• April 1, 2007
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

Fueling the CRM Engine

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This year's Sales Performance Optimization study by CSO Insights surveyed more than 1,000 firms worldwide to assess how they are improving the ability of their salespeople to sell. We found in the data trends from our 2007 report that usage of CRM systems continues to rise--67.3 percent of the companies surveyed have implemented a CRM system, compared to 45.1 percent back in 2001.

Unfortunately, the number of companies reporting significant improvements in revenue performance as a result of CRM investments--the ultimate goal CSOs aim for these tools to deliver--is only about 1 in 5. One of the key reasons this number is so low is that too many companies have installed CRM applications and then sat back, expecting big money to simply flow from them.

Ongoing Sales Issues

Why isn't CRM helping reps mine more sales gold? Part of the explanation goes back 15 years to a statement Jessica Keyes made in Infotrends: "Technology does not beget a competitive advantage, any more than paint and canvas beget a Van Gogh." We are seeing that premise play out in the CRM space today. When I look at CRM applications I see high-performance race cars, with all the horsepower necessary to tear down a track, if they have the right fuel in them. That is the problem: CRM often lacks the right fuel.

In the past couple of months I have been briefed by most of the major players in the CRM space, and I am impressed by the capabilities that new-generation systems have the potential to provide, compared with the apps available even a few years ago.

As part of our study we asked the participating firms to tell us what information their salespeople need to sell effectively, and then to assess how easy it was for them to access those sales knowledge elements. The chart below shows the same issues surfacing as in 2004 (when we last did this analysis). Technology investments aside, salespeople still cannot easily get access to the insights and knowledge they need to effectively compete today.

For technology to be truly useful to sales all of the above elements should be accessible to reps through their CRM system. The fact that they are not demonstrates we are giving salespeople great cars for the sales race, but not enough gas to get them around the track.

My recommendation to CRM project teams for 2007 is to spend more time and money on key data sources to populate the CRM applications they have installed. There is a wealth of sales knowledge available from external sources like OneSource, Factiva, Hoovers, TrueAdvantage, and Before the Call, as well as sales knowledge management tools to collect, synthesize, and share internal sales knowledge via systems like Pragmatech, Involve Technology, and Mobilepoint. All of these applications will integrate into the popular CRM platforms.

Fill your CRM tank with the fuel that reps are screaming for access to, and the value of your CRM investments will dramatically increase.

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 www.csoinsights.com.

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