We all know the struggle. The CRM report comes out and you stare at it, willing it to easily give you the information you need to cultivate leads and foster higher performance in your sales reps. Here, Jason Jordan, Partner at Vantage Point Performance, tells us how to avoid the CRM thousand-mile stare.
What is the biggest pitfall sales managers fall into with their CRM tools?
There are many pitfalls with the way CRM is used. One of the biggest we see are managers choosing to study things in the rearview mirror. Which is to say a lot of the data that comes out of CRM is something that has happened in the past, either sales that were made, or sales that weren’t made. The role of a sales manager should be to help their sales people win and pursue more deals. So the more useful application of CRM is to use it to understand what sales people are currently doing, not what they did in the past, so the sales manager can intervene where needed and make sure the sales people are doing the right things to win.
Is there a way to organize CRM reports to make them quicker to translate?
I’m an advocate of making reports based on each person’s individual role in the organization. So I think the frontline sales people should have reports, I think the frontline managers should have a different set of reports and I think that senior leadership should have their set of reports. If the reports were built around individual sales’ roles, then you could really pare down the amount of information that’s needed in each of those reports. The senior leaders in the organization don’t need to study sales activity. Sales people and frontline sales managers need to understand a lot about the sales activity that’s going on.
How do sales managers get past simply scrubbing CRM data and creating forecasts?
The first thing we need to understand is that forecasting is not the same as pipeline management, and this is an issue we see a lot. People don’t separate pipeline management in their minds from forecasting, and it makes sense because a lot of times those conversations happen in the same meeting. You have a meeting to review the pipeline and that becomes the forecast. And if the forecast is the goal of the meeting, then you unavoidably spend the entire time scrubbing data. The first thing for you to do is just a mindset shift. The most important thing you can do with a CRM is to maintain a healthy pipeline. And the most important thing you can do with a pipeline is to manage it actively. Make sure the good deals get won and the bad deals get out early, and that the deals keep moving from stage to stage. It’s really this culture of forecasting that causes data to be scrubbed instead of coaching, which is what sales managers should be using the data to do.
What is your best advice to sales managers about to receive their next CRM report?
Before you even look at your report, identify what types of questions you really need to answer. Because when you let the report drive your inquiry, you can take yourself on a long journey that leads nowhere. What sales managers really need to understand is that CRM is really just a decision-making tool. The sales managers before they open the report need to ask themselves: what are the decisions I need to make, what are the questions I’m trying to answer? Then they can pretty quickly find the information they need to make that decision rather than just poring over data just because it’s there. We haven’t gotten what we want out of CRM and the problem is not technology. The problem is the way the people interact with the technology. The key is how to make managers better at using CRM, not how to make CRM better for managers. The technology is great, it’s never been better, but we still can’t do the right thing with it.
Jason Jordan is a partner of Vantage Point Performance, the leading sales management training and development firm. His extensive research into sales performance metrics led to the breakthrough insights published in his first book, the Amazon.com best-seller: Cracking the Sales Management Code (McGraw-Hill 2012). He will be moderating a panel called “Getting CRM Right” at the Sales Force Productivity Conference October 24-26 at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta. Click here for more information.