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mistake hurting sales teamOver the past ten years, I have rolled out CRM systems at four different companies and have personally witnessed the power of CRM to:

  • Improve management of customer and prospect relationships
  • Provide better sales visibility
  • Improve communication across a sales team

However, I also know full-well the statistics on CRM. Gartner estimates that over 60% of CRM implementations fail after the go-live date. I recently spent an evening talking about sales productivity with a leading sales rep for a Bain Capital portfolio company. What I heard shouldn’t surprise anybody but hopefully it is a wakeup call.

  • Hunters aren’t built to enter data: We all know successful salespeople are wired differently. But, in a quest to fulfill the promise of new systems, we try to turn our team into desk-jockeys. This sales rep shared with me that his entire team feels like “… well paid clerks.” and that he “… didn’t get into sales to do admin.”
  • Sales teams don’t see the promise of CRM for sales: Star sales people see sales as an art and CRM as ‘big brother’. Like the sales rep I talked to they believe, “I hit my numbers and don’t see the reason to document in Salesforce just so they can monitor me.”
  • Sales training isn’t working: Despite the investment in systems, stars prefer to be lone wolfs. With few established processes, sales teams end up with a few rock stars and a ton of new sales reps struggling to figure out the ropes. This sales rep shared with me, “Our company is a total mess. There is a huge learning curve for new reps and we lose many of them quickly”

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No wonder that according to Forrester the average VP of sales lasts 18 months. With a sales team that sees no value in the systems, the worst thing you can do is add more process. So how can we stop this cycle and improve our sales productivity? Here are two, not-so-revolutionary, ideas:

  • Stop having your sales people enter data they don’t see as valuable
  • Free your salespeople up to focus on what they do best

While these ideas sound simple, they take some effort to implement. Here are a few basic steps you can take to get started:

  • Review your sales administration processes: Analyze each process to understand a) the level of specialized knowledge and b) the priority for your business
  • Focus first on those processes easy to standardize: Processes such as CRM data entry, appointment setting, prospect research, lead and contact management, travel, expenses, and reporting are great places to start.
  • Simplify your setup: The tools you've chosen to run your processes should be easy to integrate into your daily flow. Tools, like many CRMs, are counterproductive when they are complicated with extraneous information--working to simplify your setup from the start, will remove the barriers for your team's adoption.
  • Create a true sales support function: Inside sales and lead gen are not focused on increasing the productivity of your sales team. They are measured by their own metrics. To solve your sales challenges, you need to provide your sales reps with a support system. We find the best way to achieve this is to integrate assistants into your sales team’s processes and track the impact on your reps productivity.
  • Commit your organization to success: The benefits of freeing up your sales team to focus on sales can be powerful. A study by McKinsey of a global manufacturer showed an average gain of 15% more time for selling and decreased cycle time for internal sales processes of 20%. But, to realize the potential, an on-going commitment, technology platform, and training are required.

Ready to get your sales reps the support they need to be successful?

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