Typical CRM systems have detailed reporting capabilities that can help sales managers better understand the status of the various sales efforts. This, in turn, allows sales managers to prepare accurate reports for top management concerning the sales pipeline and the ability of the sales group to make its forecast. The quality of the information that’s available to managers in the CRM system, however, is dependent on the quality of the effort sales reps put into their day-to-day use of the CRM system.
Sales reps who see the CRM system as primarily a sales management tool tend to make a minimal effort, entering the least amount of data possible to satisfy management demands. While it’s possible to force compliance by denying commissions and other means, the system is more likely to include the useful information sales management needs if sales reps view the CRM system as truly beneficial to their sales efforts.
The first step to accomplishing this is to make certain that using the system doesn’t make the sales rep job more difficult. Data entry should be quick and simple and, at most, involve two or three screens. Whenever possible, the CRM system should use existing data, such as customer order information, to populate the customer records.
In addition, sales reps must know that the information isn’t being gathered so management can easily replace them. From the sales reps’ perspective, being asked to provide detailed information about their customers could make it easy for a sales manager to replace them. Reps, understandably, might be resistant to entering that level of information into the CRM system. All things being equal, it’s in sale reps’ best interest to remain in control of their customer accounts. To assure sales reps that they won’t be replaced by the CRM system the company must continue to value the reps’ relationships with their customers.
The most effective and well-used CRM systems are those that provide significant services to sales reps as well as management. For example, some CRM implementations allow salespeople to check a customer-complaint database prior to a sales call, thus warning them in advance that the meeting might be difficult. Most sales reps are willing to enter data that’s useful primarily to sales management, if that’s the price of receiving practical information that helps them close business.
The above is based on a conversation with Joe Galvin, vice president of CRM research at Gartner, Inc., a market research firm located in Stamford, CT. He can be reached at 203-964-0096 or www.gartner.com.