It’s interesting that the topic of poor CRM quality always comes up when someone publishes an article or study about Sales Operations. Since Sales Operations typically supports CRM, it’s easy to conclude Sales Operations needs to do something to “fix” it. Most recently, the 2nd Annual CSO Insights Sales Operations & Technology Study came out, and it stands out that out that only 34.0% of respondents said their sales organization is highly confident in their CRM data, and only 39.3% say their CRM system significantly improves the productivity of their salespeople.
The question is, is it really that Sales Operations management of CRM is not producing the value management expects? After all, isn’t CRM supposed to improve performance? To fix this problem, you must consider why management has the perception CRM is bad in the first place.
The way to address this seems to fly in the face of conventional sales management wisdom:
DON’T RELY ON FORECASTING TO JUDGE SALES TEAM PERFORMANCE!
Wait.. What? How can you properly judge sales performance if you aren’t looking at how well reps are forecasting to make their number? After all, as all sales managers know, what really matters is whether sellers make their Number at the end of the quarter! But it’s precisely because managers rely on forecast information that creates the misperceptions about CRM not adding value.
As a Sales Operations person I cringe when I hear about CRM problems from industry analysts and sales managers. Why? Because the real source of truth about CRM’s value lies not the information used to forecast opportunities, but what salespeople do as sales activities that determines whether they make their Number.
As we all know, CRM is the core technology virtually all sales teams use to manage opportunities and revenue. Managers have minimal confidence in CRM adding value to improve productivity because their perception is based on seller opportunity inputs in CRM.
But that is only half the story.
The CSO Insights study, even if inadvertently, shows why this is the case. In describing the issues around confidence in CRM, the study cites the example of poor sales forecasting as a key reason why there is such low confidence. The issue is that salespeople and managers are focused on a very specific subset of mostly subjective information input into CRM including inaccurate close dates, overly optimistic notes or comments about meetings or customer conversations, subjective judgements about the “probability” a deal will close and other details to judge opportunity quality. These CRM inputs don’t provide managers with insights about how sellers are going to perform. In our opinion, if you are relying on forecasts to improve your team, you probably don’t like what you see.
That is why we created Sales Performance Optimization as a new way to manage forecasts and improve revenue. When managers use forecasting and pipeline analysis to assess sales performance, they are looking at intended results. While revenue results certainly show whether sellers will make their revenue goals, they don’t explain why they obtained those results. Revenue is the outcome of an entire series of sales activities sellers do every day to manage their opportunities. It is the metrics around these sales activities that explain whether sellers are going to make their number and why.
Here is an analogy. If you want to be healthier, what do you do to improve your health? You can’t just say, “I want more health”! No; you do things like exercise, eat better, and many other activities that ultimately lead to better health. Better health is the outcome.
Likewise, you can’t just say, “I want more revenue” and expect it to materialize from your team. If you want your sellers to achieve better results they must do things better. What are these things? They’re sales activities, such as converting leads to opportunities, adding opportunities to the funnel, winning or losing deals, selling certain revenue deal sizes or closing a certain percentage of open opportunities on a monthly, quarterly, Year-to-date or 12-month rolling basis.
If you are in Sales Operations, you fully understand these Sales Activity Metrics. They are the basic measurable selling activities sellers perform every day. They exist because sellers simply create or update an opportunity in CRM. Sales metrics can be created directly from CRM whenever any basic activity occurs for an opportunity. (If you are using Salesforce, the application our aspiring start up has built generates all of this automatically.) But there’s more.
What if you could figure out some combination of these activities is most important for creating revenue and predicting how well a seller is going to do in the future to make their Number? If you could identify the most important activities and focus coaching and training on those activities, wouldn’t you see improvements? And what if you could set goals for each metric to measure each seller on how well they are doing to hit that level of activity performance, instead of waiting to see if they hit the forecast?
This is what Sales Performance Optimization is about. It uses real data, not subjective forecasting guesses made by reps about their deals, to help managers determine how to improve performance.
So, when sales management says, “I don’t believe our CRM is any good!”, you can point to the fact that forecasting and pipeline management are NOT the benchmark of whether CRM is good, bad or anything in between. In fact, tell your manager to quit using that subjective stuff and start using the facts!
If you want to find out how and why Sales Performance Optimization provides a new way to better judge sales performance along with using forecasts and pipeline, check out our Funnelocity application and our video below.
Also visit our listing on the Salesforce AppExchange at this link.