Thinking Small with CRM Can Yield Big Results

By Geoffrey James

Sales professionals, by nature, tend to think big, as in big sales opportunities. But thinking big is not always the best strategy when it comes to CRM. CRM implementations that are small in size and scope generally experience a greater level of success than grand, all-inclusive big CRM implementations.

A series of small, gradual CRM implementations puts fewer burdens on the sales force than a system that requires a wholesale change in sales rep behavior. This is especially true for data entry – the CRM area that causes the most problems for sales reps – because the amount of information that must be entered to document the sales process tends to be minimized in CRM systems with a limited scope. By limiting the amount of data being tracked, it’s easier to offload these activities to the clerical staff at the front office so sales reps have more time to sell.

This was not always the case, however. In the past, the think-big mentality drove many sales managers to attempt large, complex CRM solutions in the mistaken belief that a CRM system’s effectiveness could be measured by the depth of detail it tracked. As a result, many early implementations emphasized features such as opportunity management and forecasting that were of more value to managers than the sales team.

Smaller-scale CRM implementations are more likely to focus on the bread-and-butter activities of the sales force, such as proposal generation and product availability checking, which are closely connected to the actual sales cycle. Smaller-scale CRM implementations also are directed more easily toward improving the effectiveness of sales without requiring extra effort from sales reps. For example, many small-scale CRM implementations in recent years have helped marketing departments qualify sales leads – an activity that improves sales productivity without placing a clerical burden on the sales force.

The financial services industry, in particular, has been active in the movement to think small in CRM. One of the most popular CRM upgrades in financial services is the creation of a Web-based sales portal that allows salespeople a single and consistent view of the different systems they must use during the sales process. Rather than adding scads of new technology, many financial services firms are electing to make it easier for sales reps to use the technology they already have.

Thinking small in CRM also reduces the overall expense to get a project up and running, and thus makes it easier for sales management to sell top management on a CRM investment. Because smaller scale CRM implementations are more likely to have an immediate and measurable positive impact on sales, there is less risk of the CRM system failing to achieve its ROI goals.

The above is based on a conversation with Tom Koulopoulos, president of the Delphi Group, a high-tech advisory firm.