Death of the Salesman
CRM was intended to foster the skills of the salesperson as well as support the sales methodology of the company, but that has not always been the case. Long before CRM, companies developed pipelines, provided good service, and uncovered market trends. CRM's aim was to enhance a company's business models by automating many of the processes, but software companies felt that they knew better than their customers, and developed their own processes and templates. This meant that companies and their salespeople were required to adhere to what software providers deemed industry standards, rather than offer their customers solutions that leveraged and improved upon the specific and successful sales practices they had been engaging in for years. These standards in turn forced salespeople to change their methods.
The result has been poor adoption of CRM by salespeople. In a Gartner survey of enterprises with recent CRM implementations, the analyst firm quantified the impact that this disconnect between the salesperson and the CRM system has had. In the survey more than 50 percent of the implementations were characterized as having very low adoption or abandonment after the first year--and in 75 percent of the cases, these implementations rarely achieved the expectations of the salesperson using the application. Gartner also found that these CRM systems were often in conflict with the sales culture and practices of the organization, further hampering the salesperson's efforts to meet the expectations of her management.
As too many companies have discovered, CRM solutions that force a generic, lock-step approach--it neither reflects the business model of the organization nor enables the salesperson to use her individual skills--have limited results.
CRM goal: Help salespeople sell
CRM solutions can achieve high adoption and success for a company, by empowering the salesperson rather than trying to put her in a niche. One way is to provide the salesperson with a stronger foundation for building better relationships with customers and prospects. To support this goal CRM solutions need to provide salespeople with the control, contact, and consistency they require to maximize sales efficiency. In short, help them do what they do best.
A CRM solution should give a salesperson control by enabling her to incorporate processes she is comfortable with into the system--especially today's generation of salesperson. Today's salesperson wants--and expects--a solution that gives her more visual control, ease of use, and the ability to create her own dashboard. Rather than filling in numerous fields and checkboxes on a template, CRM solutions that give users and administrators the control to easily add or change fields to fit their sales processes will ultimately drive system adoption and improve sales productivity.
Delivering real-time, needed information to the sales team is another way CRM solutions benefit salespeople. Providing instant information on pricing, inventory, shipping, or alternative products enables the salesperson to be a valuable resource for customers. Transparent access to up-to-date information, whether it resides in the CRM system or another database, plays a key role in supporting the salesperson. Not having to launch or navigate to different applications, but having immediate access to the data needed at the moment, is critical to closing deals faster.
A CRM system that is consistent with a company's sales culture will improve the productivity and value of the sales. By mapping to every step of a company's specific sales methodology, salespeople know that they are using a system that accurately captures and tracks their efforts in regards to company guidelines. At the same time, managers are better able to assess performance and coach salespeople to improve efficiency. In addition, a CRM system must be flexible to adjust as a company's business model and processes change. CRM solutions that only address the first level or two of a company's sales process or cannot adapt to change will have limited effectiveness.
CRM does not have to be the death of the salesman, but a solution must give the user greater control, contact, and consistency to achieve high adoption that will drive sales productivity and work within the business model of the organization.
About the Author
Rich Koch is vice president of marketing at Saratoga Systems. Please visit www.saratogasystems.com