenge we face in generating CRM adoption: Data quantity is also a key issue--not just bulk data, but the central knowledge elements our people are really looking for.
If adoption rates are low within your organization you may want to consider what you are not putting into your CRM systems. Understand and solve that issue, and reps will turn to these systems more often.
Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. Contact him at www.csoinsights.com
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