• August 2, 2004
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

The Next CRM Evolution

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When I was speaking at the recent DCI CRM conference in New York City I was asked by one of the sales executives attending my session to share my thoughts on why CRM continues to generate such mixed results in terms of impacting sales performance.
I had the feeling from his demeanor that he had some strong opinions on the topic himself, so before I gave my answer, I asked if he might want to share his views first. His answer intrigued me. He said he thought the problem is that CRM focuses way too much on who and what, and not nearly enough on how. Consider for a moment the most commonly used components of a CRM system: contact management, account management, lead tracking, opportunity management, forecasting, sales activity tracking, etc. These applications help reps do two important tasks: figure out who's who within an account and figure out what to do with them in the sales process. Fine, so I now know that Jane Smith is the CEO at Acme. What I need to do to sell her my offering is secure a first meeting to surface her pain and solution needs, followed by a demonstration of our product to the project team to show how we fit into their strategic plans. That will lead to the creation of a proposal to build a compelling case for why they should choose us over the competition, why they should buy now, etc. As the conference attendee pointed out, that's the easy part of selling--the how is what salespeople are struggling with. How do they get an appointment in the first place, how do they conduct a comprehensive needs analysis, how do they create a compelling business case while positioning their offerings over the competitive alternative? From his experiences using these tools the conference attendee's impression was that this type of insight and knowledge has been missing from many CRM applications. He is absolutely right: The initial focus of CRM applications was on the who
and what of selling. Over the past year or two, however, that has been changing--functionality that supports the how of selling is showing up more and more in CRM systems. Some vendors now provide such tools as taking salespeople through how to do a thorough needs analysis, more effectively detail products, generate custom collateral and proposals, execute each step of the sales process, improve cross-selling and upselling, and share best practices with their peers. In virtually all of the briefings I have had with CRM vendors this year, their ability to now provide functionality to help salespeople perform specific sales tasks more effectively has been one of the main issues they want to tell me about. They are hearing the need and they are moving forward to address it. When meeting with CRM solution providers, go beyond talking about who your reps call on and what they do during the process, and explain to them how they sell. If you share the challenges you are having with sales execution, you may be pleasantly surprised at what CRM can do to help you meet the challenge of how to sell. Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. Contact him at www.csoinsights.com
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