• June 1, 2018
  • By Jim Dickie, partner, CSO Insights

To Get the Most from Your CRM, Pair It with Process

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Among companies that have fully implemented CRM systems, the software-as-a-service usage model has emerged as the option of choice for the clear majority of them. With that licensing model comes subscription pricing, which means that every year or two, the opportunity arises for someone in those companies to question why they should sign up to continue using CRM. Helping to understand the ROI of CRM is one of the common calls I get from research clients. Let me share a few results that surfaced from some of CSO Insights’ sales performance studies.

First, let’s look at the case for whether to have a CRM system. While CRM usage is very high in the world of sales, we still see that about one in five firms have not implemented a solution. Our data makes it clear that electing not to use CRM is a poor choice. Over the past five years, we’ve seen that companies that use a CRM solution have from 8 percent to 11 percent more of their salespeople achieve quota than non-CRM-using firms, and the annual overall revenue plan attainment is 14 percent or more for the firms that use CRM.

So implementing a CRM solution does have a noticeable payoff. But a recent review of data collected as part of CSO Insights’ “2018 Sales Operations Optimization” study uncovered another trend that sales organizations need to consider to optimize the ROI from their CRM systems.

For this analysis, I looked at firms that had reasonable CRM adoption, defined as more than 75 percent of their sales force actively making CRM part of their daily workflows. I then further segmented the data based on the kinds of sales processes those firms have adopted, splitting firms into two groups: those with a random or informal process versus those with a formal or dynamic process (dynamic defined as firms that have a formal process and the systems in place to track usage of the process).

In the chart, we see the difference in sales performance when both CRM adoption and the different approaches to sales process are taken into consideration. CSO Insights has long been advocates for focusing on both technology and process to help drive optimal sales performance. The numbers here show a bigger impact on selling success when firms use a formal/dynamic process than when they use a random/informal one.

The key to making analytics work is having your sales force all doing things in a consistent manner. When that happens, you can gain clearer insights into what aspects of your sales process are having a positive impact on sales effectiveness (so you can double down on those best practices) and which aspects are having a negative impact (so you can make proactive changes to those aspects).

Process rigor will become even more important over the next couple of years as the next generation of artificial intelligence tools become pervasive in the sales enablement space. Those solutions will drill deep into data from internal systems such as CRM, enterprise resource planning, marketing automation, customer service platforms, and so on, to provide a level of analysis never before available to sales organizations. Yet AI requires accurate, current, and consistent data to be most valuable. If we allow salespeople to do their own thing each day, and if usage of CRM is “optional,” then AI will be seriously hampered in is ability to optimize sales performance.

So to help drive sales success now and set ourselves up for success going forward, we need to push for the adoption of both technology and process. Do that and the ROI from CRM will become evident to all.


Jim Dickie is an independent research director and cofounder of CSO Insights, a Division of Miller Heiman Group that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales enablement initiatives. He can be reached at jimdickie@icloud.com or at @jimdickie.

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