While you should rightfully bring out the bubbly and celebrate your successes, you’re probably also wondering how you can one-up last year’s success. It’s not uncommon. Most successful sales teams have two things in common – a hunger for more and a forward facing outlook. There is a third, less common attribute of super-successful sales teams, which I want to talk about.
Sales teams that are able to consistently beat their quotas focus on profitable behaviors and not just goals or outcomes. What do I mean by this? Successful sales organizations know that assigning a quota to a salesperson is only the beginning of the journey – it’s akin to painting a bullseye some distance away. They also know that discussing hits and misses is too late in the game to change anything. They focus on what happens in between.
If you have been selling for a while, and your product-market fit is reasonably mature, then you already know the input parameters of an ideal sale. Like, for instance:
- Where should you source your leads from?
- What leads should a salesperson prioritize?
- What is the engagement playbook (calls, emails, meetings)?
- What should you do if a lead stagnates?
- When should managers intervene?
- What is the ideal price point?
- When is it the right time for an up/cross-sell?
- What are the right customer signals to track?
… and many more. [See – ‘The Thumbprint of a Sale’].
The best part is – you should already have this data. These are your products, your salespeople and your prospects and customers. But, do you really have this data to use?
The surest way of understanding this is by asking salespeople and their managers, separately, about the number (and types) of activities salespeople engage in on a daily basis. Like with one of our customers, a large insurance provider with over 10,000 captive agents on their rolls. When asked how many prospects and customers their salespeople engaged with per day, managers’ replies ranged from anywhere between 6 to 15. But, do you know what the real number was? One month into the deployment, we found that the average number of prospects and customers engaged per day was 2.4. Needless to say, managers were shocked by this data!
We see such reactions across organizations for various data points. There is a significant gap in terms of expectations and reality for the most basic data points. But, why is this the case? A good starting point to understanding why this is the case is to look at what are the primary systems used to capture sales data.
Organizations have been using CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems for over two decades now, starting in the early ERP era to manage their sales data. For many, CRMs were the start point of their digital journey and they represent an important shift in the mindset to data-driven planning and decision making. CRMs acted as a source of records and enabled sales teams to store and retrieve sales data at will.
But, unfortunately, CRMs haven’t evolved beyond passive databases to proactively enable salespeople to sell more. Instead, they have only increased in complexity to accommodate all varieties of processes and stakeholders beyond Sales, ranging from Marketing and Service to Finance and Operations. The modern CRM is a beast that needs constant feeding. So much so, that salespeople spent 17.9% of their time on CRMs every year. CRM implementations now take anywhere between a couple of quarters to multiple years. It all depends on the size of the sales team. But on average, they take about 2-6 months. It seems like salespeople exist to serve their CRMs and not the other way around.
Worse, salespeople think that CRMs distract from their top priority – engaging prospects and customers. Typically, salespeople report data onto CRMs when they find time away from their core activities at the end of the day/week. Likely, they enter this data to keep CRM Admins and Sales Managers from hounding them about it. [In some organizations, there are incentives/disincentives attached to this.] The data entered is neither accurate nor comprehensive, but there is no way of verifying this other than hearsay.
Sales Managers and Leaders, who are the primary decision-makers in CRM procurement, want to see reports and analytics around leads and activities that can help in planning, forecasting and resourcing. But, given that adoption metrics of even the World’s top three CRMs is less than 30% (daily active usage based on AppAnnie data), the return on investment is sub-optimal. Especially, when CRMs have become progressively more expensive over the years. CRM ROI equates to $1 for every $5 spent.
So, what can organizations do to collect and analyze clean, contextual data? One thing is certain – replacing existing CRMs is not the answer. We see this so many times across prospects and customers – organizations moving from Salesforce to Dynamics or vice versa, often driven by the comfort levels or past experience of people championing the CRM initiative, than any real data that proves one is significantly better suited to solve their existing problems. The result is an endless cycle implementation, training, onboarding, and success (or failure). Is it any surprise that organizations across the board think CRM is the problem?
Perhaps, it’s time we calibrate our expectations. CRMs can continue to act as a source of records and help identify opportunities, but in order for them to proactively drive conversions, organizations must adopt a different breed of applications, which are mobile-first and intelligent, no different from any of the other apps that the modern salesperson uses in his personal life. Think Uber, Amazon, Airbnb, and the likes, that can collect contextual data seamlessly and provide necessary intelligence that results in highly engaged users.
Sales is possibly one of the hardest vocations. This year, instead of incentivising your salespeople endlessly and relying on miracles to see you through, invest in a process to predictable revenue. And if you’re thinking on those lines, I’d love to have a chat with you and share our experiences of organizations that have made the shift.
Wish you a wonderful year, ahead.