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Which Came First, The CRM System Or The Salesperson?

by David Brock on November 24th, 2009

Last week, I took the time to attend SalesForce.com’s meeting:  DreamForce ’09.   As a geek, I felt like a kid in a candy store–so many Shiny New Toys!  But as I wandered the sessions, I felt a strange sense of disconnect.  I kept struggling with, “what’s it mean to me, the sales person?”

There were lots of very interesting sessions about new features and functions, shiny new capabilities, lot’s more to tie me to my computer–entering or consuming data.  Because it’s SalesForce.com, there was a constant battle cry about “the cloud.”  I have to admit, from the point of view of a sales person, I didn’t get it, why should I care.  I suppose it’s important to IT folks, but I thought these tools were for me, so why did they spend soooooooo much time with their heads in the clouds?

The assertions about how the CRM tool increased win rates, shortened sales cycles, improved competitiveness, increasing revenue, and other benefits were flying.  I started wondering, maybe if we could just get the sales person out of the way, the CRM system could really improve business!

There was a lot of chatter about Chatter–an upcoming SalesForce capability, but which will surely be picked up by other vendors.  While I am a very strong advocate of Social Media and Networking, and use all the tools, I’m not sure this capability contributes to a meaningful workflow for sales people.  In an already data rich world, it just provides more and different data–primarily focused on internal communications.  But, I’m not arguing for or against–I actually think the capability is kind of cool.

I struggled with my sense of disconnect in the conference—and my issue is not with SalesForce.com or it’s tools, the same issues arise with all the CRM, SFA, and related tools.  (Actually, I really like SalesForce.com).

Somehow, it seemed to me the technology is crowding the sales person out.  The technology seems to be taking center stage, rather than the sales person.  It seems to me these tools should stimulate an increase in “thoughtfulness,” in the way sales people approach their jobs.  Instead, I got the feeling, in many cases the tools “dumbed down” the sales person.  In other cases, they just piled more onto already overburdened sales professionals.  While the dashboards provide a lot of interesting and valuable insight, in my experience, I see very few sales people using them or understanding them.

I could go on  (in fact the earlier version of this post did–but I realized I was dumping).  Perhaps people like me just shouldn’t go to these kinds of conferences.  From the point of view of sales professionals, technology doesn’t impress me.  I could not imagine being a sales person without having tools like a CRM or SFA system.  We use these tools and find they help us tremendously–but they help us because they free time for us to be more thoughtful about the strategies we develop and execute, the relationships we have with our customers.

Our tools do not increase our revenue or improve our competitiveness or shorten our sales cycles.  We do that.  The tools help us, but they don’t relieve us from the responsibility from thinking and executing with precision.

I like tools that help me do my job better.  Many of the tools under what ever version of Sales X.0 you subscribe to have tremendous capability.  But it’s not about the tool, it’s about the sales professional.  Let’s put the sales people back at the center of the discussion.

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4 Comments
  1. Their target “buyer” is the Sales Leader. It’s not the sales person. Therefore, their pitch, message and product development isn’t going to lean towards the sales guy, but to sales managers and that is why it feels so heavy.

    Great observation David.

    • Jim, thanks for the comment. Actually, the SF strategy is interesting, it is leaning more to IT and ISV’s as the customer than sales. “He who controls the software infrastructure controls the keys to the kingdom.” They seem to be very aggressive in this, which changes their competition significantly. Will be interesting to see how it plays out.

      To your point, at the conference, there was a lot of discussion about how the system helps Sales Managers. When the topic of how it helps sales people came up, there were a lot of assertions, handwaving, etc. The real success of CRM lies in sales adoption. The implementation needs to be sales centric—and by the way, the sales manager gets a huge benefit as well.

      As usual, your comments always stimulate further discussion. Regards, Dave

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