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As the owner of a small- or medium-sized company, investing in a customer relationship management system probably seemed like great business sense to support your sales growth. But did you know that the success of implementing a CRM depends a good part on whether or not it is aligned with your overall sales process?
Just because you have found a great CRM and convinced your sales reps to actually use it (you know, the usual gamut of convincing and onboarding), doesn’t mean you have achieved CRM Shangri-La from Day 1.
First, each sales rep has his or her own way of keeping contact information up-to-date, approaching and handling leads, and documenting (or not) specific opportunities and sales progress. That means that you can have as many ways to managing your sales pipeline as you have the number of sales reps on your team.
Second, your sales reps may adopt different sales methodologies—or how they sell. There are many sales methodologies out there, such as Consultative Selling, Solution Selling, Challenger Selling, and a bevy of proprietary methodologies from popular consulting groups and sales experts. Your sales reps may have either officially or simply naturally adopted one methodology or another. And this can compromise how your team uses and benefits from your CRM.
So, what does all of this mean? Differing sales processes and approaches inevitably mean that your reps will use your CRM at various levels and in mismatched ways. That makes it very difficult for sales managers or yourself to maintain control over the sales pipeline, track progress and glean insights into what is working and what needs to be improved.
It is like being the conductor of a symphony with a heavy metal band on one end, a country duo in the middle and a classical orchestra on the other end. And that means your CRM becomes simply a hodgepodge of data—not a tool to effectively manage your sales.
The best way to mitigate the risks of your CRM becoming just another tool that collects virtual dust on your team’s computers is to map your sales process and ensure that your CRM is set up to guide reps through each sales stage and optimize their day-to-day tasks.
Mapping out your sales process doesn’t have to be rocket science and it should not amount to biblical proportions; after all, you are running an SMB—not a Fortune 500 (just yet!).
But sales process mapping does take a bit of time and involvement of your sales reps. If you don’t have them participate from the get go, you may end up with a lot of resistance and lack of CRM use.
Here is a quick plan you can use today to map out your sales process.
In the throes of generating new leads and closing deals as well as managing your overall business, it’s important to take a step back and find out what your sales reps actually do every given day. Look back at the deals they closed. What were the major strategies, steps and hurdles involved? How long did it take to get leads down each stage of the sales funnel? What does each sales rep recommend in terms of fine-tuning his or her work? Do they need any additional support from marketing or customer service during the process?
Note that you may have varying answers for each sales rep. That is okay. At this point you want to gather as much information as possible.
Once you have a deeper understanding of your sales reps’ unique realities, now is the time to sit down with them and map out a standardized process. Start by identifying successful commonalities between your sales reps for each sales stage, which should include:
This will help to create a repeatable process that is easily adopted by all.
Next, pinpoint where there are discrepancies between reps. Brainstorm with them as to why some adopt a particular way of working while others do not. This type of brainstorming session is most likely to reveal important aspects about your customer base and how you should be selling to it. Moreover, at this point, you may crack the code as to where your sales reps are losing a lot of time on tasks that can be automated or given to admin personnel.
Then, set aside some time to consider how all of this fits in from a customer’s perspective. Are your sales team’s initiatives in line with the customer journey? Is there any way you can improve the sales process so that you can enhance your customers’ experience? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and you are more than likely to find some low-hanging fruit to take your sales process up a notch—and edge yourself away from the competition.
Finally, map out with your sales team the ideal process, document it and get all reps to sign off on it. This will ensure clarity and keep your team on track should they fall off the process bandwagon and try to cut corners again.
Remember, it will never be perfect, and it will change over time based on how your products, services and customer base evolve. The goal is to have a systematic approach to selling; however, there will always be exceptions based on a type of client and business context.
Once your sales team is on board with the new sales process, now is the time to implement it—starting with your CRM! This means agreeing with your reps on business rules, tasks and data entry that must be applied to your CRM.
For example, some reps may be notorious for hoarding their contacts in a spreadsheet, even though they have access to a CRM. If you are using your CRM for centralizing your contact information, the hoarding must stop. Determine with your reps what set criteria each contact in your CRM must have. Go beyond standard contact data and populate your CRM with any information you deem could help in the sales process.
Another example? If you have all agreed that reps must follow up with leads, say no later than 10 days after a product demo, then they must set up task alerts in your CRM for each potential customer who has received a product demonstration. Setting up automatic tasks and alerts will go a long way into ensuring that leads are constantly nurtured, rather than lost due to poor sales management.
This step is perhaps the most critical: it’s one thing to map out a process, but an entirely other ballgame to actually follow it. Effectively managed, your CRM becomes your partner in crime into ensuring that your sales team is complying with your sales process and using your CRM to its fullest potential.
At its core, a CRM is a powerful tool to achieve your business goals. However, if it is not supported by a proper process, a CRM alone is not a magic bullet for organizing and optimizing your sales team. If you are going to create well-oiled sales machine, your sales process and CRM go hand in hand.