What is CRM? A software? A database? A reporting tool? A methodology? A way of life?
In in our minds, CRM is nothing more than a decision-making tool. When used well, CRM helps sales managers and their reps make important decisions such as how to spend their time, which customers to target, and which opportunities to pursue. It’s a means to an end, and that ‘end’ is better selling through better decision-making. When used in that way, it’s the most valuable tool in any sales force.
But most companies fall far short of extracting CRM’s full value because they don’t teach their managers and sellers how to make better decisions using it. Sellers and managers are typically taught how to put information into CRM and how to get it out, and that’s pretty useful. But what’s more useful is knowing how to use the data to do something better.
To better understand this problem, think back to when you were learning to drive a car. Imagine your parents gave you a new car and showed you where to find the steering wheel, rearview mirror, brake, and gas pedal, but they never taught you to actually drive it. Then they sternly warned you that owning a car was a great responsibility, and you had to keep it clean…or else! But you never get to drive? What a bummer.
Well that’s CRM.
Sales forces are asked to enter information into CRM without getting anything in return for their effort. Like the unused car in the driveway, it has the potential to radically change their lives.… But it doesn’t. To make the leap from daily burden to game-changing technology, salespeople and managers must know how to use CRM to make better, faster decisions. And for that, companies need to give their sales teams more than just the technology—they need to also provide the decision-making rules. Without them, a decision-making tool just isn’t that useful.
Sadly, sales forces operate without a lot of decision-making rules. Sure, they’re given platitudes like “Always be closing” or, “If you haven’t asked for the sales five times, you’re not doing your job.” But these kinds of rules are useless for driving real improvements in performance. Instead, sales teams need rules that help them get smarter about what they need to do. They need to be able to confidently answer questions like: How should I spend my time? Which customers should I pursue? How can I improve my win rates? Which accounts warrant my attention?
Many organizations assume that CRM already provides this kind of guidance, but it isn’t. CRM has the capability to provide answers to critical sales questions, but sellers and managers aren’t taught how to use it to its fullest extent. Most CRM training ends at the logistical level—how to log on, which button to push, where to enter data, and how to run reports. The full promise of CRM is rarely realized, because users aren’t taught how to use the tool to make better decisions and do their jobs better. They sit in the car and keep it clean, but they’re not allowed to go anywhere. Yep.… It’s still a bummer.
As you might suspect, we believe it’s incumbent upon sales leadership to establish decision-making rules for their sales forces and then train their reps how to apply those rules to make better, faster decisions. This requires a change in mindset. Leaders must become less focused on whether people are using CRM and more focused on how they are using it. And not whether the data in the system is accurate, but whether the data is yielding better decisions. To do that, you need to teach reps how to drive. CRM is a powerful tool for making better decisions, but most sales forces are asleep at the wheel. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. It’s time to go somewhere good.