Today’s post is by Charles P. Collins, executive vice president of sales planning automation at Precision Sales Engineering. It appeared originally on the Precision Sales Engineering blog and is used here with permission. See how Precision Sales Engineering can help with your sales planning; click here for a free demo.
Once you reach the stage at which you’re having difficulty managing your prospects, accounts, and marketing campaigns, and you can no longer rely on homegrown tools or off-the-shelf applications such as MS Excel or Rolodex-style contact managers, you are ready to evolve to the next level and choose a professional customer relationship management (CRM) system. Here is some advice to assist you in making this important decision, one which will impact your odds of sales success for years to come.
It's All in the Database
CRM systems are, in essence, a purpose-built database for lead, contact, account, and opportunity records. The databases built by vendors such as SugarCRM and salesforce.com, amongst many, are designed to appeal to a very targeted user, namely the sales and marketing professional. Screens, reports, and dashboards are crafted to display vital selling information, or the sales “pulse,” in easy-to-read and easy-to-manipulate objects.
The data can be entered into standard records provided by the CRM vendor, and customization of these records is a common feature. Since there is a remarkable similarity of function, intended use, appearance, and workflow in almost every major CRM system, your choice will come down to a difficult, matrix-style analysis when trying to differentiate one vendor from another. You’ll be comparing similarly styled databases with similar purposes. Few very exciting differences exist, and you might unfortunately end up making your final decision with too much emphasis on price rather than function.
What is missing in the CRM systems in the marketplace are tools built to serve its power user: the sales manager.
Setting and Measuring Performance
Managing selling teams is not just about operating a database of records and trying to extract meaningful business intelligence. Rather, it is about setting and measuring realistic performance objectives. It is about creating sales plans with well-plotted courses set and clear, successful destinations charted. It is about creating meaningful management interactions between the manager and the sales employee that result in superior, intended results. Surprisingly, you will find this functionality absent in today’s popular CRM systems.
Therefore, sales managers need to take matters into their own hands. Some CRM programs, such as salesforce.com, have such value-added applications as Longitude, which provides this functionality. Others require you to create dedicated workflows, task triggers, and calendar tools that enable the sales manager to define a set of objectives, syndicate the execution of the tasks necessary to achieve the objectives to those responsible for delivering a result, and monitor progress toward the objectives.
Lead by Objective
Whichever way you go, there is no getting around the fact that, in order to use CRM as a strategic tool, it is essential that the sales manager take the sales team’s reins and lead the team toward clearly articulated objectives. Once you have found a CRM system that enables you to accomplish this, you have made a substantial and measurable leap ahead of your competition.
See how Precision Sales Engineering can help with your sales planning; click here for a free demo.