I’m working with an organization implementing it’s first CRM system. They’re both excited about the tool, but worried about it.
One of the managers just came to me, saying, “The people are worried. As you know they’re already running full out. They want to use the tool, but they’re worried about the time that it will take from their day. How much time should the be spending on the CRM system each day?”
My knee jerk reaction was to provide one of my two standard responses, “It depends…..” or “It takes what it takes, man up (or woman up as the case may be).”
But then I reflected on the question. It’s a good question. It’s one that I know concerns sales people and managers, but most don’t have the courage to ask.
The question also shows they haven’t figured out how to incorporate the tool into their work flow. They think of using CRM as another task piled onto already packed, often unrealistic agendas.
So I thought about the response to this great question. I don’t have the complete answer but here’s a start.
How much time does a sales person spend every day, every week planning their schedule–arranging meetings, sending invites, putting them into their calendar? With CRM, it will take the same time, except you will be using the tools embedded in the CRM system to help do this.
Likewise, how much time to spend developing and updating your to do lists? With CRM it will take the same amount of time–except the context of the to dos will be far more powerful. They may be to dos and follow ups related to an opportunity, questions your customer might have, projects you are working on. Since all of these can be associated with the opportunities, accounts, customers, questions, as you think about the context of the to dos, it’s all right in the system for you to refer to. It’s not something you have to go look up separately to realize, “Oh, that’s why it’s on my to-do list.”
How much time do you spend thinking about and developing your deal strategies each week? With CRM it will take you the same. But with the added benefit, that most CRM systems add tools to help you think more deeply about deal and call strategies, help you be more consistent about what you are doing, provide the historical perspective, if you keep your notes up, leverage the capabilities of the systems, it will help improve the quality of your thinking on your next steps in moving a deal through the process.
How much time to you spend researching, finding the right materials, case studies, playbooks and other things to help you with a call or deal or to provide the customer information they are asking for. First of all you have to remember all the stuff that you have. Then you have to find out where it is–even if you have a shared drive, tools like SharePoint, and so forth, you still have to locate the stuff. Most CRM systems have “Library” tools that manage this and make it easy for you. Plus there are a lot of add ons to CRM that make it even easier to find the right piece (based on how others use and react to it) for the right customer at the right time. So it’s a huge time saver.
How much time to you spend analyzing your pipeline, looking at your customers, accounts, and territory, figuring out what it takes to make your number, what you should be doing next? Here’s where CRM starts becoming a real time multiplier. Without a CRM system, you probably have the information spread across lots of documents, spread sheets, pieces of paper, vague memories or thoughts you tucked away in your brain, or, if you’re like me, lots of scribbled notes on Post It’s.
Here’s where the real power and “time savings” of CRM tools come into play. It’s all in one place! You don’t have to waste time trying to find the stuff. On top of that, virtually every system has very powerful reporting and analysis tools that help you understand what’s happening, figure out what’s going on, see patterns in your performance or in your customers or territory. These tools can help you see things that you might have been blind to in the past.
But there’s so much more.
How much time to you spend updating your pipeline’s each week? With this particular customer, I know each sales person spend 30-60 minutes updating their pipelines each week. It’s a mind numbing task of finding the right spreadsheet, updating the right fields, sometimes cutting/pasting from one spreadsheet to another. It may be worse–looking back through your notes for the week, trying to remember what happened, thinking about what steps you’ve moved through in the sales process, and so on. With CRM, the time drops to zero. It does it for you, automatically in real time. As long as you are keeping the deals you are working on updated in the CRM system, the pipeline is always updated.
So that brings up the ugly issue–I have to go in and update my CRM system, notes after all my calls and meetings. That takes a whole lot of additional time transcribing things. Well, Yes and No. First of all, the vendors are taking a lot of this task away by providing rich capabilities on mobile devices. But I’ll admit. I’m still and old fashioned engineering notebook and pen person. I like to write notes in my notebook. It’s easier, never have to worry about power or wifi.
I take lots of notes during meetings. Do I transcribe all of them to my CRM system? Well No and Yes. Most of the time, I write a few sentence summary into the opportunity record. I do this as I’m thinking about the results of the meeting and adding the next steps, meetings, tasks and to dos I have to take to move the deal forward. Sometimes, when there are lots of things that I really want to remember, all I do is take pictures of the right pages in my notebook and attach them to the opportunity. Then I can always go back to the notes very easily. How much time does that take? Not a whole lot, and I’m in the system anyway using it to schedule the next steps.
Let’s get back to all those nuisance reports management asks of sales people. How much time do you spend each week preparing a report to respond to whatever whim someone up the food chain has? Well now you don’t have to do that. Management can go into the system themselves, search, analyze, generate their own reports. (Hopefully, management isn’t wasting your time by asking you to generate the report for them—that’s an entirely different problem!!)
I’ll stop here, you are getting the idea. The thing new CRM users don’t understand–as well as so many who have really flawed implementations. CRM is not something additional that we add to all the stuff we do every day. It’s something that we integrate into our workflow–perhaps improving our workflow along the way. It enables us to do the stuff we do every day–as well as the stuff we should be doing, but don’t, in the same amount of time (or less).
Not only does it help us become more efficient–use our time better. Properly used, it helps us reflect, analyze, think, plan, and execute better–so it helps improve our effectiveness.
So how much time does CRM take us? That’s really the wrong question, the right question is, “How do we integrate the tool into our workflow, improving our workflow, improving our impact and effectiveness? That’s the real power of CRM–unfortunately, too many seem to have lost sight of that — or never understood it in the first place.
