CEO: “We want to scale this company, and CRM is a part of our strategy for doing that.”

Sales Director: “We want CRM, but we don’t want a sales process because we don’t want to micro-manage our sales team.”

Sounds familiar?

Sales processes and CRM can transform a company … or they can result in costly and painful failures.  Let’s dispel a few myths, and examine a few realities, together.

Myth 1: Sales is Not a Process

Deming said, "if you can't describe what you're doing as a process, then you don't know what you're doing." (tweet this) That's as true for sales at it is for manufacturing or accounting.

Quote on sales process

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, however, there are still those from senior leaders to entry-level sales reps that believe that "good people skills" or "closing techniques" are the only important elements of the sales role.

Sales Process Design

Yes, there are times when you may not be ready for a formalized process – in a new product, new line-of-business, or very small business for example.  Even in those situations, if you want to have sales reps, you had better give them the leads, the data, and the tools that they need to close them.  And if you want to grow and scale, you had better start transforming sales processes from informal into formal.

eWorkbook - Creating a Challenger Executive Learning Deck

You can find one example of a standard sales process in the best selling book, “The Challenger Sale,” (click here to buy The Challenger Sale on Amazon).  In it, the authors describe one of the most effective processes a challenger seller uses as a, "challenger presentation." We found this so valuable that we created our own e-WorkBook toolkit that our team uses to develop these presentations.  Click here to download the Challenger Sale Commercial Learning and Teaching Presentation e-WorkBook.

Myth 2: Sales Processes are Like Other Business Processes

At the other end of the spectrum is the assumption that sales processes are like any other business process. This approach generally results in over-engineered and overly-rigid sales processes. These processes don't allow for the individuality of the sales rep, the customer, or the flexibility to bend within the context of the situation.

Worse still, this approach sends reps the message that leaders believe that anyone can do the job of the rep just by following the process. The result is disengaged and unhappy reps that are even less effective at closing new business than they would be with no process at all.

Infographic: Sales Processes - Different from Other Business Processes

Standard business processes are driving a train.  They can be defined and, with minor tweaking, the hard wheels of the train can stay on the rails for years. 

Sales processes are riding a motorcycle.  They require a lot of flexibility around the edge to account for the ever-changing human factor.  But they also require a rigid core, rigid enough for RIMS (be repeatable, measurable, improvable and scalable).  In other words, they are a combination of personality and process.

Myth 3: A CRM Solution is Required for Sales Process

Successful sales managers were using sales processes many years before modern CRM solutions became available. Microsoft Excel remains one of the most popular sales process applications, and intranet tools like SharePoint enable Excel-based sales processes to be tracked across a team.

In fact, our research has found that when sales leaders develop, test, and refine a sales process before rolling out a CRM solution, their CRM solution rollout tends to be much more successful.

Downloadable Excel Pipeline Template

Looking for an Excel sales pipeline template?  We’re developing one, but it’s not quite ready yet.  Click here to be notified when an Excel sales pipeline template is available for download from our website.

Myth 4: Sales Processes are Built Into CRM Solutions

Did that CRM demo leave you with the impression that you could just purchase the solution and you would have a sales process that you could start using?  You’re not alone.

Buying CRM software is the easy part.  Developing the right process for your team … that’s tricky.  Doing both at once … nearly impossible.

Infographic CRM Sales Process Project Failure

The reality is that sales processes differ widely from company-to-company - even within LOBs (lines-of-business) in the same company.  Every company needs to develop, and refine, a sales process that is unique to their products, culture and customers.

Contact C5 Insight if you’d like to learn more about a provide method for defining and refining sales processes.

Myth 5: The First Step for a CRM Project Should be to Design a Sales Process

Again, it is easy to understand how organizations come to this mistaken conclusion about their CRM project. Looking at built-in functionality for lead and opportunity management, and pipeline reporting, can be a siren song luring the sales leader or system administrator to believe this functionality should be leveraged right away.

Sales Process Dashboard

But successful CRM projects focus first on bringing efficiency and visibility to existing processes. Forcing the team to not only learn new software, but also a new process, almost inevitably results in a failure to fully launch the CRM solution. For many organizations CRM success might mean starting with better contact management or call reporting, and only adding sales process once the other functionality has been fully adopted.