Using CRM for Sales MeetingsSales managers often overlook how powerful a customer relationship management (CRM) solution can be for planning and running sales meetings.  And that’s too bad – because if managers aren’t using CRM to help their team to plan, to coach them, and to instill good sales habits, they're missing an important piece of the transformative power of CRM.

On the other hand, sales managers that do use CRM to run their meetings, often spend most – if not all – of their time, looking backward instead of forward.  And that’s too bad too – because they’re reinforcing time-wasting bad habits, and cluttering their CRM solution with data that is worse than useless.

Activity Tracking in Sales Meetings with CRM

Here’s how it typically goes:

  • Meeting starts and sales manager opens CRM.Sales meetings when CRM is used to beat up the reps
  • Review list of opportunities and discuss them (this is somewhat forward looking – but usually pretty unstructured and with little ability to really hold people to what they discuss in the meeting).
  • Review list of completed activities (this reinforces reactive behaviors such as, “the sales meeting is coming, I’d better get into CRM and track some emails and complete some tasks so my manager can see how busy I’ve been and so I don’t look worse than my co-workers.”)

The problem with this type of meeting is it is mostly backward looking.  Yes, the idea is to create the right behaviors, but in fact it often does just the opposite. Getting reps to track already completed activities does almost nothing to help them be better planners and to be better prepared for those upcoming activities.  And looking at activities after they’ve been completed gives managers little opportunity for positive coaching – it’s really just a pass/fail (if someone enters enough activities, they pass; if they’ve entered too few, they fail).  Pass/fail is not what the folks who are making the calls and pounding the pavement every day find helpful or motivating.

How Did We Get Here?

To be fair, there is an upside to activity tracking.  Remember that your CRM solution is a collaboration solution – a way that the people within your organization can work together better to serve the customer.  One of the ways you collaborate with CRM is by sharing information with each other – and much of that information is in the form of notes and activities associated with customers.  So tracking is important.

But tracking for the sake of tracking – for the sake of “making the numbers” in reports – not only reinforces time-wasting negative behaviors, it also creates clutter in the CRM solution.

In a recent conversation with a Sales Manager, she told me, “We don’t do a great job of tracking our emails in CRM, but every few months the boss checks a report and says we’re not doing a good enough job, and we see the number of emails spike for a few weeks after that.”  Later in the same conversation she told me, “One of the problems I have with CRM is it is so hard to search it to find anything.  I have to wade through so much useless information to find what I’m looking for.  It’s easier just to search my Outlook or to ask my colleague to search theirs.” 

A Better Way: Activity Planning in Sales Meetings with CRM

So what’s a Sales Manager to do? 

Many simply throw up their hands and say, “use it if it helps you.”  Please don’t do that.  Seriously.  Almost any CRM solution – no matter how old or problematic – can transform the effectiveness of a sales team.  Some may make it more painful than it needs to be, but almost all can work. 

But it’s up to you – the managers and the leaders – to lead the troops. 

Using CRM for Activity Planning in Sales MeetingsAnd here’s a small rabbit trail … I know the previous paragraph is heresy in most circles.  Most managers and leaders say, “CRM should be so good that our reps will just use it.” In over 20 years of working on hundreds of CRM projects, I’ve seen that happen exactly … never.  In fact, click here for an article on the subject of building a CRM solution that reps will just want to use.  So, what’s your role as a leader?  That’s too big of a question for now – but we can answer what your role is as a leader in sales meetings with CRM.

Change the focus to looking at the week ahead (or the month ahead depending on the frequency of meetings).  Open CRM and use a dashboard showing you what the planned activities are for each rep for the coming period of time.  Review those and discuss critical questions:

  • Given the leads and opportunities you’re working, are these the right activities?
  • Are they prioritized correctly – are you working on the most critical things first?
  • Are any of these likely to be “time sinks” (such as chasing one huge opportunity to the exclusion of all the others – leaving the rep with no commission at all if the deal falls through)?
  • What is the plan for those activities?  Is there a strategic focus for the meetings?
  • Are there any items where the manager should play an active role?
  • Is there anything in your pipeline that isn’t covered with an activity on your plan?  If not, why not?
  • Does your plan include activities to add more to your pipeline (in other words, if your sales team needs to be “hunters” for new opportunities, are they doing the networking and other activities that result in generating new business)?

Conclude the meeting with a quick look back.  Your dashboard should answer some additional questions, such as:

  • How well did you do with your plan for the last period?
  • How many activities did you complete?
  • What things kept you from making as much progress as you would have liked?  How does the organization help to free you up for more productive work?
  • Looking at a few of them, did you take good notes that may be helpful to you or others down the road?
  • Did you avoid tracking items that are really just “filler” and focus on capturing helpful information?

Do you see the difference between this process and the standard sales meeting?  Do you see how this still gets the job of tracking done – but gets it done in a more meaningful way? 

CRM Sales Manager Coaching for Proactive Sales Reps Now sales reps are focused on being proactive – on having a plan.  And they go to CRM to execute on their daily plan.  As they work through their planned activities, they embed their notes, and check them off as complete.  Yes, in some cases they may still wait until the end of the day or week to capture those notes – but at the very least the plan is there to remind them of what they did.

Let’s be honest, sales reps in general aren’t in their position because they are great planners.  Yes, some are.  But for many, their strength is their soft skills.  A key role for the manager is to take those soft skills, and guide them towards a more strategic and proactive approach to their jobs.  Using a CRM solution as a planning tool in sales meetings enables the manager to listen to the rep, understand what their plan is, connect with them for coaching to fine-tune their strategy, and know what the results are (we call that The LUCK Principle(TM)).

Managers who use CRM in sales meetings as a planning and leadership tool are leaders who transform the effectiveness of their reps – ultimately making CRM “so good that their reps just want to use it”.

Is Your CRM Working for You?

Is your CRM solution giving you everything that it should?  Click here to download C5 Insight’s CRM Effectiveness Self-Evaluation to find out.