Bad things happen when sales reps ignore all of the insights their organization’s marketers place in the CRM system. From management not being able to discern how pipeline strength correlates to sales activity to them simply focusing on closed deals, erasing CRM’s impact on the sales cycle has consequences. In this post, we will explore why CRM misuse occurs, what the consequences are and what marketers can do about this issue.
First, a CRM Tale of Woe
Many years ago, I worked for a firm with more than $100 million in annual revenue. There, the worldwide sales VP refused to review the pipeline and sales forecast from the CRM system in the weekly sales call with his regional management. Instead, he had Excel spreadsheets his staff maintained for him. I urged him to use the beautiful reports and graphs in the CRM system, to no avail.
He didn’t believe the data. It’s a catch-22.
The problem with leaders not using the system and positioning the data as the single source of truth is that it forgives the teams from having to enter data into the system, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The result is sales reps don’t add opportunities until the leads were much more advanced, at Stage 5 or 6, and thus avoided any management scrutiny over their nascent deals. Sales management gave them kudos for bringing in bluebirds (unanticipated deals), and the reps got the data in the system just in time to ensure they get their commissions.
Consequences of Underutilizing the CRM
The outcomes for marketers and organizations of management allowing sales reps to largely operate outside the CRM are:
- No visibility into the early sales pipeline.
- Management focuses entirely on the incipient closed deals.
- Marketing cannot differentiate between contacts who are in a purchase cycle from those who are window-shopping.
- Sales management cannot connect sales activity to pipeline strength.
- Marketing operations does not get feedback on successful campaigns until late in the buyer journey.
- Sales reps use the system largely to ensure they get commissions
- Sales reps might put activity (calls, meetings, tasks) in the CRM to ensure they drive a perception that they are busy, but might still not add opportunities until the last moment, and otherwise don’t use the system.
- Sales reps fail to take advantage of all of the recorded digital interactions prospects have had and are dutifully reporting the lead/contact record.
Running a business effectively requires the earliest visibility possible into the sales pipeline. It enables sales management to quickly see if new reps are working out, marketing analytics can pinpoint which programs are sourcing the best leads, what campaigns are moving leads along the funnel, which products are hot, which regions are soft, which reps need more training, etc. So, allowing the reps to not use the CRM until opportunities are well-advanced has many downsides.
The CRM system is the basis for tracking and enabling sales workflows in the same way a marketing automation platform enables marketing workflows. Prospects have workflows, too, as part of their buyer journey.
These three workflows are interconnected. Prospects interact with marketing content and online properties. Sales interacts with prospects via email and telephone calls. And marketing can interact with the sales workflow by providing visibility to the prospects’ digital interactions and helping move prospects along their buyer journey. Marketing does this by varying how they market to prospects based on their opportunity stage, for instance.
If CRM is lightly used by sales reps, they break the connection of these three workflows, and run the risk of marketing and sales looking uncoordinated in their communications to prospects and lowering productivity of both organizations, resulting in poor customer experiences.
Steps to get Sales Reps Fully Utilizing CRM
- Ensure they understand the value to them (WIIFM)
- Add more value to the CRM system. For example:
- Enrich the contact/account data
- Add plugins, like LinkedIn
- Route new leads only through CRM
- Enable sales reps to opt “not-ready” prospects into specific nurturing campaigns
- Enable salespeople to send trackable emails through the CRM
- Provide beautiful HTML trackable email templates for specific content
- Get sales management to agree that ALL pipeline reviews at all levels of sales management will be conducted using CRM reports, not Excel or another tool.
- Create reports that highlight the biggest users and the biggest non-users of the system
- Create reports on most recent and least recent contact/account updates by owner
When marketing and sales coordinate on communications with prospects and customers, magic can happen. When sales breaks that chain of communication by failing to fully utilize the CRM system, they isolate marketing from pipeline generation success metrics and ignore the digital body language of the people they are most hoping to impress — prospective customers.