Is CRM Missing the Post-Sales Data Boat?

Pre-sales data in CRM applications is all about driving sales. Post-sales data can be all about making profits. Put the two together in a linked environment and you maximize the value of both. Companies of all sizes can attest to how CRM applications have revolutionized the selling process. Sales representatives now organize their contacts and other relevant data -- name, title, company, contact information and history, and myriad other information -- within their CRM application of choice. With this pre-sales data at their fingertips, reps and management can view, forecast, and optimally manage the sales pipeline. But what about post-sales data? Where does that reside? And what are the potential synergies between pre- and post-sales information? Of immense strategic importance to companies, post-sales data is scattered across a variety of disparate systems -- including ERP, HR, and Payroll -- and is bound up in the spreadsheets that many businesses still use to manually manage the all-important sales compensation process. But a growing number of companies are retiring those cumbersome spreadsheets and are now centralizing post-sales data into sales compensation management repositories, which serve as one-stop shops for all information related to incentive compensation. This is radically changing the landscape for post-sales data, just as CRM revolutionized the pre-sales game. Here's what's game-changing about sales compensation management applications: Their automated process of precisely calculating compensation necessarily scrubs the sales data so that you end up with the richest and most accurate information possible about what products have been sold, to whom, at what margins, through which channels, in which geographies, and at what price points. That's huge, because companies can leverage this data for an accurate reflection of exactly what's going on in the field over an extended period of time. Thus armed, they can better design compensation programs that shape profitable sales behaviors, keep compensation programs well-tuned and relevant, more accurately forecast commission exposures, and stay responsive to market opportunities. And that's just the start. Because most companies' compensation processes have traditionally resided in spreadsheet-constrained silos, these processes have been isolated from CRM applications, processes, and data. But with post-sales data aggregated in a sales compensation management repository, a bridge can now be created to unite back-office processes with customer-facing CRM functions. Creating linkages between CRM applications and sales compensation management applications enables seamless data-sharing as well as the invoking of various routines. It's not difficult -- in fact, it's already being done successfully today via such mechanisms as Web 2.0-enabled mashups and Web services. One major benefit is an immediate and broad expansion of visibility for reps and management. For example, without an easy way to integrate pre- and post-sales data, reps cannot quickly see how much more money they will put into their own pockets by selling the things the company wants them to sell, such as higher-margin products. But by linking sales compensation management to CRM, reps can leverage "live" CRM-opportunity data in concert with compensation-plan data to see precisely -- and in real time -- how they will be compensated for each deal. They can even run "what-if" scenarios to determine how to structure a sale for maximum payout of commissions, bonuses, and special incentives. With a truly strategic compensation plan in place, what is most profitable for the rep is also most profitable for the company -- and thus everyone wins through this powerful capability. The takeaway here is that companies with investments in CRM applications need to make sure that they are not missing the post-sales data boat. The data that is created with every sales transaction isn't just residue. Rather it is vital information that can be leveraged to extend a CRM investment's value -- by helping to place an emphasis not just on making sales, but on making profits as well. About the Author
Christopher W. Cabrera is a seasoned executive with over two decades of successful senior management experience at both early-stage and public companies, where he has managed sales, marketing, operations, and business development. A noted industry expert in issues relating to sales performance management, sales compensation, enterprise and on-demand delivery models, he is co-author of Xactly Sales Compensation for Dummies (Wiley). He is also a contributing writer to such industry publications as destinationCRM.com, CustomerThink, CRMBuyer.com, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal. Mr. Cabrera speaks frequently at leading industry forums and events.
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