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

The Integration Advantage

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

Going back through my files, I found the first announcement I ever received about sales process being enabled in CRM applications—it was 10 years ago. I remember doing some investigation into these claims and, while the concept sounded very interesting, what I mainly found was that sales training vendors had taken their paper-based account management forms and duplicated the fields in the CRM application. 

That wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring. 

A decade later, though, a whole new breed of solutions is now emerging that, through the true integration of CRM and sales process, is giving reps access to the insights and knowledge they need to sell much more effectively. Let me explain how.

Over the years, our analysis of the performance of successful salespeople has shown that while they are great at selling some things, they are not necessarily great at selling everything. As an example, we recently benchmarked an insurance firm that sold multiple product lines: property and casualty, employee benefits, director/officer insurance, etc. In interviewing the firm’s top-performing broker, we found that, while he far exceeded his quota each year, he did so by almost exclusively selling property-and-casualty policies to technology firms.

This was his “comfort zone”—selling to chief financial officers in a specific industry—and he was great at it. But that strength covered up a weakness: Because he didn’t feel comfortable selling to other stakeholders (e.g., pitching employee-benefits coverage to vice presidents of human resources), he couldn’t even push other products to the clients he already did business with, let alone sell into new industries.

In today’s poor business climate, sales executives need their salespeople selling more products, to more people, more effectively than the competition. This is where technology is starting to step in. Over the past year, vendors such as Kadient, MobilePoint, Playboox, OutStart, Sales Performance International, and XFI have announced the availability of technology-enabled selling systems. Let’s understand what this means to sales organizations.

As a rep, what would it be worth to be able to tap into your company’s internal sales-effectiveness brain trust? Say you get a lead—before you start to develop your sales strategy, how useful would it be to talk to five other reps who had recent success selling the product your prospect is interested in buying? Or, before a call, how useful would it be to know how to most effectively position your features and benefits, differentiate yourself against the competition, and create a sense of urgency in the decision to go with you now versus later? Or, as you’re developing your proposal, how useful would it be to know the best ways to sell the full value of your products to avoid discounting? 

The answer to all these questions: Priceless.

Technology-enabled selling systems make that dream a reality. The software supports the collection of best practices from across the sales force, knowledge that can then be used to develop strategies, tactics, and insights to use at each step of the sales process. The result? Salespeople have access to a virtual sales coach, 24/7, anywhere they can get access to their CRM applications.

What does that translate into? Consider the following. Using data from the CSO Insights 2009 Sales Performance Optimization study, we compared the performance of firms that had successfully integrated CRM and sales process to those firms that had not. The differences—as seen in the box “United We Sell: What a Difference Integration Makes,” left—are dramatic. What’s more, they help make a strong business case in favor of integrating CRM and sales process: Give your reps access to the knowledge and coaching that will help them sell more of your full product line more effectively and they’ll find ways to hit their numbers—even in a tight economy. 

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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