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Moving On From 1987; CRM Tools To Drive Strategy And Behaviour Change

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The year was 1987. A loaf of bread cost $.50 and Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller” was released. That’s the year the first CRM was released by Pat Sullivan and Mike Muhney called ACT!. Notice the exclamation mark in the name. I assume they hoped it would cause users to ACT. And they did.

Now, that CRMs have been around for 32 years (I suppose CRM, if it was a person, would be considered a Millennial?), is it really driving the right behaviour? Therein lies the rub; many organisations never take the step to determine what behaviour the CRM should drive. If you only implement CRM to achieve the lowest common denominator to success, you are missing the point.

The Promise of CRM

The promise of CRM is actually pretty basic. CRM is and was designed to help companies to manage their company relationships and interactions with potential customers. The goal is simple: enhance business relationships with customers, find new customers, and just keep it all organised.

Great promise, but even though CRM is not as old as Star Wars, aren’t we asking too little of CRM? Think about what is possible with CRM. For example, according to research from Josh Bersin and Associates, 70% of learning occurs on the job and sellers spend, on average, 18% of their working time in CRM. So, what if we can turn the 18% into something of a learn in the flow of work model? Or what if CRM was aligned with the business’ strategy and drove real behaviour change? Or providing sellers what they need to execute on opportunities, while learning and experiencing best practises with every client engagement?

What Behaviour Should A CRM Drive?

It is not a stretch to consider CRM as a tool to ensure sellers follow a consistent process and approach. With many CRMs, a process model can even be mapped into a visual interface to encourage sellers to follow specific steps and activities as they move their opportunities forward. But, what if CRM could also improve specific competencies – maybe even competencies aligned with your business’ strategy? For example, let’s assume your business’ strategy requires that your sellers start selling more effectively to the C-suite. In this case, your sellers need to get good, quickly at several things, including consultative conversations and situational fluency (a combination of knowledge of the client’s business, skills, and attitude). Real situational fluency takes more than a product training or a binder on the shelf, it requires a constant understanding of what is important to your clients (by industry/role) at a specific moment in time (it is always changing, as their strategy and business changes and evolves). To operationalise this requires tools, embedded within the opportunity in CRM and hence within the natural flow of work.

In this example, our Sales Tools would feed the sellers the content (approved by marketing) to conduct a consultative conversation with the client in a way to show real situational fluency. This requires, based on the client’s industry and role, an understanding of their typical business issues, the cause of such issues, and how the seller’s solutions could address the issues (in the form of a story). Therefore, the seller would have a proven model to conduct a consultative conversation with a business leader, which would then align with their strategy. This thinking goes far beyond the basic promise of CRM but is entirely possible by taking steps such as:

  • Identify your business strategy
  • Determine if CRM is supporting or distracting from your strategy
  • Align this strategy with sales
  • Provide tools to sellers in support of the strategy
  • Measure and adapt
In conclusion, now that CRM is all grown up, it is time that it moves out of it’s parents basement and really starts to support business strategy and move sellers’ behaviour in the right direction. This is all possible with simple tools aligned with your business strategy.
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