• August 11, 2010
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

Managing to Succeed

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Most articles covering the sales side of CRM utilization focus on the sales reps themselves: How can they leverage technology to increase their efficiency and effectiveness? But there’s another constituency to consider: the people overseeing these sales professionals.

We recently completed our first Sales Management Optimization (SMO) study, in which we surveyed more than 650 companies to determine the challenges sales managers face today, why those problems exist, and what companies are doing to address those issues. One of the key metrics we analyzed was how sales managers spend their time, asking participants to break down the key tasks of their sales management teams. (See “Managing the Manager’s Workweek,” below.)

The chart shows the several areas that today’s sales managers are expected to be proficient in. But what are we doing to help increase their personal efficiency and effectiveness? Delving deeper into the SMO study data, we find that some firms are leveraging technology—beyond the core CRM capabilities of Salesforce.com, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, etc.—to help managers more effectively manage their teams. Let’s take a brief look at some of these uses of technology-enabled sales management.

Sales Collaboration: The biggest slice of management time (27 percent) is spent actively selling with sales reps. With direct-sales teams, another component of the chart also comes into play in the form of travel time to get to those customer appointments. 

Computershare, an Australian software firm, is leveraging sales collaboration technology to allow managers to effectively take part in sales calls remotely. The firm has penetrated the software market in China by blending a combination of face-to-face calls with Web-based meetings. The result is a reduction in travel time to China, which can be translated into more time helping reps sell.

Virtual Coaching: Coaching and mentoring is another key aspect of sales management, but consider the following: The study data shows that the average manager oversees six reps. If roughly eight hours out of a workweek is the time available for mentoring, and it needs to be divided among six reps, then each rep is only getting about 80 minutes of the manager’s time.

Companies such as Experian and Heartland Payments Systems have implemented sales knowledge management systems that provide reps with continuous access to the best sales practices. Using this approach, sales managers and other subject-matter experts can share insights with salespeople, albeit virtually, so that mentoring can occur even if the sales manager is unavailable.

Sales Management Analytics: The SMO survey shows that win rates of projected deals are averaging only 45 percent—a figure that’s driving c-level executives crazy. Looking at the roughly 15 percent of time that sales managers allocate to pipeline-and-forecast management, one of two things needs to happen: Managers either need to get more time for this aspect of sales or they need to get better at leveraging the time they do have.

Discussions with executives at vendors ArcSight, Brainshark, and QuickLogic suggest that sales analytics has the potential to address both of these needs. Acting as a digital sales operations analyst, any one of these CRM 2.0 applications can quickly identify any at-risk opportunity, enabling sales managers to proactively communicate with the appropriate rep and determine the course of action to get the deal back on track.

Examples such as these demonstrate CRM’s ability to improve sales managers’ performance. If we can bring to the surface the challenges our sales management teams face, and then integrate the right technologies into their daily workflows, we can help them make the most of their time. 

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.

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