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Denise Holland What To Do When Your SFA Software is Broken

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 By Denise Holland

Over the years, as both a user and a maker of customer relationship management (CRM) systems, I’ve developed a not-all-that-common perspective which is simply the result of years of eating my own cooking. I’ve seen many of the dynamics of the sales management and sales person relationship, as well as the customer and vendor relationship from both sides. This gives me a broader and balanced perspective on what makes for good CRM software and strategy. And it gives me that same broad perspective on why sales force automation (SFA) implementations fail—why they break—and what to do about it.

When I say “broken SFA” I mean only one thing: SFA software that does not deliver the projected return on investment. That may manifest itself in a number of ways: intolerable cost of ownership, poor user adoption by the sales force, low impact from productivity gains achieved or duplication of effort not reduced. No matter: when I talk “broken” I mean broken at the bottom line.

With the certainty of oversimplifying, when I think of fixing broken SFA software systems, there are two moving parts to review:

1. The vendor’s SFA software, and

2. The company's planning and execution.

Sometimes it’s the SFA software. If you bought CRM or SFA software that has a low fit for your sales processes or simply is not well supported by your vendor, perform a new and more comprehensive SFA search and replace it. Problem (painfully) solved.

But most of the time, the SFA software performs as promised (even if it doesn’t deliver, that doesn’t imply its necessarily broken). I wish I could tell you differently, but most of the time SFA systems are broken because the planning and execution processes are broken.

And more often than not it breaks at the start of the process: at the goals analysis stage. Too often, SFA or CRM buyers focus on the vendors software features list, instead of their own real requirements. An enterprise software vendor may demonstrate productivity gains, such as on average, “reducing non-selling time by 15% for the sales force", or possibly achieving “20% in call duration reduction” for the call center. Great. But do you have the proposed business processes or a call profile that supports these reductions? If you achieve these reductions will they have a meaningful, measurable and sustained financial impact? Those are the questions to ask before you add “more selling time” or “call duration reduction” to your software selection decision making criteria.

In most situations where CRM or SFA software is broken, it traces back to incomplete objectives. And it’s here where you start your repairs. What you want from your CRM system has to be reexamined and more precisely defined.

  1. Start with the basic question: where do we expect CRM to deliver the greatest impact to the bottom line? It may be in increased time spent selling or decreased call duration. It may be in the automation of laborious sales team activities or in real-time information delivery. In may be in increased up-sell or cross-sell orders. Whatever it may be, the process begins with definitive and measurable requirements.

  2. Establish realistic, financial goals for each of those points of impact. Before you add “better visibility to a more accurate and timely sales forecast” or “reduce the number of stalled incidents” to your requirements list, make sure you know how that forecasts into dollars and cents.

  3. Quantify it. You may want to see a 20% decrease in overtime through faster call resolution. If so say so. You may want to reduce the cost of email broadcasts from 65¢ to 53¢. Say so, and be specific.

  4. Now bring your current SFA or CRM vendor in and ask them to tell you, specifically, and then show you how they can achieve those goals.

Satisfied with the new direction? Everybody on the same page? Then move forward. If not, it might be time to look around for an alternative.

My prescription for repairing broken CRM software is neither novel nor difficult. But it is nonetheless effective for many organizations. The problem with most CRM implementations is poor goals analysis, poor planning and focus. It’s often the company that must look in the mirror to prescribe the correct fix. The result can be worth the introspection and effort: an SFA or CRM system based on the right financial objectives, delivering measurable results and achieving the right goals for your sales team, marketers or call center. End

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An enterprise software vendor may boast productivity gains, such as on average, “reducing non-selling time by 15% for the sales force", or possibly achieving “20% in call duration reduction” for the call center. Great. But do you have the matching business processes or a call profile that supports these reductions?

 

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