The official definition of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), according to Gartner’s Glossary, is “a business strategy that optimizes revenue and profitability while promoting customer satisfaction and loyalty. CRM technologies enable strategy, and identify and manage customer relationships, in person or virtually. CRM software provides functionality to companies in four segments: sales, marketing, customer service and digital commerce.

I had to read that definition a few times because CRM, to most sales people, is that place where they store their contacts, log activities (occasionally), keep track of their close dates, next steps, and store signed agreements. That’s about it. It has never truly added value to my life in a big and meaningful way. As an individual rep, I used it primarily to appease others (fill in this and update that so management can have visibility).

After doing some research, I can’t say I’m surprised by the fact that, on average, only 17.9% of a sales rep’s time is spent in CRM and sales reps explicitly call out CRM as their biggest frustration. But, why is that? The answer is simple:

Sales reps only want to spend their time on activities that create more opportunities, increase win rates, or shorten sales cycles (increase deal velocity).

Let’s break that statement down a bit, but through the lens of the CRM. How does CRM help individual sales reps:

 

  • Create More Opportunities (Build More Pipeline): Sure, Marketing Qualified Leads will be surfaced through CRM, but CRM didn’t help the rep do that. The rep’s marketing automation platform surfaced those insights because of the great work done by the marketing team. Now it’s up to the sales development rep to take that hot lead and attempt to begin a personalized conversation by engaging the prospect through omni-channel communications with a sales engagement tool like SalesLoft. Would these activities still have happened without CRM? Yes. 0 Points for CRM in this category.

 

  • Increase Win Rates: The only way to improve your win rate is to better control your sales cycle. A rep must sell the right solution, to the right problem, at the right time, and to the right group of people. As if that’s not hard enough, the rep has to do all of this while taking into account how that solution will impact others within the prospect’s organization, because if it impacts someone negatively that could kill the deal. I don’t see how CRM impacts any of these critical things in any possible way. Let’s face it, adding “Contact Roles” does nothing for a rep. 0 points for CRM in this category.

 

  • Shorten Sales Cycles (Increase Deal Velocity): How does CRM help a rep do any of this? The only thing CRM can do for a rep here is show a list of prior activities (calls, emails, meetings, etc.) and give the ability to set tasks for future activities. This almost made me laugh because nobody should be logging this stuff anymore. With tools like Chorus.ai or Gong.io, all of these activities are logged FOR the rep, including all emails and meetings that were in the rep’s calendar. Technically, a rep could use deal stages to see where he or she is at in the cycle, but there are so many tasks and milestones between stages that stages themselves are only truly meaningful in management reports.


There are many ways to shorten the sales cycle, but the most effective way of doing so, and doing so consistently, is to learn how to manage the timeline, activities, milestones, and stakeholders involved in any given cycle. This is called an evaluation plan. Without it, you’re flying fast and you’re flying blindly towards either a lost or slipped deal.  0 points for CRM here too.


Now, I’m sure there are some small CRMs out there, whose names I’ll never know, that are solving for some of these problems, but let’s face it: Mid-market and enterprise companies are using mainstream CRMs like Salesforce.com, SAP Sales Cloud, or Microsoft Dynamics because of the many other benefits that those providers deliver to their customers across every department.


These are all excellent CRMs, but none of them can provide the deal granularity required to help sales reps create more opportunities, increase win rates, or shorten sales cycles. That’s why it’s important to invest in tools for your sales organization that deliver value across all three of these areas, that also integrate with your mainstream CRM.

 

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