Selling Microsoft

How To Avoid an Epic CRM Fail

By adding the element of planning with CRM applications, sales leadership will have a much-needed higher degree of implementation success.

Last time, I looked at all the ways that customer relationship management (CRM) systems fail, and how the gap between senior management's expectations and a CRM system's actual results is very hard on a sales manager's career. This month, I'll continue with best practices for designing a CRM implementation that helps top- and even average-performing salespeople exceed company goals. The mission-critical element is planning.

We do believe that CRM applications can assist sales management in achieving the right culture. But most sales managers are promoted to their positions with no training, limited exposure to successful sales management and limited opportunities to be mentored. They rely on limited experience and they simply do not know how to use these applications effectively.

The element most often overlooked by new and even experienced sales managers is understanding their individual team members' personal goals, skill-development requirements and business-development needs. Sales management must focus on building individual salesperson creativity, helping their salespeople develop territory or account business plans and setting standards of achievement. By adding process and commitment, sales management invokes each salesperson's personal commitment, accountability and emotional buy-in to achievement.

The role of sales management is to create a culture in which salespeople feel free to carefully establish strategic and tactical objectives that directly impact their own success. This belief that they have created their plan for their own territory and accounts heralds an environment that fosters self-managed sales teams.

By adding the element of planning with CRM applications, sales leadership will have a much-needed higher degree of implementation success. When salespeople believe they're personally accountable for achievement based on their mutually agreed upon plan, they then view CRM as a tool to achieve their plan rather than a product that sales management uses to track their activity.

What's truly required as a long-term solution is for companies to implement effective personal- and business-planning systems. These types of commitment systems will aid the salesperson in more effective execution, and also provide a process or system for the sales manager to effectively coach, mentor and manage members of the sales team.

An online sales management system -- versus a salesperson/pipeline view of CRM -- enables a quick and easy way to review the effectiveness of previous tactics against the strategic plan. It also makes it easy for salespeople to refine their plans each quarter or whenever factors like new or discontinued products require revisions. An easy process for refining salesperson business plans ensures that longer-term forecasts will be more credible, sales professionalism will increase and, most important, sales activities will be more proactively designed.

Proactive planning by salespeople of their own sales and marketing programs, activity goals, and personal objectives for their own general business territory or named accounts changes the landscape of sales management. The entire sales team becomes energized as they view their teammates' plans, strategies and tactics and as they watch their individual achievement grow. The quarterly review of plans and actual accomplishments in a group setting becomes a tremendous training program for management as well as for each salesperson.

Sales management requirements must be addressed in CRM systems. Sales management is more than pipeline management; it's creating the environment for success. Acumen Management Group calls this process the Optimization Theory of Sales Management, which aligns the soul of the person with the goals of the corporation. Successful sales management must focus on all aspects of organizational and personal development -- and it's time that CRM systems provide these tools to assist sales management.

Next Time: Creating a Sales Process Map

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About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com.

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