Sales Discipline and CRM: Can opposites attract?

29 Jul 2019

As long as there have been sales teams, there has been someone in charge of them who struggles to get an overview of their ongoing deals. It’s practically why CRM systems were invented–to address the issue of documentation discipline!

Imagine that, a whole industry being created to keep track of salespeople. But sadly, the problem didn’t end with the advent of CRM…in fact, some might even say that this software development only highlighted the actual problem:

A lack of Sales Discipline

Sales discipline, in this context, refers to the practice of diligently recording each and every conversation you have with a prospect, saving that information in a central location, and updating the details as and when they change.

It’s not easy—speaking as a salesman myself—I know that it can feel like a chore to update your Opportunities after every call. But I also know that having that information at hand when you need it is invaluable.

As a sales manager and business owner, being able to quickly look at a list of Opportunities or a Pipeline Graph and be confident that it is an accurate representation of your potential forecast—well, you just can’t beat it!

Disciplined in every other respect

Now you might have a team of salespeople (or be one yourself) who diligently follows up on time, every time. Maybe they pass this information along to the next person or department in your customer journey flawlessly. But be honest, does it always make it into your CRM?

The likely answer is no.

What is it about a sales team, even a highly disciplined one, and their relationship with their CRM system?

Nine times of out 10, this relationship is one of frustration and obligation. They feel obligated to use it, but frustrated with what many see as “busy work.”

And that shouldn’t be the case: salespeople should love their CRM. They should rejoice in having a system that helps them stay organised and win more business.


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Fixing the Relationship: 5 Practical Tips

Instead of going on about how much eye rolling I’ve seen in sales meetings when “CRM discipline” is brought up (and I’ve seen my fair share), I’d like to explore 5 practical things you can do with your CRM system to help win your sales team over.

Tip #1: Show the Benefit

Even the most disciplined teams will struggle to keep working on something without really understanding why they are doing it.

And with sales, this can be really easy to do.

Adding a few graphs to their CRM dashboard that show Lead numbers and Opportunity value is a good start. These can serve to illustrate to your sales team the benefit using the system can have on them. Viewing their progress on their sales targets directly within the CRM is often a good motivator as well.

But it can also be a good idea to share some more general statistics in team meetings. If people understand WHY they are doing something, they are far more likely to do so.

Tip #2: Open Dialogue

One of the first steps in getting your sales team to be more disciplined in using your CRM system is finding out why they don’t at the moment. Are the fields all wrong? Is it too time consuming? Does it integrate with the right systems?

Knowing what the barriers are to getting people using their CRM system is the first step. Finding out what features or configuration they feel would help the most.

This is a good way to help you both identify things you can do to help with adoption, but also a way for them to take some ownership of the system.


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Tip #3: Speaking your Language

We’ve talked about it before in other blogs, but having a CRM system that uses the words and phrases you use in your day-to-day work can really help with making your team feel comfortable using it.

For example, you might call prospective clients “Prospects” instead of “Leads” or have “Opportunity Statuses” instead of “Sales Stages”.

These changes are often minor and require only a few custom fields and ‘language’ configurations, but they can make a big difference to your team.

Tip #4: Regular Reviews

But it’s not enough to configure your system once and forget about it. As your team and processes evolve and grow, you’ll need to regularly review how you are using it. Asking the question if things could be improved? Do more fields need adding? Should some be removed? Etc.

Regularly reviewing your CRM system also gives your sales team the chance to raise issues they are having with it. This means you can make sure the system always works for your business, rather than your team just abandoning it out of frustration.

Tip #5: Extreme Measures

And finally, if you think you’ve done everything you possibly can to work with your sales team to get them using the CRM system, there are always extreme measures you can implement.

Of course no one wants to make commission or bonuses dependant on CRM usage, but it is one possible tool in your arsenal.

Again…I don’t think most salespeople are completely without discipline. I think to be a salesperson means that you have to have a certain doggedness and focus…but that discipline doesn’t always translate to sitting down and documenting within a CRM system.


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Has this given you some ideas for getting your sales team to be a bit more disciplined and invest a bit more time and dedication to your CRM system? The benefits are huge and the time investment to using a system that is correctly configured to your business is just not that large.

Drop me a personal reply or post your feedback, I am genuinely interested in how you utilise (or not) your existing CRM systems, and if yours isn’t working for you or you don’t have one…….

Graham Anderson
Graham Anderson
Before I got my start in the tech industry as part of Apple's UK Mac launch team, I was a professional drummer (notice I didn’t say musician). But once I got in, I was hooked and I’ve been involved in the tech industry, primarily software development, for over 20 years. I founded this company and I now have the enviable title of System Architect (as well as Managing Director) here at OpenCRM.