I was speaking with my friend Jan Visser of Sales Team Tools yesterday about why Client Relationship Management and Sales Force Automation developers can't get it right when it comes to selling. Sure, they place a lot of product. Many are making money. Many are quite proud of their product and their sales.
Yet, a great many of their product placements aren't particularly productive for the purchasing company. Certainly, this is not good for the developer or the company who spent millions to buy and install the product. Not news the product companies want anyone to hear.
For most development companies, the issue isn't primarily with their product. Nor is it primarily with the technical product training they provide. And it isn't with their ability to interest and sell senior management.
Certainly, as discussed yesterday, a fair amount of the issue lies with sales managers not being able to fully analyze and exploit the data. But, again, that isn't the primary issue.
Why these instillations aren't living up to their promise is more fundamental than product design, although with some products that is a serious problem. It is more fundamental than their ability to get a company to write a check, although that's the primary goal. And it's more fundamental than managers not being able to fully and effectively use the product, although that will also cost companies a tremendous amount of money in lost sales opportunities, lost market opportunities, and lost sales team improvement opportunities unless sales managers are properly trained.
The crux of why these applications aren't producing the promised results is simply because the most important aspect of the whole process isn't being addressed effectively.
Depending upon the product, companies have built in a great many benefits for various aspect of the organization. Some products make accounting and payroll's jobs much easier. Others are helping marketing. Some help track shipping and the plant floor's scheduling and planning. They all try to appeal to upper management's desire to maintain costs and expand sales.
These are all fine benefits and help the company-if the program can be relied upon.
But there is one crucial group left out the list above-the salespeople who must spend their time and their energy entering the initial and follow-up data. The CRM system doesn't generate the data alone. It needs someone to invest time and effort into feeding it. That someone is typically the salesperson of the account.
CRM and SFA companies spend a tremendous amount of time and money selling senior management on the benefits the company will realize. They invest heavily on the top level sale, yet mostly ignore the group of individuals that will ultimately make or break their product-the sales force.
Sales technology companies for the most part haven't answered the most critical question to make their product successful-the salesperson's legitimate question of "what's in it for me?"
Companies must have a more compelling answer to that question than just "do it."
The developer knows what's in it for them-a sale and a profit. The purchasing company knows what's in for them (or, at least they think they do), increased control of the sales process and increased sales. If it is designed to track sales compensation, the accounting and payroll departments know what's in it for them, an easier and more accurate payroll process.
Yet, no one gives the sales team an adequate reason to invest their time and effort into the process.
When told that the program will insure accurate commission checks, the sales team's response is, "sounds like a payroll problem to me, not my problem."
When told that it will insure timely delivery of product to their customers, the team's response is, "sounds like a scheduling problem to me, not my problem."
When told that is will improve the company's ability to identify and target highly specific prospects, the team's response is, "I know who my prospects are, sounds like a marketing problem to me, not my problem."
The message being sent is that the company is asking the salespeople to invest their time that they could be using to bring in new sales (read new commissions) to solve the problems of other departments with no return for themselves.
This isn't to say that salespeople aren't interested in accurate commission checks (any manager who has been around a salesperson who received a short check knows their reaction to that), on time shipping, or having detailed information on who exactly has been identified as having the prime prospect profile. They are very interested in these things. But these aren't enough. There has to be something of material value to them.
If the product developers want their products to have the success the product is capable of, and if the purchasing companies want to get full value out of their investment, the question of "what's in it for me" from the salespeople must be answered and it must be answered with a real, tangible benefit for the salesperson. If the most critical individual in the process doesn't see why they should invest their effort into the process, what would one expect other than resistance?
As Jan put it yesterday, at this point the selling of CRM and SFA products is a supply sale, not a demand sale. Salespeople aren't demanding their company purchase; rather developers are selling the concept to upper management. Until salespeople realize real benefits, their won't a rush by companies to purchase because their salespeople are demanding the technology.
The Management Curve is a blog dedicated to discussion and debate about the impact sales metrics programs such as CRM, Sales Performance Management and Sales Force Automation Programs are having and will have on how the sales function is managed. Hosted by Paul McCord, the blog also features articles and commentary by other sales trainers, consultants, product developers, and the sales managers and salespeople who actually use the products.