CRM for Sales in 2016: How to translate the tech-talk into results

by Jenna Sindle

Erica Pierson, Managing Director at Strategic Communications Group

If your sales career spans many years, you remember when “CRM” referred to a database, and perhaps a process. Today, CRM is an ecosystem that, when leveraged and managed effectively, can provide business intelligence that enables you to establish a digital relationship with your customers, deliver pipeline insight that makes your numbers more predictable, and make your sales process faster and more effective.

Or, the CRM ecosystem, comprised of multiple software decisions and implementations, analysis tools and on-demand training videos, can overwhelm your organization and your sales team.  If you feel like this might be happening to you, watch for signs:

Do you have more “bluebirds” than you did in the past?

Does your company find out about big opportunities only when the list of bidders is already defined?

When your marketing team asks you to describe the buying cycle, are you pulling the information from personal experience rather than a report?

Go to any technology vendor with one of these challenges and you will be exposed to an array of solutions that can solve them all, plus things you have not even had a chance to consider.

But if you want to succeed, you need tools that keep your reps focused on closing business.

Consider the top CRM trends identified for CIOs in 2016: Social media capabilities, must-have mobile, integrated solutions, vertical focus, predictive analytics…

Once you start digging into the number of vendors and available functionality in the space, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Or, worse, select a solution based on tech specs that do not really align with your business.

Before embracing a new CRM technology trend, the savvy sales executive should consider these three tips:


Identify your organization’s specific challenges

“Generate more revenue” is too general. Think about where you stand in the market vs. competitor sales teams. Are you struggling to identify the right prospects? Or do you know who to pursue, but have trouble getting in the door? Or are your appointment-setting statistics looking great, but your closure rate is dipping a little?

Pinpointing your specific challenges helps you identify your business need before you get into the tech talk. Potential focus areas include digital engagement, pipeline insight and sales effectiveness. Once you understand what is most important at the enterprise level, embracing the relevant technology trend gets easier.


Focus on the solutions that will move the needle today

Your CIO will be very interested in the future capabilities of your core CRM and any ancillary solutions. The data that can be processed, the product roadmap and the depth of the analytics engine.

For a technologist, these considerations are paramount.  As a sales executive, you need to think about what will work right now. Every minute you spend training reps on a new functionality is time away from selling.  Make sure that any trend you embrace has visible ROI not only for you to report up the chain, but for your sales team to appreciate.

If a mobile solution helps close deals, for instance, it will be embraced right away.


Start small and do it right

Although the buffet of trends sounds exciting – “CRM of Things,” anyone? – stay focused on the right balance between your business needs and the amount of process change your organization can absorb.  Introducing more social tools to an organization that has well established digital literacy can yield ROI very quickly.

But think carefully before investing in social channels for a team that has yet to activate individual LinkedIn profiles. If you stay focused on your organization’s specific challenges and moving the needle, small changes will be easier to adopt.

To get your team on board with any technology trend, make sure you communicate the change in advance, support the learning curve and, most of all, embrace the trend yourself.  

This article was contributed by Erica Pierson, former VP of Brand and Communications at Ellucian, former VP of Corporate Marketing at Hobsons and current Managing Director at Strategic Communications Group. Read more about Erica here