Six CRM best practices for sales managers

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

If there is one thing all sales people can agree upon, it’s that most companies have a poor CRM process. Fortunately, most of these challenges can be corrected by the sales managers, so I’ve decided to offer the six best practices that I’ve seen help companies fully utilize a CRM system.

1.    Don’t expect a CRM system to solve your sales problems. Many sales managers dream of the day their company decides to purchase a CRM system. With the vision of their sales people never missing a task, having one location to find all the information they need, and reporting that is pushed to them exactly when they need them, sales managers often expect a CRM system to solve all their problems. 

That’s the dream. Reality shows up six months after implementation as an unorganized database, unhappy sales force, and lower sales numbers. The benefits of a CRM system are many, but you’ve got to earn them. Expect slow adoption, pushback, and the need to hold the team accountable through the first 12 months.  A CRM system won’t solve your sales problems, but it can be a tool to help you solve the problems.

2.    Become the champion user. Most of the sales managers that have asked me to help with their CRM process don’t use the system for their activity. In fact, many of them don’t have accounts and have reports generated in the CRM and then exported to a spreadsheet. 

Like most other things, if you expect your sales people to do something, you’ve got to lead the effort by example.

3.    Remember what CRM stands for. Unfortunately, most managers use a CRM system to track incoming sales. Although a helpful part of the system, overseeing opportunities is not its most important benefit. CRM does not stand for Opportunity Management or Sales Manager Whipping Tool. CRM stands for Client Relationship Management. Build a process that fosters accurate forecasting, but also helps your sales people be more effective in building and nurturing their relationships with their customers and prospects.

4.    Commit 100 percent or 0 percent to integration. Integrating the CRM system into the rest of the organization can be daunting. Either do it 100 percent, or don’t do it at all. I see too many organizations try to build one fully integrated system for their business, and halfway into the project they realize that they bit off more than they can chew. So, they go half way and have a “sort of integrated” system—and that’s a mess. Either completely buy in or use your CRM as a stand-alone system. For the record, most of my readers’ companies can do just fine with their system being stand-alone.

5.    Get in the field. I could rephrase this best practice as—“Don’t sit in front of your CRM system all day.” As soon as the CRM system is in place, sales managers are tempted to lead from the ivory tower with all the data they think they need in front of them. Even if you really do have all the necessary data (btw, you don’t), get in the field. You belong in the field coaching your team and working with customers. 

6.    Use the CRM system to facilitate personal discussions. One of the ways I’ve seen a CRM system damage a culture of a sales team is when the sales manager uses the system’s information to drive an electronic conversation. When you find curious information in the CRM system, make a note and ask the sales person about it during your next one-on-one meeting or the next time you see them. Don’t become the manager that tries to lead via email using information found in a database. 

Chris Peterson is president of the Vector Firm, a leader in helping security companies improve their sales and digital marketing performance.