By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Sujin J. at

crm-sales-processVirtually any company using CRM has either implemented generic pipeline milestones or ideally customized them to mesh with their sales processes. Some have taken a step further and have customized milestones for the different types of sales their sellers make. Once in place these milestones become road maps for monitoring the progress of opportunities that hopefully end with buyers making purchases. 

Management’s expectation is that sellers will report progress on these steps on a daily basis so pipeline information is current. Without CRM sellers usually provide updates either when asked to on an ad hoc basis or near month end so managers could finalize forecasts about what was going to close. 

Unquestionably CRM has provided more structure and allows managers at any time to assess the progress and status of opportunities in each seller’s pipeline. There are a few potential issues that companies may not have been considered and I’d like to bring them to your attention:

1. How many of your milestones are subjective? For these milestones you ultimately must rely upon the opinions of sellers under pressure to have pipelines that appear adequate to make their numbers. If a manager tells a seller that by next month he or she needs to get their pipeline up to $X, miraculously most sellers will find a way to get there. As you can imagine, there are no miracles in selling and most likely quality likely took a back seat to quantity in getting to the desired number.

2. Do some of your sellers lack the skills to achieve all milestones? As companies grow and staff up, members of their sales teams bring varied experience, backgrounds and skills. Few companies have given thought to ensuring that sellers have the requisite skills to achieve every milestone within their sales process. Selling problems can be due to skill deficiencies (can’t) or motivational/attitude issues (won’t). Managers can ask sellers to do things they can’t, but shouldn’t be surprised when results are poor.

3. How well do your sellers position offerings? I believe the biggest challenge B2B sellers face is how to make effective 30-minute calls on decision maker levels. There isn’t time for product pitches. If there were product pitches, executive levels won’t tolerate them. It will be important to uncover desired business outcomes and for sellers to discuss only the parts of their offerings that are relevant to achieving them.

CRM offers many advantages to companies. Those that do a better job of implementing them stand to realize the most benefit. Some ways to do that include:

  1. Finding ways to have achievement of milestones be based upon buyer actions
  2. Mapping the required selling skills to the achievement of each milestone
  3. Creating milestones for different types of transactions
  4. Helping sellers with sales ready messaging® for defined titles and business goals

Key: The full promise of technology can only be realized when companies support it with well-defined processes.