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Making A CRM Platform Your Sales Team's Best Friend: The How-To CRMs bring sales success- if you know how to use them correctly.

By Peter Heredia

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I've always been tickled by the saying that "dogs don't like postmen." Now, this is not because there's anything funny about a postman being bitten in the seat of the pants by a dog (!), but because the claim is at odds with another widely held belief that a dog is "a man's best friend." How can both ideas be true?!

After many years of working with salespeople and customer relationship management (CRM) software, I've come to see the relationship between the two to be a lot like the conflicted relationship between dogs and postmen. Salespeople tend to see CRMs as "the enemy," usually because of a string of past disappointing experiences. But, actually, a CRM can be "the best friend" a salesperson could ask for. Indeed, CRMs bring sales success- if you know how to use them correctly.

However, few of us who have a CRM could say that it is working the way we expected. Nevertheless, most of us have fooled ourselves into thinking (after spending an uncomfortable amount of money on licences and implementation) that we're getting the value we were looking for. After months of forcing their sales team to use the CRM, often leaders will say, "At least we're capturing the visits." Or: "At least we now have some kind of pipeline."

If your company has already invested in a CRM, think back to that wonderful day when the reseller presented how it was going to take your business to the next level. Recall the incredible reports and amazing statistics that flashed up on the screen. Is that honestly where you are today? Or perhaps you haven't yet plunked down the money for a CRM, and you're having doubts about doing so. You're just not sure if the reality will live up to the hype.

Related: Sales Excellence In Five Steps

At this point, perhaps it's worth taking a closer look at all of the players in this process. Let's start with the resellers. Sometimes called "agents," the resellers are the vendor's middlemen who sell you the CRM. The thing to understand about resellers is that, ironically, most of them are not really salespeople at all. That's right: the majority of resellers have little to no understanding of the sales process, and they can't relate to the challenges that salespeople face.

What about CRM vendors? Many claim to provide customer relationship management tools, but often, they expect resellers to tailor these features to clients' sales strategies. Vendors keep adding technical functions to CRMs without realizing that many are inaccessible or irrelevant to customers, often due to technical barriers and lack of reseller support.

The other key players in all this are the corporate executives. When a company reaches a certain growth point, corporate usually decides to embrace a CRM. However, the reasons they do so are often misguided. In my experience, here are the most common:

  • To keep track of their salespeople.
  • To control customer information, which is seen as the company's property.
  • To fulfil the expectation that every company gets a CRM when they get this big.
  • To demonstrate that the company is innovative.

Notice what's missing: the CRM is there to help the salespeople perform better. I'm sure many leaders will say this is the reason they bought a CRM, but I'm not sure they're being fully honest with themselves. Maybe the thought crossed their mind, but it probably wasn't the driver.

So, what is the answer? Can we make the CRM a salesperson's best friend? After many years working with CRMs and salespeople, here are the steps required, whether you are purchasing a CRM for the first time, or you are looking at relaunching what you have:

  • Only the sales team will increase revenue results. Start by running a workshop with them, outlining the key activities they need to complete daily.
  • Once these activities have been agreed upon, work out what visibility is required, and then what data needs to be captured to gain this visibility.
  • Based on these findings, select a CRM vendor as well as a reseller for implementation. While most CRM systems offer the basics, it's crucial to prioritize a reseller's ability to integrate it seamlessly into your business, and collaborate effectively with your sales team.
  • Once selected, provide them with the blueprint you were looking for and ensure they create an interactive dashboard with the outcomes. Your goal should be that 95% of daily CRM usage is one click away from the dashboard.
  • Once activities have been decided, ask the team to set activity targets for the dashboard so that they can identify any daily development areas.
  • Conduct training around entering live data entry- don't get a reseller to show you how everything works!
  • Once everything is set up, live and breathe the CRM. Every morning, take a quick look at recent updates, and give anybody a nice, polite call if they haven't entered data. Ensure you have at least a weekly catch-up to ask each salesperson what their thoughts are on their current performance.

Make it a point to follow through on the aforementioned steps- and you might soon see the CRM become your sales team's best friend.

Related: As An Entrepreneur, Selling Is Something You Should Celebrate- Not Delegate

Peter Heredia is the Managing Director of Maxsale Solutions. Peter has been in the UAE developing sales teams for the last 25 years. One of his areas of expertise is delivering sales-led programs to maximize revenue by optimizing the return on investment of CRMs through workshops, consultancy, and creating interactive dashboards.

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