Will the Sales Force accept Automation?
The Sales Force defies the evolution of the modern company. While the work process of every other department in the company has been engineered and re-engineered, the work of the sales force often remains invisible and unknown. From Order Entry to Accounts Payable to the Warehouse there is a known, visible and measurable flow of work – a business process. And these engineered processes have made significant cost reductions and quality improvements for businesses of all sizes and in all market verticals. So why have the sales force remained outside the company’s evolution to a known, visible and measurable set of work flows? And how can Customer Relationship Management help to bring the sales force on board and integrate their work, perhaps the most important work in the company, with every other department from finance to operations? The solution requires a deft touch, a combination of ‘this is how we do businesses and ‘this tool is going to make you a better performer’. We need to both push and pull the sales force into a known, visible and measurable business process. A good sales manager already understands that to get the most out of his team he needs to motivate and incite. He pushes through motivational behaviour and tactics; he pulls through incentive plans. An excellent Customer Relationship Management package enables push and pull through a variety of mechanisms. We’ll explore six of them below.

But we’ve already tried Customer Relationship Management – that’s not new
CRM software has been around for at least a decade, and before that there were contact management systems and other precursors. So what is new? Why do we have a better chance today than we had on the ‘last attempt’? The good news is that some of the new entrants to the CRM space have gotten the message. They make access as easy as possible, keep the application simple, easy to learn and quick to navigate, and provide enormous flexibility – no more cookie cutter approach. The first iteration of CRM software has only itself to blame for its poor reputation. If ever a piece of software was written that took the end user less into account than the first iteration of CRM it is no longer remembered. How do people who spend their lives on the road, out of the office, use software that can only be accessed over the internal network? So access was a problem and so was functionality: Way too complex and at the same time inflexible – a recipe for disaster. It’s hard to believe that a product like that could be delivered, but it was, and is still, actually. Also there were several CRM packages that had little to do with managing the customer relationship. They were, and are, contact management systems with a few bells and whistles. Some of them can handle prospects, maybe even opportunities and quotes, but they still cannot handle an actual sale to a live customer. How can you ask a sales person who lives and dies by time to spend a fair portion of it with an application that does not recognize sales? When products, individually or as a class, do not meet expectations, a poor reputation is bound to result.

Six Principles of Success

First, it is important to point out that there are some myths about sales people and sales force automation software that need to be debunked. First, sales managers and their sales people are more used to being measured than any other group in the organization, so measurable work flows should not be a shock. Second, sales people are motivated to produce and a tool that will help them to produce may take a few knocks during roll out, but will in the end find an enthusiastic audience – if in fact it helps them to produce. In other words, sales people do not have an aversion for CRM software in their DNA; when they are convinced that a software product adds actual value they adopt it. In the Six Principles below we will outline the most valuable functions of CRM.

Principle 1: Push Lead Routing
Every sales person appreciates a new lead. It’s like a breath of fresh air into the sales process. If you have heard a couple of ‘No’s this week, and if you’re doing your job then you have, a new lead will be refreshing. How do we capture new leads? How do we manage territories and route leads? And how do we measure progress with the lead? From a sales management perspective these are crucial questions. Let’s answer by asking a new set of questions. Are we using all the tools available to us to capture leads, and do we know how we captured them later when we analyze marketing budgets? You may have spent a fair sum putting up a website, so how many leads have you captured from the site, and what were they interested in Product? Service? Training? Have you ever sent out an electronic marketing tool, like a newsletter, with links back to your website? Can you capture what the prospect found interesting and clicked on in the newsletter? And once you find a new lead how do you hand them over to the sales staff? In a fair and visible process that cuts down on squabbling and bruised egos? If your sales staff operates within assigned territories then it makes sense to route leads in the same way. In this case, known rules are very useful as they can implement in the software and lead routing is automated. If sales territories are not a part of your business model then use a round robin approach – still fair and visible. As a Sales Manager you can arrive at work, instantly see new leads and to whom they have been routed. Later you can check that the leads have been contacted. How many times have you personally left information with an organization and never heard from them? It’s amazing, and it happens every day. Leads disappear! If you are an executive reading this, rest assured, the leads that are lost every day in your organization simply represent the half of the marketing budget you already knew was a waste of time, effort and cash. Of course, when you see that a lead was not contacted, simply move it along to the next person in line. But measure the process, and be able to say definitively that ‘95% of leads were contacted within 24 hours, 99% within 48 hours’. You not only assure senior management that you are on top of the business, but you have sent an important message to the sales team: Velocity matters and we expect it. Take away: Lead routing sends an important message to the sales team. The organization is using the software to attract new leads, find out what they are interested in, route them to sales people, follow up on the leads, and see that they are serviced. And you need to use this software also, if you want to receive new and qualified leads.

