Business Transformation Requires a Modern Solution Set

Brion Schweers
VP - Customer Success-Config Consultants
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Brion Schweers
From the beginning, CRM solutions have been sold on the promise that sales automation would result in increased revenue. With billions of dollars spent every year on CRM, user adoption remains below 50 percent and most Sales VP's will admit that CRM has had limited impact on revenue growth. In accordance to CSO Insights, CRM adoption is in decline and sales execution is, in many areas, less effective than it used to be.

My assertion is that most CRM projects focus on the needs of the business and not the customer or the sales rep. In far too many SFA implementations the goal is to improve 'forecast accuracy'. Considering the evolution of enterprise applications, this makes sense. Enterprise applications were developed to automate existing manual processes. Take, for example, accounting. The basic principles of accounting did not change when financial systems were deployed. The same is true with inventory management, order management and purchasing. In each case, there were already predefined systems and procedures in place and the goal was to automate the existing process. By automating these processes the business could scale and the data became more reliable. Eventually these processes evolved and modern ERP systems now provide benefits that were once unthinkable. The same should be true for CRM, but we must focus on the needs of the customers and sales reps to truly achieve these goals.

It's often been said that sales is part art and part science. The science part of sales would include features such as sales planning, checklists, rigid sales qualification processes and sales forecasting. While the interpreting nuances in customer behavior, effectively responding to objections, relying on instincts and acting on hunches. Given this paradigm one can understand how sales automation tools focused on implementing 'rigid processes' and why many sales reps continue to refuse to use the tools. Sales forecasting is a good example of a process that existed prior to CRM. With SFA, opportunity management systems became the source of forecast data, and pipeline management became the process of analyzing the veracity of the opportunities. As the theory goes, if the sales force follows a defined sales process then a win probability can be assigned to an opportunity based on its stage in the sales. Unfortunately, to collect all the data required for this analysis, the sales rep must now spend significant time loading and maintaining data. One must ask, how does the customer or the rep benefit from this process? The answer is, it does not.

A common complaint is that the rep spends too much time loading data into the system and not enough time in front of the customer. The response has been to make it easier for the rep to load the data, so they can spend more time selling. But the reality is the reps are not asking for a system that is easier to use, they are asking for a system that is useful to them. They need a tool that helps them gain insight into their accounts; that allows them to access information about their customer anywhere, at any time, on any device; and that helps them develop quotes for complex products and services.

Consider this quote from Jeffrey Bailey, a Sales Transformation Strategist: "Companies are aggressively looking for ways to transform their sales organizations. That's because most of the issues that are effecting revenue attainment cannot be solved by 'simple sales force automation tools'. It takes a complete set of solutions that span many business areas in order to meet the demands of today's modern, empowered customer and drive more revenue for the business."

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