Sales People Want More Than a Pretty Interface from CRM Software

Ann All
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Perhaps more than any other folks in an organization, salespeople realize the value of appearances. That's why sales staff - at least the ones who regularly visit clients - tend to have better wardrobes than other employees. They also often excel at small talk, putting people at their ease. Yet they know lively chatter and put-together looks aren't worth anything if they don't help them sign more customers.


Funny how CRM vendors don't necessarily seem to understand this. As Steve Chapman writes on CRM Switch, most salespeople probably don't care about CRM software's ease of use. Yet ease of use is what vendors like to talk about. As Chapman says, the "ultimate gauge of value" for sales folks is closed business. If they don't see how software will help them close business, they'll stick with spreadsheets and other tools that allow them to use their own data and processes.


So how to convince salespeople of CRM's value? Some of the best advice I've ever gotten on CRM adoption came from Barton Goldenberg, founder and president of CRM advisory ISM Inc.


When I interviewed him way back in 2007, he suggested identifying specific sales pain points and then offering examples of how other companies used CRM to successfully overcome them. He said:

So you have this overlay of communication in terms of getting messages out -- not so much the operational information about the methodology you are using, but about the value of CRM to your company and the users of that product. It addresses the "what's in it for me" and "what's in it for the company" and how others have used it successfully. What happens is, all too often, companies will start the communications off well but then fail to go down both of those paths effectively, and either confuse or lose people. Users won't see the value from beginning to end.

Another key to adoption is determining what Goldenberg called the "3x factor" for all user groups. That is, if you expect people to use a CRM system, you must give them at least three pieces of valuable information for every one piece of information that you ask them to put into the system. The requirements gathering phase is the right time to do this, he said, and IT must involve folks from all relevant business functions. He told me:

... If you ensure a cross-functional participation -- between sales and marketing, and customer service, and finance, and other customer-facing personnel -- and you use that cross-functional group to determine the prioritized business functions, then you will have identified the 3x issues for every group. If you do your business requirements phase right, that's where the 3x gets identified. The way you make sure you deliver them is, by golly, you incorporate them into the CRM initiative. What you're figuring out with this cross-functional capability is when information is valuable across groups. Customer service maybe logs the customer complaint, sales logs the sale, and marketing logs the Web information. They get their 3x by default by being part of this cross-functional team.

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