CRM as a Development Tool

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Historically sales management has been judged on achievement of predefined sales, revenue, market growth, and quota or margin attainment. Although each of these elements is critical and will never cease being a basic judgment as to the effectiveness of sales management's success, a total CRM/SFA solution aimed at sales force productivity improvement must consider the overall aspects of sales management. Today SFA/CRM systems from a sales perspective focus on basic 1980s sales management fundamentals: activity management, call history, and pipeline reviews. The time has come for a new perspective of missing SFA/CRM components, most notably those that will help salespeople and managers to improve individual salesperson development, to be included in the next wave of software applications. It is shocking to any professional manager that developing a sales force or even an individual salesperson has been limited to basic sales-skill training programs and occasional product/service introduction programs. The fundamental of management is to ensure a thorough understanding of employees' needs, wants, desires, and areas of improvement. This understanding helps sales leaders succeed by working well with their salespeople. Why do salespeople fail, and why do sales managers fail? Neither group knows what is expected of them or fails to understand their basic job functions. Why is CRM/SFA failing sales teams? As an application, it has failed to assist sales managers in developing their sales teams. It has simply assisted them in what is going wrong with sales production. Where should CRM/SFA move? It must elevate beyond the current marketing-driven product to one that sales leaders can use to truly build high-performance sales teams. Most current systems miss the point. The elements for a true sales management system must focus on aligning the soul of the salesperson with the goals of the corporate entity. Today's sales teams must be focused on their personal goals, and appreciate how they relate to achieving the corporate sales objectives. Sales leaders must understand this and create systems that incorporate these views into their management styles and systems. The fundamental elements must include a process to determine the ratio of success factors for each salesperson as compared to the group success factor. These sales actions or success factors are generally the four or five measurements that show proper sales activity ratios compared to performance. These must be measured weekly/monthly, graphed and corresponded to or reconciled with bookings/revenue attainment for the same periods. This graphing for success will allow each salesperson to visualize and understand their unique activity requirements and how they can help them exceed their fundamental sales achievement goals. Most important, it allows the sales manager to begin to coach and mentor individual team members as to the right, unique level of activity required for each salesperson to be successful. The next level of true sales-management focus must be in allowing the salesperson, with sales management approval, to create a process for professional development. SFA/CRM systems must include a set of development tools that allow and even force sales managers to regularly review the sales development of each salesperson. These would be self-generated, quarterly development tools that allow the salesperson and sales manager to review success and areas requiring improvement. Salesperson development must focus on: 1) sales skill development; 2) product/service knowledge; 3) industry expertise; 4) technology exposure; and 5) personal growth. This equates to a total "rounding out of the person" rather than a one-dimensional skill focus. If SFA and CRM software have been developed for sales productivity, it is questionable why there has been no focus on career pathing, self-development, or professional development. These development programs must be ongoing and renewed every six months to ensure continuing enhancement to the professionalism of a sales organization. In many market segments professional development is considered or called certification. If professional development is considered important in the legal, financial, technical, and educational market sectors, why it is not critical in sales or sales management? SFA/CRM has not provided a set of process or tools to assist in the development of the sales team. Yet developing a sales team is the fundamental focus of long-term, successful sales managers. In most sales organizations strategy and sales tactics are critical to the success of attainment tactics. Although most SFA/CRM software applications provide tools to develop active sales tactical strategy via Miller Heiman's Blue Sheet and other sales training tools, few if any SFA/CRM software products develop a salesperson's knowledge or thinking process in determining territory or account-development planning. Yet this thought is necessary to attain market/account penetration or sales achievement goals, and it is critical in the current economic environment to ensure all that potential sales opportunities are uncovered and worked. The best sales mangers are always remembered or graded not only on achieving sales objectives, but also on the great salespeople they have developed and moved forward in the organization, or into other companies. When will the SFA/CRM market recognize that its role is to assist in developing successful sales teams, not in simply reporting why they failed? About the Author Ken Thoreson is managing partner of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American-based consulting organization focused on improving the sales-management functions within growing and transitional organizations. For more information, call (952) 944-7438 or email
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