Principle 2: Pull Flexible Software Configuration
The cookie cutter approach might work with some of the departments in your organization, but sales people are a vocal, assertive group and they are not going to adopt a product that another company in a completely different business with a different market plan, a different product/service mix, a different sales methodology also uses as is. On the other hand,

custom development from scratch is a daunting task for any business, especially in the small and medium business market. The answer is packaged software that allows you to ‘customaries’ the system. Add new fields, new records, new forms, new reports that reflect what’s important to your company and sales staff. What information do you need to collect on a prospect to know whether or not they fit –sales people will readily tell anyone who asks that too much of their time is spent with prospects that are not good candidates? Give them the opportunity to gather and store the information that they need immediately. A Go/No Go decision made right at the outset saves everyone a lot of time and effort. And over time you accumulate some interesting information. Is there a certain type of Prospect Company that you are missing again and again? Could you meet their need with a small change in your product/service? Open up a new market? Take Away: Sales people are by nature sceptical, and a cookie cutter software product is not going to gain traction. To overcome their scepticism you’ll need to show them a product that Speaks to your company, your products/ services and the sales person’s work on every form and report. Sales people aren’t stubborn; they will adopt software if it makes sense for what they do every day.

Principle 3: Push Opportunity Management and Pipeline Analysis
It’s one thing to drop a new lead between the cracks; it’s another thing entirely to drop an opportunity. You have worked with a customer or prospect, spent time and effort, to learn about potential business, and you may have even gone through the effort of quoting the business, then you drop it through lack of good work flow processes. It sits on the shelf and by the time someone remembers it, it is gone to a competitor. Now that’s deflating. And if there is one thing that all business people have talked about, thought about and generally worked over a thousand times it is business speed to market - velocity. From product development to service delivery we have started to measure everything. So how can sales opportunities defy this trend? Why would the most important activity in the company not be closely monitored and measured? How long does it take to put together a proposal? When and how often have we followed up? Likewise, we can ask the same questions about pipeline management. We not only need to manage opportunities with all the speed and vigour that we bring to finance and operations, but we need to manage the total pipeline and the pipeline of each individual sales manager and sales person also. We sense that the sales process, from individuals to the entire team, undergoes a series of fairly dramatic ups and down during a year, or even a quarter. Why is this? We have trained ourselves to look outside of the company for the answer to this ‘roller coaster’ effect – macro economic reasons - but are we sure that there are not internal reasons also? To keep revenue growing and less volatile we need to smooth the pipeline. By smoothing the pipeline we mean that we should measure the pipeline at every stage – according to your company’s sales methodology – and make changes where appropriate to help sales people meet goals, not just this period but consistently. Consistency requires measurable inputs, measurable progress and measurable outputs. Sounds simple, but it’s an art and science that not many sales executives practice. Leads, Qualified Prospects with Opportunities, Proposals, Order Negotiations, Actual Sales, these are some of the stages of the sales process that we measure and monitor. When we see sales people with no new leads, and two prospects in negotiation, we are both excited by the probability of new business and anxious about the future sales for the company and the individual sales person. By working with sales people and sales teams to smooth the pipeline we remove anxiety from the sales process and also the desperation a sale person feels with just one or a few deals between success and abject failure. Take Away: Managing opportunities and pipelines gives the organization, the sales team and individual sales people greater probability for consistent success. Bringing metrics to the sales process achieves the same insights and results that were gained in operations in the past through a similar regime of measure and improve.

