Why the Disciplined Use of CRM Matters Now More than Ever
Most organizations apply incredible discipline to their core business practices. For manufacturers, this usually centers on product development, production, distribution, supply management, financial accounting and other operational areas of focus.
Every day, every week, key leaders have a tight grasp on the elements of their operation that influence profitability and performance. They look to continuously improve their processes and apply disciplined quantitative analysis, production and performance meetings so that the minute something becomes out of tolerance or calibration they can correct it before everything comes off the rails.
In that vein, they focus on tracking inventory of everything from raw materials to finished goods. Warehouse stocking levels are coded at the bin level with specific units in each location controlled for every inventory move. Product being manufactured abroad is tracked for lead time, location, clearance of customs, receipt in the warehouse and ultimately down to unit allocations to end customers.
The same is true with the company’s financials. Leaders measure order volume, invoices issued, payments received vs. past due amounts, cash on hand, liabilities for unearned income, etc. It’s because of this disciplined approach, which is continuously improved and measured, that these operations become more efficient, effective and profitable.
Yet when it comes to Sales – from prospecting, to pipeline and account development, to closure and ultimately retention, most manufacturing companies fail to apply the same level of disciplined focus on key analytics, activities and processes which ultimately make sales teams more focused, targeted, and effective over time. Why the discrepancy?
Stop Viewing Sales as an Art.
Sales Is an essential job function that requires the same discipline and controls you apply everywhere else in your business. A common refrain is that the sales team views themselves as artists vs. engineers.
Sales isn’t a process, it’s a relationship where results happen because of intangible, sometimes mythical interpersonal qualities and because of personality, bonds formed with clients and in some cases ‘good fortune’ (luck). Now to be fair, personality, the ability to communicate and build a relationship with a client, and the ability to make interpersonal connections are useful and important traits. But they’re not the primary reason a salesperson is effective. Some of the best salespeople, especially with sophisticated products, come from engineering backgrounds.
Consistently high performing sales team members and teams are more like their engineering and manufacturing counterparts than they realize. The best individuals are adept at qualifying demand in or out at early stages to avoid losing time on low probability opportunities. They have a consistent, prescriptive approach when assessing client needs and identifying the value they (and the company) can provide. They lead the client through a process or journey that helps identify the appropriate offerings that the client can say yes to which still maximize profitability (and commission). Their process and approach, over time is remarkably consistent. They have key questions and methods they employ and have specific insights and indicators that matter to them.
They use key barometers or data points to measure probability and confidence. They identify competition early and consistently assess the influence of the parties they are speaking to accurately and early on in the sales process. They follow a consistent method to ensure they are focusing their time, attention and activities on the opportunities which they have the best chance of winning and which provide the best overall value (commission). While they may treat each client relationship as unique in terms of their interaction, mannerisms and formality of speech, the sales process and methodology they follow is generally far more prescriptive and repetitive than most would admit or even realize.
So why does this matter and why does CRM come into play? Won’t the introduction of a tool which tracks, measures and governs these sales processes get in the way of each individuals ‘style’ or ‘approach’. Short answer, no, not at all.
The better and more accurate answer though, is that when well-constructed and applied deliberately, CRM helps reinforce the key characteristics and progression of the sales process to make sure your entire sales team is focused on the common behaviors, tactics and steps needed to succeed. It also provides the only forward looking way to assess and forecast potential outcome in a way that allows your team to prioritize collectively where you should invest time, effort, activity and specialized or limited resources in order to influence that potential outcome.
CRM allows you to model the approach and best practices of your top performers and apply them to your entire customer facing organization – creating lift throughout the entire team.
If you want to start to leverage CRM in a more direct, prescribed way to drive change and results, where do you begin? Stay tuned for my next post: Six Keys to Driving Sales through the Disciplined Use of CRM