Combine Sales Training and CRM for a Winning Environment

Many people look at sales training and CRM as two separate functions that operate independently of one another. Would it surprise you to hear that they actually complement one another, and that sales training should always include consideration of the CRM strategy?

The goal of sales training is to teach the skills and habits necessary for the success of your company. CRM is a process that determines how a company interacts with its customers. It involves identifying what needs to be done to win and retain customers, when this needs to be done, and how information can be tracked and utilized to increase the effectiveness of client relationships. As such, teaching sales personnel key pitches and techniques to close a deal is simply not enough. To be successful, companies need to supplement their sales training with solid CRM processes that support the key sales messages and subsequently improve the bottom line. So what steps can you take to combine these two functions effectively?

1. Clearly define your sales process.

For sales training to integrate effectively with CRM, you need a clearly defined sales process. Many companies do not actually have a published sales process, yet they have a CRM product. How is that possible?

Many people do not fully understand the work involved in implementing a successful CRM approach and mistakenly believe that simply purchasing a CRM product is all that is needed to manage their sales methodology. This could not be further from the truth. CRM tracks events; in itself, it is not methodology. One way to recognize that there is confusion within your own organization is if the CRM product you invested so much money in is not actually being used. Many CEOs have wasted money on expensive CRM products that have failed to deliver any real results. Why was the expenditure a complete waste of money? Because they began implementing CRM before they actually developed a sales process. If everyone in the company has a slightly different approach to selling, CRM cannot possibly help your business in any way. If employees are not all doing the same thing, the CRM product is incapable of measuring success because every outcome is potentially different. As such, many employees perceive CRM processes to be a complete waste of time because they don't appear to aid the sales process. To be successful and effective, the CRM function must always aid the sales process.

2. Sales training needs to be specific and targeted.

All sales training needs to be very specific and targeted to an agreed-upon set of objectives to which you train and coach. It may sound simple, but if you're going to make sales training and CRM work together, you need to have a predetermined process. Following this, you must train and coach to that process. Many companies design courses that educate their sales personnel on minute details that don't have much impact on the bottom line. Successful companies recognize that their training courses need to identify what success looks like, and help their employees identify the individual steps needed to reach the end target. For example, if you have three major "gates" in your sales process, you should train your staff how to be as effective as possible in Gate One before progressing to Gate Two. You should coach, train, and role-play the activities that are crucial in each of the steps, and they should become the daily routine in your sales department.

3. Fully integrate your CRM and sales processes.

If your CRM processes do not mirror your sales processes, stop using the CRM processes immediately. The situation needs to be remedied as soon as possible, because it's highly likely that you are confusing your sales force and possibly wasting their time.

Using the example above, if you have three "gates" in your sales process, your CRM approach should be used to measure the sales performance at each gate. Your CRM function should guide your salespeople through the actions needed to progress from one gate to the next.

CRM is not software that companies should purchase to fulfill an objective on a long list of things to do. It is a working process that should serve to fully support the sales function. The companies that do not succeed are those that fail to integrate CRM with their sales process. This approach can be likened to putting diesel in a car that requires unleaded fuel; it won't work, but you don't realize it until your car breaks down in the middle of the street. A good salesperson knows when something is wrong and can tell you immediately when two processes are not congruent. That's why many of the top training companies have built their sales methodology into their CRM system. It's simple; really, all you need to do is make sure that your CRM function reflects and supports your sales objectives.

4. Implement training processes to fill gaps your CRM and diagnostics identify.

You should avoid using your CRM system as a glorified address book; it should be used productively to identify what is working and what is not. Successful practices should then be replicated, and those that fail to meet customer needs should be modified and improved. For example, your CRM software may indicate that you have a 65 percent conversion rate between Call One and Call Two. That's fantastic. What elements of your process are contributing to this high rate of success? Identify those elements and ensure that all of your employees understand what they are and why they are working. Every employee needs to know and understand the performance metrics.

You may find that many employees are achieving a 65 percent conversion rate, but a small number have only a low conversion rate. In this case, the data should be used to diagnose and understand what's going wrong. Once you know, you can implement a coaching strategy that aims to fill the gap. This should be integrated into all future training. This will help your people grow and develop in a way that meets your business needs. Each individual will know who the top producers are and how their own performance compares. More importantly, this information can serve to fuel your employees' drive and hopefully motivate them to excel.

Look at professional golfers, for example. When they practice hitting a bucket of balls, they don't take every club out of their bag and hit six balls with each club. You can't improve by hitting just six balls. The successful golfers hit a whole bucket full of balls using one, maybe two, clubs. They are developing a very specific skill and muscle memory by concentrating their efforts on one thing at a time. This allows them to focus their learning process and fully focus their attention. This method is very successful. CRM is great because, when used effectively, it actually tells you where you need to focus, both as a manager and as a single producer. CRM also opens your eyes to trends that you normally wouldn't pay attention to.

CRM is a great product but you really need to use it in conjunction with sales training. Most people treat the two separately…and that's where their problems start. 

David Mattson is the CEO of Sandler Training , an international training and consulting organization. He has been a trainer and business consultant for management, sales, interpersonal communication, corporate team building and strategic planning throughout the United States and Europe. He is the author of The Sandler Rules, Sandler Success Principles, and Magical People Skills, and coauthor of Five Minutes with VITO, How to Make the Most of Your Time with the Very Important Top Officer



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