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There are a number of things that we can do to make sure that our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is a great, salesperson-friendly resource, one that’s embraced by everyone on our team… as opposed to something that people dread using.  Here are five simple tips that can help sales leaders in virtually any industry make that transition a reality.

1.  Declutter.  A key priority is to ensure that your CRM is tracking what you need, not what others want.  What does that mean?  Oftentimes, when a CRM is implemented in an organization, we as sales leaders have a fairly short list of must-haves… and then the committees start to weigh in, and people from other departments get involved.  Somehow, that must-have list then triples in size to add a lot of "nice-to-haves" that we as sales leaders had nothing to do with. The problem with this approach is that the information the committee requested is sometimes hardly used at all, but it still requires salespeople to spend massive amounts of time filling in the information – sometimes three or four times as much effort. And salespeople usually don't see or understand how what they’re being asked for fits into the overall business.  Therefore, they resist.  So, push back on the committees whenever it is possible and appropriate to do so. Declutter the CRM!  Track only those things that are vitally important. If the committee wants to make a strong argument for including something, you can add that once you agree that there really is a clear business case to be made. At that point, you can share that business case in one-on-one and team discussions with your team, so they know why you need the information.

2.  Align the CRM with your sales process.  I’m shocked at how few organizations have a printed sales process. I’m even more shocked when organizations go to the trouble of writing down their sales process, and then set up a CRM that is incongruent with that process! The sales process is set up by the sales group, and the CRM is set up by the technology or sales enablement group to support that process. Sometimes there’s a real disconnect. The sales process must be mirrored in the CRM. When salespeople are measuring data that has nothing to do with closing a sale, it's easy for them to conclude that the information they’re being asked for isn't really being used, and that collecting and entering it is a waste of their time.

3.  Use the CRM in everyday life, not just as a compliance tool.  Start using the CRM in your debrief sessions and your funnel management discussions. In fact, you should be using and referring back to the CRM tool as often as possible when speaking with your salespeople.  Sales leaders who use the CRM solely as a compliance tool inevitably find themselves in an age-old quandary: What will make the salespeople use this? Some leaders may even think: What if I just don’t pay their commission until they use it? That’s not the approach you want to take. Not wanting to use the tool is often a symptom of a larger problem: either they don't see any value in the tool, or you’re not using the tool for anything other than “gotcha.” Either way, why would they feel like putting in the time and energy to populate it with information? Salespeople tend to think that their value add to the organization lies in the information stored in their head. Therefore, they may assume that they are seen as most valuable to the organization when they keep all that information to themselves.  That short-sighted thinking is reinforced when we as leaders do not use the CRM in our day-to-day discussions with salespeople.

4.  Make sure your CRM is linked to content that salespeople want and will use regularly.  If you're planning to use the CRM as your single source of truth about what is happening in current opportunities, then if must provide additional value to each individual in your sales organization. That means you want to make it easy for salespeople to get relevant information from the CRM. You don’t want them to have to jump to a learning management system or a sales enablement tool to find the relevant resources.  For instance, there could be links in the CRM that show salespeople how to do a collaborative pre-call plan for a team sale. You can also provide links to playbooks and other relevant information that salespeople use regularly, including sales process documentation. Bottom line: The fewer places salespeople have to go to get what they need, the higher the perceived value of the tool in question.

5.  Ensure that the CRM focuses on exit criteria. Your sales process breaks down the sale into different stages. Your exit criteria identify exactly what needs to happen for a salesperson to move an opportunity from one stage of the process to the next. If you have not yet identified the exit criteria for each stage of your sales cycle, it’s time to do that. Everyone on the team needs to know what the exit criteria are… and every time the CRM moves an opportunity from one stage to the next, it should be because the salesperson has demonstrated that the exit criteria for the previous stage have been fulfilled. This is how we manage the business here at Sandler.  We don't allow salespeople to move from one stage to another in the CRM until the exit criteria have been fulfilled! The key to making this work is listing only essential, non-negotiable items as your exit criteria. Don’t overwhelm the CRM (or the members of the sales team) with 50 or 60 items. That’s overkill. Keep your list of exit criteria simple, focused, and easy to remember. This will help salespeople to be self-sufficient: they will understand exactly what is needed to progress. The CRM will also help them get better at asking for the right information and the appropriate next steps on sales calls. Last but certainly not least, focusing on exit criteria will accelerate your team’s deal velocity. Coach your team members on the criteria at the same time you are coaching them on how to use the CRM!

Follow these five steps, and you’ll transform your team… by making your CRM a salesperson-friendly tool that team members use! Read this blog post to learn more.  

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