Planning your sales CRM projects for 2013?
One of the top questions we hear from VPs of sales is: What’s the next, best thing that we can do to take our sales force automation (SFA) and overall sales programs to the next level? Obviously, the quantity of those questions increases as sales VPs plan their budgets for the upcoming year.
To build a better sales CRM program plan, follow these three steps:
- Justify: Ensure your new sales strategy aligns with the overall goals for the business. For the typical VP of sales, that will mean targeting one or more of the three business results that CRM delivers: growth, increased profitability, and enhanced customer service.
- Review: Ask which current sales capabilities are underfunded, across these five essential domains: sales leadership, territory management, relationship management, pipeline management, and sales measurement.
- Improve: To figure out the next, best step for your sales program, determine which sales capability improvements will deliver the biggest business results. Look to our CRM Excellence Framework for guidance.
As that demonstrates, the answer to the “what next?” question will differ for every business.
But based on what we’re hearing from VPs of sales, as well as the numerous CRM project implementations we’ve delivered this year, here are my predictions for the four hottest sales CRM projects for 2013:
1. CPQ: Configure, Price, Quote
One of the most high-priority items on many sales VP agendas is the concept of CPQ–for configure, price, quote, or what’s sometimes called quote to cash. Think of it as the intersection between the sales and order management systems. Expect CPQ to become a top priority for many businesses in 2013, thanks to its ability to support both business growth and increased sales efficiency.
The CPQ premise is simple: Give salespeople the ability to easily put together the right–as in, most attractive–configuration of products for a customer or prospect from within the SFA application. Handling this in-system helps sales reps more easily navigate the bewildering array of product SKUs offered to customers. As a result, they can generate more quotes, which results in a greater number of sales.
Meanwhile, these quotes are linked directly to the order management system, which reduces the number of incorrect quotes and incorrect product orders. Incorrect orders are a huge drain on profitability due to wasted manufacturing effort, product returns, and the resulting customer service attentions that are required. That’s why one of our manufacturing customers estimates that by putting a CPQ program in place, they’ll save two points of gross margin, thus paying for the CPQ improvements–and then some.
2. Account Planning
The economic environment today is fine in the United States, and more challenging in European markets. But the bottom line is that we’re no longer in the go-go 1990s era of Bill Clinton and unbridled market optimism. Accordingly, businesses now are focusing on getting more out of their current customers, rather than winning new accounts.
That’s why a top sales program project for 2013 will be ensuring that you have the right account planning capabilities in your SFA arsenal to map the value of accounts–meaning, what you think their revenue potential will be–as well as to build annual or periodic sales plans that achieve those objectives. Extensive research has shown that sales teams with a plan are much more likely to meet their sales targets.
3. Social CRM Meets Sales
For advanced practitioners of CRM, 2013 will be the year they take sales social. I say advanced, because many of our B2B customers, especially, have been through what I’d call the Gartner hype cycle for social CRM: Great excitement and hype, followed by unmet expectations and subsequent disillusionment. To summarize: “Facebook helped overthrow the Mubarek regime in Egypt, so surely it will help Acme Manufacturing sell more widgets?”
If you could subtract out the hype, social CRM is actually in a good spot on the business-payoff curve. It’s not overthrowing sales as we know it, but leading-edge practitioners are seeing steady results. Still, social CRM is an entirely new concept. Like the early days of the Web, it’s not clear how the concept can be best harvested for business returns, but it pays to find out–starting with telling your CEO to get social.
4. Sales Analytics
Finally, an emerging trend for 2013–which may not reach full bloom until the year’s end–is cloud-based sales analytics. As more and more businesses shift their SFA operations to the cloud, they’re finding that traditional approaches to reporting, analysis, and data warehousing aren’t keeping up.
In part, that’s because cloud CRM applications live in the moment. Say you create a sales forecast today. Over the next few weeks, you’ll no doubt revise the opportunities–qualify some out, create new ones. The forecast, naturally, will be updated as a result. But cloud CRM tools don’t typically save a historic view of that forecast; only a current one.
To compensate, some businesses dump their cloud CRM forecasts into Excel every week, but that’s not ideal. Say you’re Panasonic, trying to compare 52 weeks of billion-dollar forecasts. Not only is that going to be a lot of work, but even if you manage to keep up, the comparisons may not be accurate–we all know how challenging it can be to manually manipulate that amount of data.
As a result, many businesses are investigating cloud-based CRM analytics add-ons–from vendors such as Cloud9 and Domo–to accurately compare the state of their sales pipeline today with six weeks ago, or any other time in the past.
Get Planning For Business Results
The above isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of must-have CRM projects for every sales program. But many sales VPs have been telling us that they plan to pursue these types of projects come 2013, or else to put intermediary capabilities in place that will help them achieve these capabilities in the future.
On the planning front, one final note: Always focus on business outcomes, rather than technology. First, identify the next, best steps for your sales program, and then put the right implementation plan and technology in place to make it happen. Because small steps, not big leaps, are the most direct path to not just CRM project success, but achieving the business goals your plan must promise to deliver.
Want to know the next, best step for your CRM program? Innoveer’s CRM Excellence Framework has been built by distilling and benchmarking best practices from hundreds of organizations over 14 years, to help businesses identify which specific CRM program improvements will deliver the biggest benefits.