I suppose it’s human nature not to look at details. If I look at the pace of business and life, the workloads each of us have, it’s easy to gloss over things.
We look at reports, only looking at the summary data, not looking at or understanding the data itself.
There are countless examples:
Sales people are making the right number of outbound calls, activity levels are right—but if the quality of the calls is garbage, then we are wasting our time. We don’t know that unless we drill down into the details of the calls themselves. For example, listening to a few, having measures that give us some view of the results they produce.
Or our pipeline numbers look right, we have the right coverage, there appears to be velocity. But we don’t look at the details. We don’t pay attention to the 30% (or choose your number) of deals in the pipeline that have close dates of last year, last quarter, even last month. We don’t pay attention to those deals that have been in cycle 3-5 times longer than most, we don’t pay attention to close date/sales cycle anomalies, we mistake churn for velocity.
Or we look at deal strategies, the sales person talks about where they are, who the competition is, and what we’ve done. But we fail to understand the underlying issues on what’s driving the customer need to buy, are we dealing with who we’re dealing with or the decision makers, what are the business consequences to the customer, and so on. Or worse, we just focus on the outcome, “When are you getting the order,” without even focusing on the details of what we are doing, not doing, or need to be doing.
Or we make a sales call, without knowing the right people to accomplish our goals will be participating, or if the customer will be prepared to accomplish what we want to accomplish, or…….
We fail to perform, we fail to perform at the highest levels possible, because of the details.
We make excuses because we are busy, we don’t have the time. But we always have the time for rework and recovering.
We don’t train ourselves to drill down and understand the data. Am I looking at the right data? Am I looking at it in the right way? Am I understanding what it’s really saying? Or even, is it accurate? Summaries, aggregations, totals, subtotals don’t tell us this stuff or they may be telling us the wrong stuff. We don’t know until we drill down and understand.
I’ve used this example before, but there are the clients who have said, “100 customers make up 80% of our revenue, we just have to focus on those 100 customers.” While the data is true, they miss that every year, 60 of those customers are different. So they don’t really understand they have a churn/customer loyalty problem.
Or as sales people, we hear what we want to hear. We don’t probe, we don’t drill down, we don’t question skeptically, we don’t try to make sense out of things that don’t make sense. So we miss the opportunity to really help the customer, to create/build real value, to set ourselves apart, to create/build real insight.
We have to take the time to search for the meaning of the data.
So the devil is in the details. We have to train ourselves to look beneath the summary data, we have to train ourselves to question, analyze, probe, and understand.
Someone much smarter than I said, “Focus on the details and the big things will take care of themselves.” There’s a lot of validity in that.
We all know that preparation for a meeting is important. We want to connect well with people, we want to create a positive impression, we want to accomplish something.
As we prepare for a meeting, there are all sorts of things we may want to research and prepare for. There are great tools to help us in that process. We learn a lot about a person by looking at their personal social profile leveraging LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other tools. We can learn about their company by visiting their website and leveraging all sorts of other tools (e.g. Insideview, Hoovers, D&B, others)
If we’ve had some level of relationship with a person, we may want to review our last calls/meetings. Or we may know something they are interested in and want to be prepared to talk about that. For example, I just got off a call with someone who’s a sailing fanatic and just returned from a week long bareboat charter, so we exchanged a few “sea stories,” (you know the kind—my adventure makes yours look like nothing, with each of us one upping the other. A close friend just had a very cool meeting with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, so on his way to the meeting, he listened to their big hits, just to refresh his memory.
What are the 5 things you really want to know about the person you are just about to meet with? Just before you walk into a meeting with an individual, what are the 5 most critical things you want to know about them, their situation, and/or their company–and why are they important?
I’d love to get your feedback in the comments, I’ll summarize them and provide a follow up post.
The 5 things may be different if you have a relationship with someone versus this being the first time you are meeting. If so, I’d love to know the differences. Just to be clear, you already have a meeting (phone or face to face) established-you aren’t trying to convince them to meet with you. What are the 5 things you always prepare for in walking into the meeting.
I’ll try to kick start this conversation with my 5 things:
- I’d like to know a little about the person–their current role, background, types of jobs they have, schools, hobbies, whether we know anyone in common.
- I’d like to know a little about their company and the current situation in the company. Did they have a good quarter? Year? Are they a leader in their sector, have they been struggling, is there any hot news in the last few days?
- What’s happening in their industry/markets? Has there been anything exciting/disruptive that impacts them and their markets?
- I’d like to know, sometimes it’s hard to determine, how things are going with them in general. Are they incredibly busy, have they been having some problems, are they frustrated, have they had some recent successes or gotten some great visibility? Has anything important happened in their life recently?
- How will I make sure that what we are meeting about will be a good use of their time? What value will I create in the meeting?
- I’ll give you the 6th–all of us will have this, so I don’t want you including it in the 5 things you identify—but for all of us, it’s probably, “What do we want to accomplish with them in this meeting?”
So not repeating the 6th item–what we want to accomplish in the meeting–our goals, objectives, agenda, can you tell me what 5 things you want to know about the person before you meet. I’ve been a little general in my 5–just to give you a starting point, but if you can provide your 5 things, it would be really helpful. If you could also provide a short explanation about why you want to know it, that would be great as well.
Thanks for your help! I’ll leave this open for about a week and write a summary as a follow on post.