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I speak with security salespeople and sales managers regularly to understand their pain points and figure out how sales management software can help. One frequent complaint I hear is that some salespeople are not often overly enthused when it comes to using their company’s CRM. This leaves sales leaders and executives frustrated with the lack of transparency and communication coming from their salespeople, and for their investment in tools that can help! Conversely, salespeople are sick of hearing their managers nag them to spend time entering and updating CRM data that they feel is a waste of time.

What’s the problem here? It could be that the salespeople don’t understand what’s in it for them. Perhaps management has unrealistic expectations of how much information needs to be shared. Maybe the CRM needs to be configured so that it’s easier to use and provides more meaningful data. And – just maybe – it’s a combination of these factors. Here’s what I tell our clients.

Start with the Basics

No matter what sort of security sales you’re in – residential or commercial, small projects or enterprise scale – there is certain information that MUST be entered for each opportunity or sale. It’s the basics – the customer name, site address, contact’s name, address, phone, email – the stuff you need in order to set an appointment and remain in contact throughout the sales process. Your CRM should be set up so that sales information only needs to be entered once, whether it’s done by the salesperson or a supporting team member. Why should salespeople care? Because having qualified leads in a centralized tool saves them time, keeps them focused on next steps, and everyone on the same page with little effort. When only a few fields are required for this initial entry, it is no harder to enter into the CRM than to put it in an Outlook calendar; however, the CRM ultimately delivers much more value. In fact, in many cases, Outlook can sync with your CRM, so it just makes sense to put sales information in the right place and be done with it.

CRM for Short Sales Cycles

If you’ve  got a short sales cycle, like residential alarm and small business sales, then there’s not a whole lot more information that absolutely must to go into the CRM. Depending on the sale, salespeople may enter a few notes, product or service interests but, most likely the gear shift in this sales cycle is quick: a lead becomes an appointment, and at the appointment, you either create a quote and close the sale, or lose it.

At this point, salespeople have little interest in entering any more data about the sale into the CRM. They’re thinking “what’s the point?”

Well, there is a point to at least recording if the sale was won or lost. If won, the process may be automated, which makes salespeople happy. If lost, knowing when and why can be very helpful into the future. Salespeople are very aware of their wins – they’re getting paid for them, they feel good – but they, and the organization, can only improve and learn from losses if they keep track of them. One great prospecting activity is to revisit losses. If you know why it was a loss, you may find reason for a call back in the future to create a win.

When a CRM keeps track of appointments, stages, wins and losses, then it’s easy to see trend data. How many leads are being entered on a monthly basis, and from them, how many appointments are being set? How many closed? How much time do various sales take? How many were lost and why? Which markets are we strongest in? Month over month, you can begin to see trends based on collected data. Are there times when volume has increased or decreased? Have close ratios remained steady? Those are meaningful stats not only to leadership but, more importantly, to salespeople! Without this data being recorded, or being recorded centrally, you have no chance to fully prove your value, or to grow professionally.

It is my experience that when salespeople are willing to enter just a few data points consistently, they begin to realize great “ROI”. Providing simple drop-down menu selections that require just a click are the way to go. Meaningful data fields may include: Type of Sale, Market vertical, Prospecting Activity, Self or Company generated, product and service selections. If a salesperson’s commissions are calculated differently depending on any of these factors, there’s good motivation for them to click and record this data. We’re talking about only a few seconds! The company wins as well, with a better understanding of sales data, which leads convert to sales, who are the leading sales people, who closes fastest, which office generates the highest gross profit, sales, or RMR. With this kind of information, it’s much easier to fine tune sales behaviors, and adjust or target sales and marketing strategies accordingly.

 CRM for Longer Lead Cycles

For longer sales cycles, like large commercial security integration projects, the basics still stand. Customer and contact information must be entered. Again, these few basic fields are necessary. For longer sales cycles, like large commercial security integration projects, the basics still stand. Customer and contact information must be entered. Again, these few basic fields are necessary. 

Because the sales cycle tends to be longer and more complex, with additional intermittent sales process steps, salespeople tend to understand that recording more information specific to the sales opportunity is helpful to them. Salespeople are “multi-taskers” by default. They have multiple sales in various stages happening simultaneously, and like that energy. A centralized tool helps them to stay on track with each sale. One of my teammates calls our CRM her “virtual sales assistant”. I love that – this helps me to understand the value she receives and generates in using the tool.

