Sales Pros Focus More on CRM, Less on Managers

A recent survey of sales professionals reveals that sales managers are getting mixed grades from the people they supervise, while those same sellers are giving high marks to many of the tools that comprise CRM systems. The survey, sponsored by consultants Sales Performance International (SPI) and conducted by Equation Research, polled more than 6,000 sales professionals (28 percent are sales managers, 58 percent are salespeople, and the remainder are sales support or marketing professionals). The questions focused on satisfaction and effectiveness of sales processes, training, and management. Sallie Jarosz, director of marketing at SPI, says the bulk of the survey results "validated things we had suspected all along, but did not have empirical data to prove." Most telling, according to Jarosz, is how sellers feel about their sales managers. Forty-five percent of respondents characterized their sales manager's overall performance as satisfactory, 26 percent say it was only fair, 7 percent say the performance was poor, and 5 percent declined to say one way or another. Only 17 percent of respondents described their sales manager's performance as superior. According to SPI CEO Keith Eades, the study's findings reflect the classic challenge facing new sales managers: Simply because someone does well in sales doesn't mean she will do as well managing salespeople. The lackluster performance of sales managers prompted 43 percent of respondents to say that their managers need better sales management skills. Twenty percent preferred not to say. When asked what contributed to their sales success, more than 60 percent of respondents said it is knowledge of the customer's needs. "In the past I think that the response might have been weak competition or a superior product," Jarosz says. Interestingly, sales agents were not looking to sales managers for job aids and tools, but looking to technology. Jarosz says that many of the responses suggest that using a CRM system is a priority. Things like knowing a customers' needs, reinforcement of sales processes, gaining access to decision-makers, tracking interactions and pipeline forecasts, and staying in control of the buying process were all cited as important criteria to sales professionals. Jarosz says these are all strong suits of CRM. Responses to one question directly reflected how organizations are dealing with tough economic times. When asked what criterion sales managers use to evaluate sellers' performances, 82.7 percent said it is the ability to meet or exceed sales targets. "A couple of years ago that response would have been the ability to sell new products or implement new sales processes," Jarosz says. "Now it is all about the top line. There is pressure to increase the top line and how everything is being measured."
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