How to Use a CRM:

Make It Actually Helpful to Sales Reps

Published on: May 2017

Written by: Andrew Dornon

The Hype

Customer Relationship Management. The largest cloud computing company in the world started out selling just a CRM application and quickly convinced most large enterprises that a CRM was a must. This is in addition to massive investments in the same type of applications at Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Consultants heralded the dark ages of selling to be over forever. Enterprises would own their customers, generate insights and forecast accurately. Managers would coach using data. And reps, well, they would input all the data.

Where Many Fall Short

At many organizations, almost none of this theoretical value materializes because most CRMs are designed, implemented and configured by sales operations to generate value for the enterprise rather than the rep. This happens because the CRM buyer and influencers care about the enterprise value, but overlook that reps inputting accurate information consistently (or using the CRM at all) is how that value is generated. Salespeople end up with lots of new administrivia, and the firm ends up with data they can’t trust.

A Better Approach to CRM Use

To derive meaningful enterprise value, you must instead take a rep-centered approach and invest in configuring your CRM to make it easier for reps to sell and for customers to buy. This is really the only way to drive long-term adoption. For reps that do outbound prospecting, warm and cold leads should be transferred to them within the CRM—this is a pretty easy case of creating the proper incentive. For field reps with more autonomy, the CRM can provide prompts to follow up with contacts following a call or even send automated follow-up emails after meetings. Storing playbooks, competitive battle cards, buyer profiles, industry updates and other reference tools that make customer conversations easier will also pull salespeople into the CRM. In short, the more you can integrate the CRM into salespeople’s daily workflow and improve their time with customers, the more likely you are to derive enterprise value from what has become a very large investment for many sales forces.

The Hurdle to Clear

One question that should always be in the back of your mind is whether (or to what degree) your CRM is outperforming a shared spreadsheet stored in the cloud. Because in many organizations, that’s essentially what their CRM is and reps don’t derive a lot of value from inputting information and getting little in return.

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