As leads move down to the narrow neck of the pipeline, converting into a quoting opportunity, you want salespeople to progressively share more and more information about the opportunity and how they are developing it to win. Not only does this help track what’s going on with that sale, this practice helps to reinforce the strategies deployed in the sales process – what’s working, what’s not.

With longer sales cycles and more complex sales, there are often multiple sales calls, meetings with various stakeholders, site walk-throughs, pricing from various subcontractors and suppliers. All of this is valid information to centralize in the tool. Once it’s time to create an estimate, there still may be a need for even more meetings and process steps before a proposal is presented, or revisions to include and track. 

To keep sales teams on board, sales leaders need to do two things: 

  1. They need to keep up the “benefits” conversations and reinforce the positives. Review valuable information – like how much is in each stage of the pipeline. Provide positive reinforcement for the data that’s being shared and offer coaching on how to move opportunities into next stages. And, show them how they can leverage the CRM tool in other ways, like to schedule time with the sales leader (reverse thinking!) and automate commission calculations.
  2. Maintain the CRM tool, keep up with updates, configure it to be super easy for use through the sales process.

Why is Using the CRM Good for Salespeople?

What’s in it for them? When you’re dealing with longer, drawn-out sales, many different things have to happen at each sales stage. Often, there are multiple people within your own team providing assistance. Keeping the entire team aware of project status, next steps, notes and details makes it easier for them to assist with whatever needs doing – whether that’s completing sales estimating, reviewing pricing, making phone calls, researching parts or negotiating special vendor pricing. It also allows planning and allocation of resources based on what is coming down the pipeline and is in the sales forecast. The salesperson gains the backing of an entire team, and if workflows are structured well, they don’t even have to ask for help. It happens automatically.

I often hear from salespeople and sales leaders that they want or need better reporting. They struggle because their reporting is not “real-time”, putting them behind automatically in reporting to other parts of the organization, and simply not knowing where the sales team stands. As for making reporting easy, using drop down selections not only simplifies the process for salespeople, but it also standardizes the way information is reported, thus providing meaningful data. Examples of required reporting might include “percentage to close”, projecting close dates, percent to quota, and selection of next steps, like a scheduled walk-through or when bids are due.

Another benefit of utilizing drop down data selections is that your sales “language” is standardized, making sure everyone on the team is understanding and speaking the same sales language. For example, in forecasting, one salesperson might interpret “65% to close” as “I had a great second meeting” whereas another might interpret that as “I presented a quote.” In your CRM, definition of closing projections to be both percentages and words, within specified time frames, will clearly set expectations and meaning in your organization. Salespeople appreciate this clarity. Clarity negates conflict. Nothing should be left to interpretation. If definitions are unclear, not only will sales data be meaningless, but salespeople will be less likely to work with the CRM. Like you, they want meaningful data and to know they are meeting company expectations, as well as their own.

Speak openly and often with your sales team about why recording certain information is important and how that is helpful to everyone. Review data together often. Keep it straight forward. Define 2-3 reports needed weekly by sales leadership. Then encourage individual salespeople to create and utilize their data in ways that help them. You may be surprised by how different team members use their data, what motivates them, what helps them to tackle next steps and stay on track.

From Foe to Friend

Once salespeople understand why a CRM is there for their own benefit, and your company puts a little effort into making it as easy to use as possible, attitudes will evolve. One great user brings other more reluctant uses along. It may not be love at first sight but, CRMs have great potential to become a welcome, trusted sales tool that keeps salespeople organized, focused, and in winning shape. Simultaneously, leadership is kept informed and able to lend assistance as needed, company data is centralized, and use of a CRM is a “win-win” for all.

Here’s one more important reason to get your team on board. CRM data, when used in conjunction with other sales data, can provide incredibly useful sales intelligence that drives your company growth strategy today and into the future.

Look for upcoming posts where we’ll dig further into this topic and drop us a line to keep this conversation going. We’d love to know, “What do you value most in your CRM? What does it do for you personally?”