Principle 4: Pull Up sell Cross Sell
Cross sell and up sell and just fancy new terms for what sales people have known from time immemorial: Selling again to a current customer is more time and effort effective than selling to a prospect. A sale is always about the relationship at some level. And trust is the most important sale’s currency. Good sales people work hard to position themselves with companies, products and services that provide the foundation to create trust with customers. Since sales people and sales management already recognize that trust and its direct descendant – Cross Sell, Up sell to the customer– are excellent, and easier to obtain, sources of new revenue, this concept will find a very willing audience. Many companies, though they recognize the usefulness of this concept, tend to practice it haphazardly. In many industries new sales tend to be much greater than up sales and cross sales which are more revenue incremental. When times are a little tight, and new customers are hard to find, sales people pick up the phone and start the incremental up sell, cross sell activity. At least part of the reason why sales people are always going for the home run instead of the hit is that cross selling and up selling can be difficult to manage; just the amount of information that you need makes it a formidable task. What is the customer’s business model? Why did they buy in the first sale? What other opportunities exist to sell to them? Why would they buy again? What other products or services can previous sales direct us to offer now? If you have ever visited you will immediately understand the advantage electronic commerce has over brick and mortar retail when it comes to cross sell and up sell. Amazon does not need to ‘mine’ mountains of data to know that since you bought a book on tying a fly you might also be interested in a new title about great trout rivers of Wyoming. No matter your industry there are products which enable the sales staff to immediately see the possibilities that exist with a current customer, and they can quickly and easily move forward into the next sale with the customer. Think about how you could emulate the Amazon experience with your customer base, you’ll soon have a list of several possibilities. Take away: Remove the hurdles to cross sell and up sell activity, make it a task easier to organize and execute, and your sales staff will recognize an enhanced sales tool and a great opportunity for additional revenue and income.

Principle 5: Push Internal and External Communications
We now have so many different means of communication that the question is no longer how to communicate, but how to communicate effectively. We have the technology, as they say; now we need to use it effectively to reach the right audience with the right message. One of the most challenging tasks for sales management is keeping its disparate team, both direct sales and the partners/distributors, in the loop and up to date with the latest information on your products and services, your recent new clients – how they were won, what they bought, their market – and what’s coming next in product and service upgrades and changes. And it is more than just facts that you need to communicate; you are really attempting to communicate the company to them - the company’s values, the company’s ideas, the company’s vision. A single application around which all of this communication happens is essential. When you see a sales force where each member has come up with their own communication solution, you not only have a logistical nightmare but a sales force that is out of step with the company, with customers and with each other. Scheduling an in-person or online meeting must be straightforward and easy; communicating new product and/or service bulletins must be regular and easy – if you need to update mailing lists before each bulletin then bulletins will be infrequent and they will exclude someone by oversight; there should be an online sales portal with all of the necessary documents and materials that sales people require; and, as we mentioned above, lead routing and incentive compensation, individual and team sales information – new wins in new markets - must be automated and communicated in real time to have the necessary impact. And we need to deliver all of these different types of communication to both internal sales team members and external partners, again, with as little extra effort as possible to avoid oversights and manual errors.

Communications is not a one way street, so we also give our sale team members a tool to communicate with management, themselves – through reminders, customer notes, alerts about data changes - and each other, to schedule a sales support person for a meeting, schedule resources for sales meetings. Take Away: Sales is really all about communication between the prospect and the sales person. Much of that communication starts in sales management and filters through the ranks. You need an effective tool to communicate, weekly, daily, hourly. When your CRM solution provides this channel of communications, you have taken a giant step toward user adoption.

Principle 6: Pull Incentive Compensation
When we can record actual sales in our CRM – and isn’t this the very essence of ‘Customer’ – we create several downstream benefits for ourselves. We have already discussed up sell cross sell above, but perhaps the greatest benefit is that we can calculate sales compensation as we record sales. Not only do we automate the calculation for sales compensation – perhaps putting to rest all of the spreadsheets where we performed this task in the past – but we also make incentive compensation visible to the sales group as the sales period marches along. Recording actual sales puts the C in CRM and makes sales compensation visible and motivating. Later, as sales managers, we perform the analysis of sales data and incentive compensation to determine if our compensation plans are inciting the sales behaviour that we expected. We then move the data to a spreadsheet, if necessary, to perform ‘what if’ analysis. Take Away: Actual sales enable real time incentive compensation, freeing valuable sale resources for selling, not calculating, and giving management the basis for understanding if incentive plans are driving the results for which they were intended.

CRM software is now in its second iteration. The latest entrants to this market have taken the criticisms of the past to heart and they now offer sales teams and their management an exceptional tool to perform all of the tasks associated with selling. No, they cannot close the deal, but they can communicate the same message to the entire team: We are about speed to market – we never let a lead, prospect or opportunity sit on the shelf; we are about flexibility – as markets change we change and we provide a tool that recognizes these changes; we are about real time data and organization – access anytime, anywhere and visible up to the minute data; we are about communication – between the sales person and the prospect, between sales management and the sales person; and, most importantly, we are about a known, visible and measurable sales process that gives us all the foundation for improvement and better results. An excellent CRM package enables you to deliver this message and when you do, you’ll find users adopting the new system with, dare we say, enthusiasm.

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