CRM and CPQ – You Get Out What You Put In

you-get-out-what-you-put-in-300x225One of the repeating themes I’ve seen when looking at Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) implementations, is the stark contract between management expectations of the systems and the usage of them by the sales teams. It reminds me of a wonderful article on leadership (through a pleasing parenting analogy) that I recently read, where Betty Liu outlines how as a manager, the more effort you put into your team, the better the results will be that they will deliver.

I think the same can be true of our systems. If the only reason for a sales person to adopt a sales automation tool is to provide management with information, their level of investment in it will naturally be limited. Too often when we speak to sales people and we ask them how they feel about using their company systems, we hear feedback like, “it’s a tool for management to check up on me” or “it’s there to make sure I hit the numbers in my funnel.” Off the record, we also find that when the system isn’t working in the interests of its users, they end up playing the game employees hit their target number of sales calls and meetings without caring who the calls are made to and the meetings are held with. Consequently, the results of this activity are not usually very successful.

Even if the justification for a new system relies on management being able to get better control over their sales process, activity and forecasting, we need to realise that this is a benefit of adoption, not a motivation for sales people. We need to consider “what do the sales teams get out of using it?” If this is a simple getting management off their back exercise, then the effort put in will naturally be lower. However, if they see management continually putting effort and resources into making their tools useful and relevant so that the sales person gets something too then naturally adoption rates will rise.

I’ve seen this take many forms. At the simplest level in a CRM system, it can be investments in data quality (and please don’t make sales people your data entry clerks!), or it can be taking the time and effort to ensure that sales collaterals and templates are up-to-date, professional and easy to find, or that an email is well integrated and natural to use. It’s often the simplest things that deliver big gains.

What we also see is that for growing businesses, integrating CPQ with CRM adds even more value to the sales user for the following reasons:

  • It gives sales people a simple way to select their offer through guided selling or an elegant configurator, which means they spend less time looking up information and more time selling it
  • Collaterals and nuggets of sales information can be stored in the configurator to give information at just the right time, giving sales people an advantage when preparing for a customer call
  • Orders are correct which means sales people dont get trapped in a cycle of fixing problems in the field and trying to put things right
  • Approvals can be sped up, making a salesperson more responsive to their customers

As managers, if we put in the effort to give sales people real, relevant benefits like the above, we’ll naturally get more effort and adoption of our CRM systems. In turn this will create a natural growth of good quality data in the system so our forecasts will be more accurate, our activity tracking more useful and we can work with our salespeople together to improve both the sales process and what we need to put into it for the future. If we keep the balance in the sales/management ecosystem, then we quickly reap what we sow.

On that note, just as in the article I linked to, I’m off to look up swimming lesson times!

“CRM and CPQ You Get Out What You Put In” is written by Andy Pieroux, MD of Walpole Partnership

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