It wasn’t that long ago that salespeople feared that sales force automation (SFA) tools would result in the loss of their jobs. It sounds like a reasonable fear -- automation in other areas resulted in fewer people doing the same amount of work.

The difference here is that businesses want more top-line revenue out of their sales teams -- not just the same revenue at a lower labor cost. The challenge that sales managers had was convincing their sales people not to fear technology, but to embrace it.

This is an ongoing battle in the CRM space. In most cases, technology is not the problem. To be certain, many vendors are in desperate need of a UI overhaul to make their applications less daunting to new users, but the core technologies of CRM are fairly well established.

What we haven’t done is established ways to communicate to users the value those technologies bring to their businesses. And while I’ve heard managers talk about denying salespeople their commissions unless they use CRM for those closed sales, that’s not enough. There needs to be some carrots to accompany the sticks.

Technology is easy: it’s human behavior that’s hard to get a handle on. But there are ways to sell your sales team on CRM -- and like all sales efforts, it needs to hinge not on why CRM’s great for sales managers (the sellers, in this case), but on what’s in it for the sales staff. You need to treat them as customers if you want to gain their buy-in.

CRM Saves Time

The first step is to avoid talking about CRM as a tool for managers to monitor and manage sales. No customer wants to be told they’re being managed and monitored; in this case, the monitoring is being done by a supervisor who could use that information to critique, chastise or even fire the sales person. Why would you load a CRM system up with accurate data about your activities if you knew your supervisor was going to use it against you?

Don’t frame it that way if you’re a manager. CRM can’t be about you -- it needs to be about the user first.

Instead, lay out a user-based case for CRM. First, explain how CRM makes all the things sales people already do easier and, as a result faster. Without much effort, sales people become more productive.

If CRM allows a sales person to save 30 minutes a day, that means another call, or another appointment, or another 30 minutes of time for research. That’s more time selling and less time devoted to administrative tasks, and for competent sales people, that should translate directly into more sales and higher commissions.

CRM Streamlines Data

Next, talk about sales activities sales staff is forced to participate in, like forecasting. Without CRM (or without regular CRM usage), this is a headache for sales staff, who have to attack their own sales information in a manual way.

With CRM, all that work is done because of the data they’re entering into the CRM system on a daily basis. The work is made more efficient, and it’s spread across time instead of bunched up at the end of the quarter. The result is that forecasting becomes a much less onerous chore, and time is freed up at the end of the quarter for selling. Again, that translates into more selling time and, if the sales person is up to snuff, more sales and higher commissions.

CRM Aids Communication

Finally, talk about lead management. If your business is like most, sales and marketing have a somewhat adversarial relationship -- like the Turkish and Greek sides of Cyprus if you’re lucky, or like lions and hyenas on the African Savannah if you’re not.

CRM may not spur a summit to get on the same page around leads -- something every business could benefit from, but which few actually dare to attempt -- but it can smooth the transfer of leads and lead information from marketing to sales (and back if you’ve closed the loop on leads that turn out to be not yet ready to buy).

CRM can also take the information marketing is learning about prospects -- from behaviors in response to marketing activities to social media data marketing is collecting about those prospects -- and deliver it to sales in a convenient, ready-to-use format. Instead of the sales person having to do the research, it can be delivered to him or her, making more time for selling, and, in all likelihood, more sales and higher commissions.

Are you detecting a pattern here? There’s no discussion of visibility into the pipeline for managers, or about quota management, or about reporting. It’s all about the user: what’s in it for them, how it can make them more productive, and how that productivity adds up to more money in their pockets.

The great thing is that if the sales staff embraces this for their own selfish reasons, the by-product is better information, more accurate forecasting and better pipeline visibility for the managers as a result of more complete data being fed into the CRM application.

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