Sales reps love their CRM. They love spending hours entering information about the email activity they’ve had with customers, meetings held, proposals delivered, and especially updating their forecast. In fact, who doesn’t love a good forecast session with their sales manager? Not only that, sales reps see tremendous value in the information reported back to them from the CRM. You know, all the information they entered.

You might be wondering what world I’m coming from right now. In fact, you’d be right to since this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sales reps do not love their CRM and see little value in it. It is often a point of contention between sales managers and reps to update their activity and forecast. Which makes you wonder, what is the point of it all?

A HISTORY LESSON

When the first sales automation tool was launched, it truly changed the way sales were managed. The first digitization of sales account information and pipeline occurred in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s the promise was a “customer 360° view.”

The early 2000’s introduced cloud-based sales automation tools, but it was little more than taking the same empty promises of the 90’s and moving them to the cloud. The ‘modern CRM’ is still really just a place for managers to try to pull a forecast together and craft a part-fact, part-fiction story of their deals. Every sales automation solution attached to the CRM was supposed to do just that, automate the sales process. Instead, it’s only created more manual processes.

IT HASN’T AUTOMATED THE SALES PROCESS, SO WHAT?

It’s time for a change. As we enter into the world of the next generation of buyers who are smarter and more resourceful than ever, sales reps need to keep up. The tools they use needs to help them keep pace.

The CRM we know today doesn’t actually help sales reps sell more. In fact, every year we see a drop in the number of sales reps hitting quota, even while quota targets are lower than ever. It also doesn’t accelerate sales cycles. All it is really doing is creating a bad selling experience for sales reps.

The absolute worst problem of all? That poor selling experience is equating to a poor customer experience. Combine sales reps not having that 360° view of customers with not having proper training, enablement, and coaching with slow response times, and you have a very frustrated customer.

IT’S LIKE DATING

Now you really think I’m from out of this world. But think about your worst first date ever. Did you want a second date with that person? Did you marry that person? Odds are the answer is a resounding “no!” What’s the expression? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

Selling is similar to dating, except every encounter with a customer or prospect is like a first date. If it’s blown, you’re not likely to get a second date. The system, the process, the technology, it all needs fixing. Sales reps need a simple 1-2-3 experience in everything we do.

WHAT CAN YOU DO DIFFERENTLY TODAY TO IMPROVE THE BUYING EXPERIENCE?

Sales Reps: Remember, your customers are people, not opportunities. Engage with them. Take the time to get to know their current situation, business objectives, and what value you and your solution(s) can bring them. Always have an agenda for meetings, ask open-ended questions, and never ask a question if you should already know the answer. Your customer’s biggest fear is you will waste their time!

Sales Managers: Remember, your sales reps are people too. Ask yourself how much time you spend analyzing the forecast and harping on reps to update their notes and activity. When was the last time you had a solid coaching session with your sales rep followed up with action items and recommended learning for your rep? If you aren’t spending a couple of quality hours with your reps weekly, what will it take to do so?

Heads of Sales: Are your interactions with your sales managers mirroring how you want them to interact with your sales reps? Have you given your sales teams the tools needed to help them be the most effective? Think about the most manual, broken process in your sales organization today. What could be the result if that process was fixed and truly automated?

Heads of Sales Operations: What can you do to assist sales leaders with re-evaluating your current processes? Yes, there is a lot of technology out there to fix manual processes, but before rushing into anything, look at your current pain points. Look at all of your sales processes:

  • Territory & quota planning
  • Sales training and enablement
  • Quotes and proposals process
  • Incentive compensation management
  • Sales automation (CRM)

Fix the selling experience, and you’ll fix the customer experience. The experience is the opportunity.

This week’s post is by guest author, Jennifer Kling, Head of Product Marketing for SAP Sales Cloud, which brings together SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer, SAP Revenue Cloud, and CallidusCloud. Transform your lead to cash process and accelerate sales performance with incentive optimization, sales coaching, and learning recommendations. Connect with her on Twitter and/or LinkedIn.