By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®
Applying Technology without Process
Today, numerous salesforce automation (SFA) vendors offer tremendous functionality. Buyers even have a choice of implementing the software on premise or choosing hosted applications, which can dramatically reduce implementation times and total cost of ownership.
Still, a barrier to realizing the full benefit of SFA has been that technology works best when applied to a repeatable process, and most sales organizations have been unable to codify how they sell. Salespeople individually determine how to make calls and are the primary source of input to an SFA system. As you might expect, the data entered describing outcomes of sales calls is often subjective and inconsistent.
As an example to show how technology is not a process but a way of automating a process, consider a manufacturing company not meeting production targets. To reduce parts shortages, executive management decides to implement ERP software. But, unbeknownst to them, the Bills of Materials (lists of component part numbers and quantities for each product) used by procurement differs from how their products are actually built on the shop floor.
With a flawed process, introducing automation will merely “speed up the mess”—not solve the problem of increasing production.
Standardizing the selling process to better define the outcomes of sales calls is a necessary component to maximize the benefits achieved with SFA. CustomerCentric Selling® (CCS™) provides a process to influence the words sales people use during sales calls.
Combining CRM with Sales Process
SFA has held the promise of helping salespeople make better calls and for companies to do a better job in managing sales pipelines. Yet, after disappointing results, some have concluded the weak link to their systems is subjective input from salespeople in interpreting the outcomes of sales calls.
Regardless of the SFA software chosen, one of the major challenges as relates to establishing and enforcing best practices, improving the quality of sales calls and better pipeline management is the reliance upon subjective opinions from salespeople. Implementing sales process enables managers to edit the input for more objectivity. This leads to more reliable output upon which to base conclusions for best practices.
Companies that have implemented SFA or CRM applications have learned there are no magic bullets. In sharp contrast to the mid 90’s, the recent business environment has supported much less “knee-jerk” buying. As with any software, the major challenges in achieving the desired benefits are:
1. Having a defined sales process to automate
2. Customizing the application to fit your environment
3. Ensuring users adopt it
Taking SFA to the Next Level
Combining SFA with a defined sales methodology not only ensures sharing and enforcement of best practices, but can also generate competitive advantage within a marketplace.If an offering is perceived as being a commodity, the better salesperson will usually prevail. Even for offerings that are not bought as commodities, the seller exerts significant influence on the buyer’s ultimate decision. The challenge for organizations is to leverage their technology investment to best influence the quality of the calls the majority of their salespeople make. Most senior executives would welcome an opportunity to clone their top sales performers.