Turbo-Charge Your CRM Project for Success: Have a Process in Place

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How much of an impact can an emphasis on process have on your CRM implementation? Based on our studies. it can play a tremendous role.

As part of CSO Insights’ 2005 Sales Effectiveness study of more than 1,000 companies worldwide, we asked the project teams who had implemented a CRM system to assess the impact that the technology was having on their companies. Of the firms we surveyed, only 29 percent reported seeing significant improvements in operational performance as a result of their CRM investments (compared to 38. 1 percent achieving minor improvements, 19.2 percent achieving no improvements and 13.7 percent who did not know).

These low success numbers continue to frustrate end user firms, solution providers and industry watchers, alike. And the figures left us wondering: Is low success a universal truth, or are their other factors that could help make CRM more useful and valuable?

To begin to explore that question, we did an additional drill-down into the study data and surfaced several factors that can dramatically impact the success of a CRM initiative including: the specific vendor you choose; the use of a consulting firm to help with the implementation; the amount of money you spend on system training and support; and the issue I will explore in this article, the impact having formal a sales process has on the outcome of a CRM project.

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As part of the study, we categorized firms based on how formal their approach to selling was, from complete anarchy in sales (with each rep left to choose how to sell) to formally defined and measured. We then compared the outcomes of the impact technology was having based on this categorization. Consider the comparison of the results when we look at the study participants as a whole versus those firms with a defined sales process here in Figure 1.


Here, the first reaction is wow! The increase in the number of firms achieving significant results is noticeably higher. But is correlation the same as causation? To explore that question, we next looked for trends that might help us understand why the results might be better. In analyzing how salespeople were performing specific selling tasks, we uncovered a number of areas where reps working for companies with a structured sales process noticeably outperform their peers working for other companies. The following chart highlights six key areas where the delta in terms of number of firms rated as world-class or above average was at least 15 percent between the two groups.


I shared this chart with an executive for a financial services firm, who had transitioned her sales force over to a formal sales methodology two years ago. She noted that she was seeing improvements in her sales teams in all of these areas, and more. When I asked what caused the improvement, she made two observations.

First, she observed that when they started to get all of their salespeople selling the same way, and tracking that process via a CRM system, the flaws in the process became quickly clear. "When you have a hundred people doing the same thing, and it is the wrong thing, it comes screaming out at you," she said. "At that point, you know exactly what to fix."

Once the process has initially been "debugged," then CRM becomes a critical tool for helping reps implement those steps. For example, they could use their CRM data to determine which prospects match up to profiles of existing customers, so they can target their selling time toward those accounts; they could run reports to determine which customers would be most likely to buy a new offering based on the existing products or services they have already purchased; and they could tap into the sales knowledge database in CRM systems to see which features and benefits might be of most interest to a given prospect.

From our initial analysis, we are clearly seeing the blending of process and technology resulting in sales performance improvements that exceed the value of the tools being used individually. So for those firms implementing or considering CRM solutions, you would be well advised to bring process into your overall solution equation. Doing so could significantly increase the chances that your CRM initiative will be a success.

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