Eric Boer’s organisation, SalesBreak, trains sales teams of B2B companies to become more effective. Eric supports the design and implementation of sales processes (what), sales methods (how) and the corresponding software. He is convinced that a well thought out sales process and a clear sales method is inextricably linked to a CRM system.

Eric, isn’t a CRM system often perceived as an obstacle by sales teams?

A sales team must jointly choose a standard way of working. This could be agreeing how to record information or the steps to follow in a sales process, for example. This gives everyone the opportunity to have their say and give their input from the offset. Employees then have the basics in place and no longer need to think about peripheral issues. As a result, there is more time for personal contact with the customer which is where your sales reps can make the difference. I often see companies agreeing to a process but then not giving their sales reps the right tools, such as a CRM system, to put this into practice. Only with the right tools will your sales method become standard practice.

What requirements do you think a CRM system should meet?

The three most important qualities of a good CRM system are: 1. Easy to use, 2. Fast to use and 3. Intuitive to use. Of course, you also need the system to be integrated with your other business information systems, such as your ERP system. Accessibility and availability are also important. It is also crucial to have the right data in the system. For example, mapping the relevant decision making units of a relationship.  In most companies, the larger the investment in a project, the more people are involved in the decision-making process. This means that you need to be engaged with all of the decision makers and not just one key contact. Mapping out the decision makers and maintaining regular contact with them will dramatically increase sales success, so a system that makes this information easy to obtain is crucial. Ideally, this would data should be automatically enriched within the system with information from a source such as Dun & Bradstreet or LinkedIn, for example.

What’s in it for management and what is the greatest value add of a CRM system for them?

Staff turnover within sales teams is generally quite high. If your top seller is headhunted and moves on, they also take key account knowledge with them. This makes a sales team immensely vulnerable and this alone is why a good and well used CRM system is worth its weight in gold! But also think of coaching and developing your employees. Coaching is a proven and effective method of boosting the quality of your sales team. A CRM system can provide excellent support for this. Take the different stages in the sales process, from qualified to lead, prospect and so on. CRM provides perfect insight into how long a relationship remains at a certain stage. As a manager, if you see that a member of your team consistently takes a long time to turn a lead into a prospect, you can focus on coaching them in this specific area.

Why is it that some CRM implementations do not go well?

Failure to effectively implement a CRM system is usually the result of underestimating the necessary change in working methods. People in general, including salespeople, do not like change. So how do you encourage them to communicate well and actively use the CRM system? Adoption starts before implementation. Give all end-users a voice. What does every team need in order to do their jobs better? Marketing and sales often have very different requirements. Identify what information is essential to keep on top of the sales process. As mentioned earlier, a good CRM system should be user friendly. Training is certainly necessary, however, you and your teams should discuss what you want to achieve, the changes that must be made, responsibilities and accountability. I myself am very much in favour of critically reviewing the reward system for the sales department. Is commission only paid when the deal is closed or do you look at the progression over a certain period of time and the discipline with which someone works and adheres to the agreed sales process? If only the deal itself is rewarded, there is little incentive for a seller to change his way of working.

What will the trends in sales and technology be in years to come?

The automatic and smart enrichment of data within systems is definitely on the rise. For example, Microsoft Dynamics 365 has already been integrated with Linked In to provide automatically enriched relationship data. Integration with email and chats is already in place but the phone is the next step. If you have called someone this will automatically be logged in CRM. This automation also helps with user adoption of the system. Another trend I see and applaud is gamification: make sales a game, make sure you stimulate and encourage each other. Compare it to a Fitbit, the smart health and fitness gadget that counts steps, logs sports activities, measures heart rate and even keeps track of how well you sleep. It allows you to set all kinds of goals that encourage you to exercise more and live a healthier life. Now there is also smart software that helps you keep up with’ business steps’ in a similar way. Done as a team, it is more fun and you will achieve more! In my opinion, account-based marketing is an important next step for companies. With multiple contacts to engage and influence in the right way and at the right time, sales and marketing need to be much more closely integrated with each other. All marketing activities and new opportunities such as social selling, are embedded in the sales process. After all, if a lead has been ‘transferred’ to sales, as is often the case, marketing can still play an important role and continue to enrich and support the sales process. With multiple contacts to engage and influence

Finally, what are your most important tips for sales teams?

  1. Work efficiently. It really helps you. Administration is an essential part of your job.
  2. Agree on a standard working method. This way, there is no confusion within the team and the wider organisation.
  3. Encourage each other and dare to choose a different model of remuneration, for example on the basis of collaboration or progression!