Standard metrics and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are created usually between The Sales Director, The Financial Director and The Managing Director. These KPI’s tell the sales teams what they should be doing. For example, ‘Your pipeline should be at least three times of your annual sales target’; ‘Your conversion ratio of opportunities to closed orders should be 60%’, and so on. Nothing like a bit of statistical analysis from the bean counters to motivate the sales team is there? Remember that old saying…’You can prove anything with statistics’. Here, we see it applied for real, albeit on an unconscious level.
In some extreme cases these so called sales processes and form filling exercises have to be followed, otherwise the sales teams’ commissions will be withheld! This is usually dressed as a ‘best practice’, whereas the reality is that the sales team is being treated like a spoilt child. No explanation is given as to how the information will be used and of what value this will be to the sales team or, indeed, how it is supposed to help the sales team close more sales which after all is their ultimate function. This is a simple threat that is applied to the sales team in an effort to force them to follow internal processes. This type of behaviour is not outsourced sales for startups only destructive, unprofessional but it is also extremely de-motivating and more often results in reduced sales productivity rather than more productivity.
However without lambasting Finance and Administration too much do have a role to play here, but should they be defining the sales processes? So long as their requirements are realistic and without the analysis/paralysis syndrome, they will actually complement the sales process and the result will be positive.
More to the point were sales teams ever consulted when the company decided to invest in the implementation of the CRM or asked about their requirements? For the vast majority they were never consulted or, if they were, only in a superficial way. Salespeople are viewed as disposable commodities in the race to increase the companies share price. So this cycle of procedural development continues and not surprisingly becomes regarded as ‘the way things are done here’.
Then some very strange things happen. New forms and documentation are circulated to the sales team and they are forced to complete them. The sales team become ever more suspicious of why all of this ‘inappropriate’ information is needed and begin to lose trust in the company. Now the fun starts – marketing discovers that they can’t use any of the information because it is incomplete and start issuing their own set of requirements – yet more forms and documentation for the sales teams to complete. And so the cycle continues to a point where the CRM application becomes viewed as a hindrance and not a valuable sales tool. Sales management will also find it increasingly difficult to get the sales team to provide the information about the status of their opportunities. Typically, sales people will come up with a standard reply angrily such as ‘I’m supposed to be out there selling, not doing admin!’
Unfortunately this is an all too common incident in corporate sales these days and one that you might recognise. On one hand you have the senior executives who made the CRM buying decision and are determined to see some tangible return from their considerable investment. On the other hand, you have the sales and marketing teams believing that ‘big brother’ is now watching their every move so that the information can be used to criticise them and possibly even get them fired – a recipe for reducing productivity rather than adding value. Furthermore, only very rarely does any review process exist. As the requirements of the company evolve, there is no means of accommodating these changes in the CRM application and even when sales suggest a better way of doing things they are told that the you can’t do it with the CRM system. What you end up with is a company that runs for the benefit of the internal sales processes as opposed to addressing the needs of the customers and the employees. In addition, the company and its employees forget why certain sales processes even exist and, worse still, nobody questions why.