We’ve partnered with Aberdeen to provide unique insights on CRM in vertical markets. Aberdeen Group, enabled by its team of 40 research analysts covering 16 industry-sector categories, is the trusted advisor to global technology markets, providing corporations with independent insights that drive IT decisions.
Guest blog by Peter Ostrow, Vice President & Research Group Director for the Customer Management research practice, and Principal Analyst, Sales Effectiveness, at the Aberdeen Group
As the most crucial foundational element of any contemporary professional sales organization, the CRM deployment has great potential as an enabler of overall corporate success. Yet many enterprises in the manufacturing sector and other industry verticals fail to take full advantage of best practices that can help maximize overall sales effectiveness. Fortunately, new research data validates the importance of CRM deployments that are flexibly configured from both a user and corporate IT perspective; fully mobilized for anywhere, anytime, any device sales team access; and successfully integrated with other enterprise applications that contain or leverage valuable customer data.
Setting the Stage for CRM Adoption
There are few Sales Operations professionals likely to tell you that driving higher adoption rates of the CRM system is an easy task. The conventional wisdom among business-to-business (B2B) companies has long held that salespeople are not technologically savvy, and they are hard-wired not to share details of their prospects, accounts, or opportunities. Designing easy-to-use CRMs and using both carrots and sticks to increase adoption are traditionally the ways companies attempt to increase the overall use of the deployment. Still, is CRM adoption an appropriate means to a relevant corporate end, or merely a self-fulfilling exercise that benefits report-hungry senior executives? The research shows that Aberdeen’s Best-in-Class firms clearly demonstrate a much higher propensity toward extensive sales rep use of CRM, so the former is true.
When it comes to the manufacturing sector, such companies potentially stand to benefit more than most other sectors because manufacturers inherently tend to be larger, more complex organizations with a higher number of other enterprise applications deployed, with which CRM can potentially be integrated. They also require more precise forecasting due to their complex supply chain and logistics needs. Indeed, Aberdeen research finds that organizations that tightly integrated CRM with other corporate applications performed better than those that did not, especially around the crucial KPI of customer retention. This is because customer data — as well as some information about prospective customers — lives in any number of different enterprise databases and silos. Disparate systems such as marketing automation, enterprise resource planning (ERP), contact center, or help desk typically include customer records that may not necessarily offer the same version of the truth regarding the demographic, “firmographic,” or financial history of an account. This is particularly true in the manufacturing space, in which highly complex product development and delivery cycles include a high number of customer “touches” by the producer / seller of the goods.
Hitting the Road: Mobilizing the Contemporary Seller
Unlike some of the customer-facing business functions mentioned above, the sales team is far more likely to work remotely spending time pitching new business, visiting manufacturing plant sites, and traveling to customer locations to maintain the business relationship.
As a result, both the traditional “traveling salesman” and the 21st-century major account manager share a crucial need: access to the ever-growing amount of data associated with their accounts, contacts, opportunities, and territory. Aberdeen research has shown that the most successful sales support teams provide the devices, infrastructure, applications, and processes to make the traveling or remote sales staffer’s experience as seamless as possible. They do this via:
Shared team calendars allow team-based selling to be effectively deployed by companies with multiple staffers associated with a prospect or customer account.
With complete agnosticism regarding the mobile tool — smart phone, tablet, laptop — the Best-in-Class lead others with mobile device CRM integration that provides the same user experience and access to data remotely that staffers enjoy when in the office or otherwise connected to the company servers.
Directly supporting this CRM integration enabler is mobile-enabled sales forecasting, which is also essential if we want two key sales tasks not to conflict with one another — “spend time with your customers” and “enter your sales opportunity data in the CRM.” Personnel who can create this basic content on the fly are more likely to comply with the management-level need for forecasting data to help manage the expectations of the many stakeholders watching the commit number.
The majority of companies support complete remote datasynchronization, though the Best-in-Class are 37% more likely than Laggards (89% vs. 65%) to do so. With today’s complex selling environment — an average deal size of $211k and typical sales cycle of 3.9 months among all respondents — requiring more team-based sales activities than ever, the down-time and confusion wrought by not keeping everyone’s activities thus aligned is a dangerous undertaking and should be avoided. CRM or forecasting data entry will be lost if reps aren’t always connected to the corporate server or applications.
Putting All the Pieces Together
CRM was originally created as a way to facilitate better communication, insight, and collaboration in the name of creating and sustaining better customer relationships. While many of us have experienced over-designed, clunky, or downright unusable CRM systems, Best-in-Class companies have shown here that a specific pool of best practices will create an optimized deployment that benefits all parties involved. At the end of the day, the CRM that works best is one which works the way salespeople do — bouncing between different applications, locations, and priorities as they try to make their number day in and day out — by providing them with more control over the environment, workflow, and communications that are integral to getting the job done.