Salesforce.com is an incredibly successful CRM software company. But does Salesforce (or in fact any other CRM system) help you to improve win rate or to win business faster? A couple of recent experiences made me think hard about this question.
I was in a meeting with the Head of Sales at a Global Asset Manager for institutional and intermediary investors and asked him to show me how they use Salesforce.com. He proudly showed me the pipeline of opportunities by region, how they use another tool called Tableau to produce wonderful visual charts and how they can do a deep dive on an individual opportunity. But when I asked whether Salesforce had increased their win rate or reduced lost deals or slippage, his answer was no.
At a second prospect, I met the CEO of a company that makes Corporate Performance Management software. They use Microsoft Dynamics CRM, have all opportunities in the system and have built sophisticated reports using their own software which interfaces to Dynamics. But the CEO said that the conversion rate of leads to opportunities was unacceptably low, complained about deal slippage and that the sales process was far too long.
Make the technology about winning business
Salesforce Tower is the tallest building in San Francisco so maybe they have a reason for having their head in the clouds, but Sales Leaders need to get their feet firmly back on the ground and invest in technology in a way that helps sales people win business.
I was recently speaking to a world-leading German manufacturer of high-tech polymer materials for key industries who are about to invest in Salesforce.com. And who is involved in the system design? Sales leaders and IT. They are not asking the sales people what they need. I don’t believe they will get a return on their investment in the form of increased sales.
Customer Relationship Management is not about graphs
In fact, I very rarely come across a user of CRM that says that their sales KPIs have improved as a result of using a CRM tool. This is not good, particularly when you consider the massive sums of money spent annually in the form of recurring user licenses.
Where I think everyone does agree, is that CRM systems create visibility of your pipeline, the duration of the sales cycle and how long each opportunity is in each stage. And that is a great benefit particularly for sales leaders and controlling. It’s essentially a data storage and reporting system. But CRM alone is not enough if you want to improve KPIs like win rate, length of sales cycle or deal slippages.
So how can you turn it into something that helps sales people win business?
CRM + Sales Methodology
Winning business is all about building trust, so you need to enhance your CRM system with a sales methodology that goes beyond conventional concepts like opportunity stages, qualification criteria and Buying Center. Here are five things to include in your sales methodology to fulfil customer expectations of good salespeople. They help you build trust and become more relevant.
- Customers expect vendor salespeople to prepare meetings professionally. The methodology integrated into CRM needs to include an Appointment Planning tool that demonstrates your professional preparation.
- Customers expect you to ask smart questions. Include a database of role-specific questions to probe for needs and demonstrate your domain expertise. Make the questions easily accessible via the Appointment Planning tool.
- Customers want to feel well understood. Choose a sales methodology that creates value propositions tailored to each individual which can easily be exported into an email and used as a meeting follow-up.
- Customers expect salespeople to help them make an informed decision. A Mutually Agreed Action Plan which outlines vendor and customer activities helps them achieve that.
- Customers need to secure internal buy-in. A One-Pager which can easily be used by the customer to get internal buy-in from key stakeholders who you don’t have direct contact with.
If you integrate these concepts into your CRM system and establish a management process for pit-stopping opportunities, that’s how you actually increase sales. Which in turn will increase the adoption and value of CRM for the sales people who use it.
Real results from our customers
A global ERP company operating in a very competitive market was able to increase their win rate on deals above €500K from 10% to 21%. They use Salesforce, but have gone a step further to include many of the above concepts. Their aspiration is to stand out from the competition and make their sales approach a USP.
A processor of credit card transactions in the Middle East and Africa has enhanced the Salesforce system with customer-facing tools for Appointment Planning and developing a customer-internal Value Proposition. They are using this approach across the entire business to differentiate themselves from the competition and customers regularly complement them on their professionalism.
A US-headquartered telecoms company has, within the first 9 months, been able to increase win rate by 10% and the number of new enterprise accounts by 20% by going beyond using CRM just as a reporting tool.
Questions to ask yourself
- Does your sales force say that CRM helps them to win more sales?
- Is CRM perceived as sales administration?
- Do you feel that the RoI of CRM should be significantly better?