The only purpose for a company to invest in a CRM is to grow. Period. This instantly solves the issue of what the CRM should be optimized to do and how to focus the Salesforce implementation. Since the core purpose of the CRM is to drive revenue growth, its primary function is to improve salespeople’s performance.
While many executives perceive a CRM as a source of reports and analytics on the company’s sales, we view the CRM primarily as a tool that salespeople rely on to improve their execution of the company’s sales plan. Management reporting and analytics, while important, should be perceived as secondary benefits the CRM offers.
According to an article published in CIO magazine in 2017, one-third of all CRM implementations fail.
Of course, there are all kinds of reasons that can be attributed to the failure rate of CRM implementations, ranging from technology partner selection to poor data integration.
The biggest challenge companies face when they commit to implementing Salesforce is they dilute the primary outcome with a series of ancillary demands.
- The CEO wants the CRM to tell him how the pipeline will impact revenue and earning targets this quarter.
- The CMO wants the CRM to report on lead-to-channel attribution.
- The VP of Sales wants a detailed weekly territory report.
Remember, a car doesn’t need a speedometer or an odometer to move. Gauges don’t drive a car’s performance. What it needs is an engine, gas and brakes pedals, steering, and wheels. Once these are properly installed and functioning and the car is able to move, a speedometer, a fuel gauge, a tachometer and even tire pressure gauges can be added to be able to better monitor the performance of every part of the vehicle.
These divergent demands distract the company and the implementation team from focusing on what truly matters. At the same time, these needs are important to the business and have to be met. They just can't be the first order of business on day one.
How to prioritize a Salesforce implementation
We recommend to carry out a Salesforce implementation in phases determined by a priority sequence driven by business outcomes — not constituency preferences. Mapping each phase to key capabilities the CRM must deliver ensures that these capabilities lay the foundation for higher order capabilities that the company will later call upon the tool to deliver.
We lay out Salesforce implementations in the following phases:
Phase 1. Drive sales performance
Free up the sales team to focus on selling more and closing business.
Phase 2. Enable coaching
Equip sales managers with the information they need to coach their team to even greater performance.
Phase 3. Enhance decision-making
Provide leadership with the reports they need to get deep pipeline visibility and steer the organization more effectively.
Phase 4. Optimize processes
Implement advanced analytics and AI to uncover additional efficiencies in the sales process.
Focus on the Sales team to drive CRM adoption
The only way to have useful data emerge from Salesforce is for salespeople to adopt and use it. This will happen to the degree to which it makes it easier and more fun for them to close business and earn commissions. To fulfil this mission, Salesforce has to be implemented bottom-up and designed around the processes salespeople carry out to do their job. The CRM development and implementation program must revolve around understanding these processes and translating them into the platform to enable seamless execution.
What would this look like, concretely? Here are a few examples:
- If the Sales team uses the Challenger Sales methodology, Salesforce’s interface and fields should be configured to reflect it.
- If the prospective customer’s number of employees is irrelevant to their sales process, salespeople should not have to enter that data.
- If salespeople routinely send an email message to various contacts, that message should become a template and, if possible, sending it should be automated.
- If salespeople have to generate documents, contracts and agreements, they should be able to do it with a single click, leveraging integrated document generation and contract management solutions.
- If customers need to sign documents, salespeople should be able to obtain eSignatures.
- Salespeople should be able to access files associated to an account or an opportunity with a single click from the CRM without having to search for them in the file system.
- Salesforce should help the salespeople prioritize which opportunities to push next.
This small sample of capabilities illustrates how a well-designed Salesforce implementation meets the salesperson where (s)he works and eliminates hassles rather than create them. The more the CRM enables the execution of the sales team’s everyday processes, the faster it will be adopted and the more it will motivate the team’s performance.
Likewise, we recommend to minimize CRM activities that would be a burden on the sales team. The more the team is consumed by meeting data demands that are irrelevant to their sales activities — for the sole purpose of providing business intelligence to other constituencies — the less likely they will be to adopt the tool.
A CRM whose primary purpose is to satisfy the monitoring, reporting or visibility needs of the CMO, CIO, or CSO won’t be adopted by the sales team — for the simple reason that salespeople can’t see how these functions will help them close more business for the company. Salesforce’s State of Sales research reports that salespeople spend close to 30% of their time doing manual data entry and performing administrative work. If those tasks don’t help them sell more, they will have very little motivation to continue doing it. As a result, data quality will suffer and the executives’ desired reporting will become meaningless. Moreover, these obligations will frustrate the sales team and morale will suffer.
Optimize for growth
A well-implemented CRM is way more than a data repository. It powers the sales team’s efforts to drive growth. It becomes an integral tool within their sales process that helps them prospect more effectively, push deals forward with less effort and close more business in less time.
A bottom-up Salesforce implementation focused on adoption as a key objective of the project results in the sales team immediately appreciating the value of the tool and leveraging it to drive the execution of the company’s growth strategy. They will clearly see how Salesforce is a valuable tool that helps them prospect more efficiently, streamline their sales cycle and ultimately close more business. Once the sales team perceives the value of the CRM and uses it consistently, company leadership will receive all the data and analytics it could possibly want.
This is why we believe that Salesforce implementation projects must be championed by the CEO or CRO and executive Sales leadership. If the company’s top executives understand that the only purpose of Salesforce is to drive growth and communicate it through Sales, Marketing and Operations, they will inoculate the project against early dilutive business requirements that detract from empowering the Sales team.
Salesforce is a multi-faceted tool that can potentially add value to various constituents across and up and down the organization. Its primary job, though, should be to enable growth. Ultimately, salespeople bear the responsibility of delivering growth to the company. By making sure that Salesforce empowers rather than cripples them, the implementation project will be a resounding success.
Driving growth with Salesforce
Focusing on growth is only the first step in successfully implementing Salesforce in your organization.
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