Sales Performance: A Smaller Slice of the CRM Pie

In all my years as an editor at CRM magazine, I always found the following point interesting, and undermining at the same time: Does a CRM system really help make the customer happier? Think about it, that’s really the entire goal of all this, isn’t it? And for the longest time, the answer to that question would have unfortunately been “no,” and for good reason.

That, I can confidently say, is no longer the situation. There’s been a refocus in recent years by vendors on usability, efficiency, and making CRM software that’s simply easier to use, both for service reps and customers alike. For example, one of the reasons customer experience management (CEM) has become a hot buzzword within the industry is because of the refocus by vendors on creating software that allow sales, marketing, and customer service to do a better job of servicing their clientele in a faster and more efficient manner. Many of the Web 2.0 functionality now being embedded in these solutions are representative of that.

I bring this up because I just received a copy of CSO Insight’s 2008 Sales Performance Optimization report. I’m familiar with their work from my days being an editor, and for those of you in sales that aren’t, you probably should be, as I’ve always found their work top notch. That said, read this excerpt from the report, which speaks exactly to the aforementioned trend, but within SFA:

“Of the four levers [that are improving sales performance], technology is showing the most improvement this year. The percentage of firms implementing CRM, levels of user satisfaction, and rates of user adoption are all up. This technology ROI is allowing reps to do more faster…but what about increasing effectiveness?”

But as the report alludes to in the final sentence, there still remains a “yawning gap” in the area between the knowledge that an SFA solution provides a sales rep and their ability to actually do their job better. After all, if a sales rep has to spend all their time managing their CRM system instead of actually selling, what’s the point? Such is the results, according to the report:

“You will see that effectiveness measures remain essentially flat. Average deal size increased only slightly and not uniformly across all industries. Conversion rates on qualified leads to first calls, initial discussions leading to presentations, hit rates on presentations and proposals that eventually close all are similar to last year.”

In the larger context of CRM, it’s no different. So while we (the vendors) have come a long way since the technology bust at the turn of the century in developing CRM software that increases usability and efficiency, we still have a ways to go. Only time will tell how that plays out, but now we’re certainly on the right track. Thoughts?

If we do, we could start seeing CRM become more responsible for situations like this, which after all, is really the whole objective:

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