In a “Customer-First” World, Don’t Let Sales Get Lost in the Shuffle

In a “Customer-First” World, Don’t Let Sales Get Lost in the Shuffle

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The market has undergone a major shift when it comes to CRM platforms. Organizations are focusing on the customer experience. Platforms like SAP C/4HANA claim to modernize the “sales-only” focus of previous generations of CRM, and instead take a more holistic system approach with a focus squarely on the customer.

But as you consider your customer experience strategy, Scott K. Edinger, founder of Edinger Consulting Group, cautions not to lose sight of the original intent of early TES (Technology-Enabled Selling) systems. “The intention of TES when it was originated was the use of technology to enable the sales process,” Edinger said. Modern CRM systems connect with many facets of an organization’s enterprise technology. “As a result, they serve a lot of masters,” Edinger said, “and the master I think who frankly gets left out most is sales.” Edinger said he doesn’t think it’s a mistake that CRM systems connect to so many parts of an organization. “But if the integration sort of subsumes the original intent – then it becomes a problem,” he said.

Edinger, who recently wrote about the topic in a Harvard Business Review article, said a large majority of executives he has worked with report the inability of their CRM system to help their business grow and increase revenue.

“I love the phrase customer experience,” Edinger said. “I think it’s powerful that it’s become so important today, but the sales experience would be the first mile on that customer experience highway. If that’s not really good, then there would not be a customer experience.”

The SAPinsider Customer Experience Management team recently connected with Edinger to get his thoughts on some of the characteristics that make for a successful CRM implementation. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Don’t lose sight of the original purpose of CRM systems. “It’s an investment in sales productivity and sales effectiveness, so if it’s not driving that you have to really wonder,” Edinger said.  “Unless we can say this helped us to drive revenue, it’s hard to say this really was a success.” A CRM implementation that is considered a “failure” is not about the system. “The issues are about sales management, coaching, marketing strategy, and measurements,” Edinger said. “It’s not about the technology. It’s how that technology is getting used.”
  • Know what’s really happening. Management must use the data being generated by their CRM system to really understand what is happening in the sales process — where there is progress, where there are holdups, and where there are total breakdowns.  “If the primary focus of sales management is to inspect the data and report on the data — you’ll get bad data,” Edinger said. “But if it’s to improve the importance of the sales team and the data is there to help them to do that, you have a chance for real power. The problem is when it becomes an exercise in inspection versus improvement.”
  • Armed with the knowledge of your data, become a coach. “Coach to improve, not just inspect,” Edinger said. Make sure your sales process is well-defined and that you are using your CRM system as a guide to manage the sales process. Make sure your sales reps understand the sales process in your CRM system — and its benefits. “If your reps aren’t finding that valuable, then you are never going to get the information that you need,” Edinger said. Good managers keep track of the data in the pipeline, and use it to facilitate conversations with their sales reps and as a guide to know when to offer additional resources or support.
  • Less is more. Edinger said marketing teams tend to want as much information as possible. “The truth of the matter is, less information is so much better,” he said. Edinger said he’d prefer a 5-stage pipeline process. “In each one of those stages, there would be 3 or 4 really critical items that had to happen in order for that stage to be successful and move to the next stage,” he said. The process would be clearly outlined for the sales rep and track all opportunities with contacts through that pipeline. “If I had just that, that would be fantastic,” he said. “But we muck it up with a lot of other stuff.”  When it comes to data that you are collecting, ask yourself if the sales rep is going to use that information in the process, and if so, how will it help them? “If you can’t answer that succinctly and really powerfully then don’t use it,” Edinger said.
  • Better coordinate the goals of your sales and marketing teams. “Sales goals and marketing goals are usually horribly aligned – in fact, I couldn’t even call them aligned,” Edinger said. While marketing might be incentivized to have a number of leads or clicks, sales is focused on revenue. A click on your website from someone with no capability or intention of buying your product or service is not a lead. A lead is a person who has a genuine interest in your product or service, and a company with the ability to fund it. Better to incentivize and coordinate your marketing and sales teams to avoid sales teams having to search through volumes of useless leads to find a needle in a haystack.
  • It’s not just about sales or fancy technology tools — using CRM to create, design, and deliver a powerful sales experience will ultimately lead to the Holy Grail: a satisfied customer. A good salesperson is not someone constantly pitching, closing, and pushing, but rather, “someone who is really engaging with me,” Edinger said. And CRM systems may give you some good tools to help with the customer experience, such as easy billing or automation of simple tasks. But those things are generally things customers already expect, so they don’t add extra value. “If that’s it for customer experience then that’s a lot of money for very little value because most of that is just sort of expected,” Edinger said. “The things we tend to value are the points of interaction at any point in the customer experience when your people from your company interact with prospects and customers — that’s where the value is.” Companies should use information from CRM systems to help change the course of customer interactions, helping them see the value of a product or service, or offering them a new approach, insight, or expertise.

What insiders should think about in relation to SAP CRM and SAP C/4HANA solutions:

  • Inspection versus improvement: Driving revenue versus using the system to report on or inspect progress. Take a look in the mirror and ask if you are actually using all of the information you are collecting. Is it helpful to the sales team’s efforts to close business? If not, why is it in there? Ask people what information they really need, and how they are going to use that information to gain deeper audience insights and offer more relevant experiences.
  • To Edinger’s point, think about how you can utilize technology to move a sale further along in the cycle. For example, if a sale is stuck in the same stage of a funnel, perhaps the rep’s boss or another member of the team knows somebody else at the organization and can jumpstart a stalled cycle. Find ways to give sales reps personalized information and real-time, prescriptive recommendations.
  •  While we agree that interactions with a sales rep are critically important to your brand and the ability to drive revenue, your customers will most likely go through a series of digital interactions before they raise their hand and ask to speak with a sales rep. Looking at the number of touchpoints, their duration, and the actual interaction can help your sales team tailor its messaging and conversation accordingly.


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