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Driving Productivity Within Your Sales Force

Authored by Brad Freitag on June 17, 2014

The evolution of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems has had a major impact on sales forces across the world.  It’s given companies a place to store knowledge, which in turn gives them the opportunity to deepen customer understanding, grow revenue and improve internal communications.  These are the benefits of CRM.

The challenge with CRM systems is the amount of time necessary to manually enter data.  This burden typically falls onto the sales reps.   A particular limitation is the simple communication of next steps.  As we forecast, assurance that reps have scheduled the right next-steps within the forecast period is crucial.  The magnitude of this challenge has become even more apparent with the transition to mobile.  Our expectations have been set as consumers, with elegantly designed apps, that interactions are immediate and intuitive. We grow impatient with something that feels overly-cumbersome like an extended login.  Let’s consider some of the challenges that sales managers and their teams are currently facing in regards to CRM.

With mobile devices now, we expect everything to be ready from the first swipe.  (Any vendor that has not developed a native app is writing off the mobile user). While user ID/PW combo is expected, a remember-me preference would go a long way.  Next is the painful verification code sent via SMS to your phone for logging into the system.  If this were a one-time requirement on a new device, it would be acceptable, but as a daily requirement, it introduces significant  user-experience friction. Coupled with basic convenience frustrations is the fact that layouts are not design-optimized for mobile devices.  Navigation then becomes a headache, and eventually (or quickly) the user will exit altogether.  Low mobile user-engagement amongst a sales team results in a separate sales management challenge: delay in data upload and lag in information accuracy.  Inaccurate data inevitably leads to a less effective CRM.  Data must be entered at a constant rate in order to gain meaningful visibility into the deals that have high probability rates of closing.

Data serves a vital function in sales execution, however data input tasks are the least productive hours in the week for a sales team.  As a result, most sales representatives develop their own process to measure the health of a given cycle.  It’s great to have reps that are tuned-in with their clients.  However, when their intuition becomes the guiding point for their sales activity, and there is no report that management can reference to gauge traction (or lack thereof), you wind up with more questions than answers at the end of the quarter.  Said another way, if the sales rep has a finger on the pulse of the deal, but management is not current on the status, the result is a flurry of counter-productive calls between VPs, Managers and Sales Reps.  Not to mention the lack of trust you can place in the viability of individual reps’ forecasting due to various personalities (pure optimists, sandbaggers, etc.).

So how do you go about remedying these inherent problems?  Well to start off, prioritize sales productivity above all else. Your company depends on sales reps to respond quickly to leads, to represent the product in a clear and persuasive way, and to capture the product-market-fit feedback.  They’re on the front lines, and they improve, perhaps exponentially, as you invest in their productivity.  You can do this by reducing their administrative work to the essentials.  Be clear and forthright about the information that matters and ensure they are gathering that from every meeting.  Next, be transparent in how you are reporting.  Show your sales teams performance versus goal.  Empower your reps to be winners; winners are motivated, they set goals and measure results.  Then hold them accountable.  Set structured formats, strict timelines and clear expectations.  This type of management will help enforce consistent reporting and more accurate forecasting.

The best reps I know are masterful at retaining and organizing pertinent account information.  They stay on track to achieve goals.  They tend to need minimal prompting to drive next-steps.  Simple, clear expectations with a premium invested in sales rep productivity will increase CRM data input and user-engagement frequency.  These are cornerstones for management visibility and CRM adaptation.

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