Do CRMs fail us? Or do we fail CRMs?

Are you looking to invest in a new CRM system and you’re concerned about whether or not it’s worth it? Or maybe you’re struggling with the one you already have. Don’t worry – your concerns are justified. Plenty of others are having the same challenges. But, according to a new study, there is hope.

The Sales Operations Optimization Study recently released by CSO Insights – the research arm of sales consulting giant Miller Heiman – looked at 300 companies of all sizes to determine the effectiveness of their sales operations. Here’s what I learned from reading the study.

Having a “sales team” today is not enough.

Today’s growing company needs a “sales operation” that includes not just sales people but administrative support and management. According to the study, it’s a “strategic function designed to provide a platform for sales productivity and performance by providing integrated methods, processes, tools, technologies and analytics for the entire sales force and senior executives.” In English: your sales people can’t do it all. They need a team.

Unfortunately, most smaller companies still don’t have a sales operation.

The study found that most companies (about 64%) have a sales operation in place and the number is as much as 80 percent for companies with more than $250 million in revenues. But only 37.3% of smaller companies – those with less than $10 million in revenues – had a sales operation. Companies that provide more support and supervision to their sales people simply close more deals.

Sales and marketing continue to have a disconnect.

74% of organizations say that sales and marketing people in their companies still do not share a common definition of a lead.

We suck at forecasting.

Almost half of respondents (45.7%) used a “subjective or casual approach” to forecasting. It’s not as if this isn’t a known problem. In fact, most companies surveyed agreed that improving their sales forecasting is one of their top three activities that needs improvement in the next two years. Unfortunately, it just seems like we continue to exercise the same bad habits: too much subjectivity, relying on the salesperson’s anecdotal evidence, lack of investigation from management, bad data and a tendency to look back instead of forward. The good news is that when companies do implement a more formal forecasting process their results get better.

We also suck with our CRM systems.

Although almost all the participants said they had a CRM system, 32% of them admitted that their systems are less than three-quarters adopted. Only 24.9% of users said they have high confidence in their CRM system’s data and only 25.2% said their CRM actually enhanced their productivity.

But there’s good news for CRM.

When companies adopted at least 75% of their CRM system’s capabilities and combined the system with a formal sales process there was “notable improvement in win rates and quota attainment.”

So what’s the takeaway? Like life, you get out of things what you put into them. If you’re implementing a CRM system and expect, with a snap of your fingers, to see great results immediately you’re going to be disappointed. To succeed, today’s CRM systems need to be an integral part of a sales operation and supported by formal processes and a sound forecasting methodology. Otherwise, why invest in a powerful tool if you’re not willing to put the appropriate resources behind it, right?

Every company in every business sphere must make its own choice depending on its business strategy, marketing goals, and brand positioning. The choice is not about picking one of the two, but rather about finding the right solution that will provide the best results for your business. Besides, a mobile strategy can reasonably include both a mobile website and an app.


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