• March 1, 2009
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

2009-Era Sales Needs 2009-Era CRM

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For the rest of the March 2009 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

Last year was perhaps the most challenging one many companies have ever experienced. In light of that, how is 2009 shaping up? The preliminary results of CSO Insights’ 15th annual Sales Optimization Study clearly show the performance bar being raised yet again. Surveying over 1,700 companies worldwide regarding how their 2009 revenue targets will compare to 2008’s, we found the following:

For 2008, according to our new study data, less than 59 percent of all reps made quota. We are starting a new year where there’s no clear end to the economic challenges, and yet, as seen in the chart at right, 95 percent of the firms surveyed are expecting more revenues from their sales teams (in many cases a lot more).

Let’s reflect on this for a moment. Assume that you’re the coach of a high jump team. Four out of 10 of your athletes cannot clear the bar when it’s set at 6 feet. Now you plan to raise the bar 10 percent, which would take it to just over 6 feet 7 inches. All things remaining equal, how well do think your high jump team will do against the new performance standard?

Clearly something has got to change. Based on my recent experiences at industry conferences, many companies are looking for improved rep performance to result from leveraging CRM technology. But is that a good assumption? Our new study data suggests perhaps not: Only 16.1 percent of the firms we surveyed that had implemented a CRM system are reporting that system usage is resulting in increased revenues.

But let’s not jump to quick conclusions.

This year we’ve done a great deal more benchmarking work than in past years, and in doing so we surfaced solid case study examples of CRM solutions helping reps increase cross-selling and upselling by 52 percent, improve win rates by 31 percent, decrease by 38 percent the time to get a new rep up to full productivity, shorten sell-cycle times by 22 percent, and more.

So why do some firms achieve great results while others fail to? Our research shows that the vast majority of firms are not achieving their true potential because they are underutilizing the tools they have in place. What reps use daily in these companies are the basics of CRM: contact management, opportunity management, forecast management, etc. This is CRM circa 1999, not 2009.

CRM today has capabilities to optimize prospect research, lead generation and nurturing, sales collateral management, sales team collaboration, pipeline optimization, etc.—and the 16.1 percent have figured out how to leverage those capabilities to solve the efficiency and effectiveness challenges their sales organizations face. In doing so, they’re creating a competitive edge over the other players in their marketplace.

So my advice to the other 83.9 percent? You have a Porsche that you’re driving like my grandmother would drive it. It’s time to head in for a remedial course in driving school. Sit down with your CRM vendor, share with them the challenges you’re facing, and ask them to show you how to optimize the use of what you already have, or enhance what you have with some innovative add-ons like sales knowledge management or sales analytics. That will turbocharge your system usage, and with it your 2009 sales performance. This is going to be a tough year, so make sure your CRM usage is firing on all cylinders.

Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at jim.dickie@csoinsights.com.

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

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