Don’t hate your sales CRM. It’s your friend. Really it is. An effective CRM – Customer Relationship Management – system can be the lifeline of your business. I have had the pleasure of using five different CRM systems (plus spreadsheets, notebooks, and my good old memory) over the last 15 years. Quite frankly, I think CRM systems are required by law to bring some level of pain and misery to all of their users. However, learning to live in harmony with your sales CRM will bring sales outcomes that exceed your greatest expectations. One CEO said, ‘It’s almost like your CRM is that person in the office with all the answers that you don’t like talking to.’ It’s not that bad!
As with all real relationships, in your relationship with your CRM – – and a relationship is what it is – – you must look for the good and manage your expectations. So, let’s keep it simple, and focus on what you need most.
Rule # 1 – Use it. Use your sales CRM diligently. Period. Effort matters! When you do not use it, it will not work for you. What you put in is what you get out. Data must be kept current, and all activities must be tracked and planned IN THE SYSTEM, real-time. Until you do this, you will fall short of your glory.
Rule # 2 – Your sales CRM is only as good as the data in it. The data, not the features. Yes, it is 2014, and human beings expect technology to be perfect and to meet our every need. Technology companies spend an incredible amount of resources making their products ‘feature-rich’, yet failing to make them user-friendly. Let’s accept that fact, and keep it moving. Determine what data points are most relevant to your sales progress, and focus on them. Those data points must be complete and accurate in your sales CRM. Knowledge is power. Data integrity is key. If your sales CRM is not working for you, it is usually the data, not the technology, that is failing you.
At the basic level, the data that you put into your system should include contact information, interactions, insight data, and next steps. Examples of insight data are industry, annual revenue, number of employees, opportunity value, and so forth.
Rule #3 – Look at the collective data. Just look at it. This is the biggest miss for so many businesses. Answers to profound questions about wins and losses, progress and setbacks, is right there in the data. Know your data, analyze it, look for trends, and question inconsistencies.
Rule #4 – Drive data in the direction you want it to go. As a business making sales efforts, you are in the driver’s seat. Make your sales outcomes what you want and need them to be. This is where strategy and planning come into play. Your team must understand what the data says about where you stand today, and create a roadmap to where you need to get (and where you can get based on reality). Write sales and business development plans for the next 30 days, 90 days, 6 months, 1 year, and beyond. Execute your data-driven plans. Track, analyze, and adjust your progress monthly and quarterly.
Rule # 5 – Out with the old, and in with the new. Purge bad ‘opportunities’ from your sales pipeline. Add new prospects and opportunities that are a better fit for your business. Stop beating dead horses. Explore new horizons. Do this frequently. Do not fall into the trap of only focusing on what is already in your CRM or trying to refresh past opportunities.
At my company and for our clients, our key uses for sales CRM include making sure that all prospects are qualified by understanding their insight data, progressing sales stages of all relationships and opportunities, managing our relationships and activities day-to-day, and understanding our sales forecasts. This is how we keep it simple. This is how we keep our business flowing with strong opportunities. Manage your expectations and focus on what you need. This is how you keep the love alive with your sales CRM.
About the Author: Dana Taylor is CEO & Chief Strategist of Intelligent Ethos®, Inc. which provides sales pipeline development and customer relationship management (CRM) advisory services, methodology, and delivery. Dana is committed to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed in the marketplace by creating & sustaining cash flow, leveraging technology, and expanding capacity.
“Technology Business Network Process Diagram” courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / www.freedigitalphotos.net