6) Automate reports for salespeople and management.

One of the most immediate effects of CRM is the ability to create up-to-date dashboards and reports that are both standard and customizable. All sales managers and salespeople, not to mention executives and marketing and customer service managers, should be looking at the common metrics that are important for business success, as well as the measures that drive success for their role, territory or region.

Without CRM, many salespeople and sales managers create their own spreadsheet tools to manage their sales process, which requires manual effort. Worse, salespeople end up using inaccurate or incomplete data, resulting in poor planning and sales execution. In CRM, sales managers can create custom reports for each of their salespeople, and reviewing this data becomes part of the manager’s daily routine and provides the foundation for sales coaching.

7) Provide data for management decisions.

Sooner or later, experienced users of CRM live by two rules: First, no decisions can be made without real and current data and, second, only data that comes from CRM can be used for decision making.

Combined, these two dictates can have a profound effect on decisions made by an organization’s leaders. Customer priorities are up front and center. All functional leaders (for example, sales, marketing, operations, finance) build a common, fact-based understanding of the sales environment. Recurring issues are put to bed. Tactical decisions are left to salespeople, allowing the management team to focus on longer-term, strategic issues. All of this is possible because CRM can address the dearth of readily available customer data and analysis, enabling quick reactions and business planning across businesses of all sizes and lines of trade.

8) Execute marketing programs through salespeople.

More and more, executives told us they are working to achieve a healthy collaboration between marketing and sales. New levels of internal collaboration are becoming a priority for building a high-performing sales organization. Often, these initiatives have limited success because they can only affect soft, indirect efforts: improving cross-functional understanding, documenting roles and responsibilities, or aligning goals and incentives.

CRM goes further by directly connecting marketing and salespeople in automated, traceable communications. Marketing designs programs, and then announces, launches, and tracks results through the salesperson’s CRM dashboard and pipeline/territory management tools. Sales results can be attributed to marketing programs, reinforcing participation and compliance. More advanced CRM systems allow for user-defined social media communications, replacing the barrage of confusing and redundant communications that are screened by sales managers and ignored by salespeople.

9) Optimize product mix sold to customers.

On the margin, the primary tools for influencing discretionary sales efforts are sales incentives and marketing programs, including advertising. Incentives work because salespeople are naturally achievement-oriented, and compensation is the ultimate measure of success. Marketing programs and advertising work because salespeople, and particularly wholesale-distribution salespeople, service demand. Salespeople will nearly always sell a product or brand when requested by a customer, because they can easily close the deal.

Both of these tools are blunt instruments, however, and do not allow account-specific plans or the realization of each account’s full potential. CRM addresses this gap by enabling account or territory plans, integrating goals in the opportunity management process, and providing the visibility necessary for goal setting, coaching, and developing marketing programs against annual objectives and emerging market conditions.

10) Improve accuracy of sales forecasts.

One of my favorite quotes, attributable to Laurence J. Peter, formulator of the Peter Principle, is, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” In the street vernacular of sales planning, a similar outcome is described by “garbage in, garbage out.”

CRM improves sales forecasting, and all of the resource deployment and investment decisions that flow from the sales commitments, by enabling an accurate and detailed understanding of sales results by salesperson and territories, by products and brands, and by peak and offseason efforts…in short, by all of the complex variables that are difficult to capture, analyze and act on.

Over time, building a top-tier forecasting capability is arguably the most effective benefit for a sales organization because high-quality forecasts allow a sales organization to develop plans that meet business objectives while focusing on outcomes that sales can control. To do otherwise is to tilt at windmills, or worse, put resources and efforts against outcomes that achieve the wrong business outcomes. 

To order a copy of “Getting the Most out of CRM,” visit www.naw.org.

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Manage The Sales Pipeline With CRM Software