How CRM Increases Sales Productivity and Win Rates
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software brings data management, process automation and information reporting to salespeople.
But too many CRM applications are limited to salespeople manually entering sale opportunities so sales managers can get the sales forecast report. The forecast is important, but minor is comparison to what this application can achieve for the salesforce.
Using CRM software to capture data is near meaningless. Data has no value unless it produces a user, customer or business outcome. And the outcomes most important to salespeople are time savings and sales conversions.
A much better use of CRM software is to define, optimize and streamline repeatable sales processes to improve salesperson productivity and increase sale opportunity win rates.
System automation accelerates process cycles, reduces errors, increases efficiencies, lowers costs and supports scale. It allows sales staff to spend less time entering and fixing data, and more time using that data to qualify accounts, make go or no-go sales pursuit decisions, perform deeper discoveries, craft personalized value propositions, develop win plans and negotiate deals.
CRM apps such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365 are feature rich and flexible. There are a lot of sale automation capabilities. And as you may expect, some are more helpful than others. Below are seven of the most productive sales automation capabilities we routinely implement with clients.
The 7 Most Effective CRM Capabilities for Sales Reps
Good CRM dashboards deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. They focus on the most essential KPIs and are designed to prioritize information based on what's most important to each user. They display exactly what should be done, in a sequenced order, to aid time management, create a work rhythm cadence and maximize productivity.
Great CRM dashboards go further to shift information from being merely interesting to being actionable. They deliver data-driven and fact-based insights that answer key questions, help salespeople make better decisions and encourage action to lift performance. They include comparison points, such as industry benchmarks, to provide a relative ranking of what’s working and what needs improvement.
The best CRM dashboards permit real-time predictive modeling to show how changes in behaviors or actions impact business outcomes. They display forward looking analytics and show the financial impact of both action and inaction. It’s this level of reporting that shifts information visibility from hindsight to foresight. It’s also this level of reporting that connects sales metrics with prescriptive guidance, such as guided selling, best practice recommendations and links to Sales Playbooks.
Guided Sales Processes
As shown in the image below, CRM for sales reps applies Sales Process Guides that display a visual process flow at the top of account and sale opportunity forms. They define sales Stages and Steps. Each Stage can contain a series of steps that need to be completed. Each step shows what needs to be done and can be marked when complete. Some sales processes may enforce stage-gating which requires that certain steps be completed before other steps can begin.
Viewing sales processes in context of where they have been and where they are going is much more insightful than static records and acts as a proactive guide to make information more actionable.
Guided sales processes can replicate the actions of the top producers so that other sellers can achieve similar results. They focus on what needs to be done, avoid tasks that are distractions and provide prescriptive advice. They streamline and optimize sales processes.
Content Management Systems
More informed customers inquiring about more products or solutions, and especially sophisticated or complex solutions, can be a challenge and if not responded to timely, will delay sales cycles.
For sellers with complex products or a high number of SKUs, no salesperson can be knowledgeable on everything, so having on-demand access to product-based collaterals, specifications and fact sheets is helpful.
Some CRM systems have their own CMSs while others provide packaged integration to SharePoint. The best CRM systems dynamically display links to relevant information based on the customer type, demonstrated interest, position in the sales cycle or other context. These solutions deliver the right information at the right time to the people who need it.
Integrated Sales Methodologies
An area of significant differentiation among CRM systems is their ability to support strategic sales methodologies. Several CRM systems integrate sales methodologies with the activity and opportunity management records.
That's important as top producers avoid ad hoc or informal selling and apply strategic selling backed with a sales methodology. A sales methodology is a prescriptive but dynamic collection of sales tactics that systemically and predictably advance sale opportunities through the sales cycle and maximize the salesperson’s win rate. A methodology shifts your selling strategy from what you sell to how you sell.
Sales professionals that use sale methodologies always achieve higher sales win rates than those with informal sales methods.
On a similar note, CRM for sales reps includes predictable sales processes that further increase sales conversions. A predictable sales process defines the methods to advance sale opportunities through each step of the sales cycle. For example, it defines the probing questions to qualify a lead, the link between buyer pain and product benefits, the sales win plan, the negotiation techniques to preserve revenue, the incentives to get the deal closed and many other tactics to win competitive deals. A simple example is shown below.
The combination of a sales methodology and repeatable sales process integrated and automated with CRM technology can grow sales conversions by high single digits or low double digits, depending on the particular sale methodology and sales adoption discipline.
Sales Best Practices
Sales best practices are born from field research. They show what actions deliver results and which do not. They offer selling advice backed by industry specific benchmark data to show what the top producers do differently than their peers. When you learn from the sales leaders and repeat their actions pursuant to proven best practices you can scale your own success.
The best CRM software applications dynamically and contextually display best practices using workflow tools or the previously referenced Process Guides. The later approach aligns the best practices with defined sales steps or processes where they are most relevant.
CI capabilities vary greatly among CRM systems. Some offer simple competitor reviews in narrative text boxes while others categorize competitors by customer segment, competitor type (i.e., direct, indirect and specialty competitors), product categories and product SKUs.
They display competitor Fact sheets that show how your products compare and compete pursuant to specific criteria. Those criteria are normally the buyer decision-making measures and many of the comparative displays are side by side visual analysis.
Centrally managed CI eliminates the redundancy and inaccuracies of salespeople maintaining this information on their own and provides the entire sales force with the most up to date information available.
Some CRM systems also integrate win-loss history into the CI database. Many sales managers use this information to create competitive sales strategies which cater to the predicted behaviors of direct competitors or sometimes use the information to hire-away the most effective competitor staff.
AI aids and accelerates sales actions and decision making. AI algorithms suggest highly relevant and personalized Next Best Offer (NBO) recommendations or next best action based on sales cycle dynamics.
Salesforce Einstein is the most popular CRM AI tool and brings automation and information for many sales use cases. AI is the automation tool that shifts CRM data from historical to predictive and from hindsight to foresight.