The Crucial Step Your Sales Reps Could be Skipping

Why it may seem like reps aren't hitting their targets, even when they are

Written by Matthew Cook

I’m betting that the following scenario is a painfully familiar one. A sales manager is speaking with one of his reps about his quarterly projections. The conversation goes like this:

Sales manager: So, Jim, what do you think you’re going to produce this quarter?

Sales rep: Well, boss, I’m 90% confident that these three deals will close for a total of $100,000 in revenue.

Sales manager: So I can count on you hitting $100,000?

Sales rep: Sure thing, boss. No problem!

Almost every sales manager, VP or business owner has had a conversation like this—only to be disappointed when Jim winds up bringing in just $30,000 for the quarter. All too often this pattern repeats itself, until finally either Jim quits or is let go.

What’s the problem here? Is it that Jim’s sales targets are unrealistic? Is he simply a crummy sales rep? Perhaps. But it’s far more likely that Jim is falling short because of a reason that’s easy to overlook: he’s leaving huge gaps when reporting his sales activities in your company’s CRM system.

Read The 5 Key Behaviours of Top Sales Reps

Senior managers often praise Customer Relationship Management software such as, Oracle or Microsoft Dynamics as one of the best tools a business can have. And they’re right. CRM systems allow you to track the activities and interactions that your sales reps have with customers and prospects. The idea is to streamline the sales process by tracking all the key activities and metrics that will lead to a sale. If the information recorded in a CRM system is accurate, it can be an incredibly valuable tool for predicting sales, new customers and movement through a sales pipeline.

But not if vast chunks of information are never recorded.

And that’s a widespread problem. Even though it’s easier for a salesperson to use a CRM system than the old paper-based sales reports, many sales reps remain anything but thorough in logging their activities. Actually, that’s an understatement. Many salespeople are notorious for not inputting critical information that will help management accurately manage the sales process and forecast revenue—and help reps themselves accurately predict their commissionable earnings.

Why is there so much resistance among salespeople to use these tools properly? Here are the three key reasons:

Reason #1: It Takes Time Away From Selling

Sales reps want to spend their time speaking with current and potential customers so they can gain new sales and thus earn commission. As such, they see anything that takes them away from selling as an opportunity cost.

Let’s say that Jim has just had a 30-minute conversation with a prospect in which Jim learned a lot about this potential client but also that she wouldn’t be in a position to buy for another year. Rather than spend the 15 to 20 minutes necessary to enter into the CRM everything he had learned on this call, Jim inputs minimal information and a note to call the prospect in a year.

As far as Jim is concerned, his time is better spent calling on another customer than inputting that information. Yet if Jim were to leave the company, all the data he had gathered would go with him, leaving his successor on this account pretty much back at square one.

Reason #2: Sales Reps Don’t See the Value

Another reason salespeople don’t accurately reflect their activities and conversations in their company’s CRM is that they fail to see “what’s in it for me?” The problem is that reps don’t always make the connection between their information-gathering activities and the metrics that can come out of that tracking.

For example, if you accurately track all activities and conversations, you’ll gain insights into the specific metrics that will lead to sales success. This allows you to determine that, say, if a rep speaks with 50 prospects a week, that will likely lead to 10 meetings and three new customers. Knowing this, the sales manager can use these metrics to coach and manage the team.

What’s more, all the sales reps will understand that they need to speak with 50 customers a week in order to hit their quota. So, if it’s Thursday and a salesperson has only spoken with 30 potential customers that week, she knows she needs to speak with 20 more to be successful.

The best part is that any deviation from these metrics will lead to coaching opportunities. If a rep made 50 calls and got only two meetings, the sales manager can spend time coaching the rep about his conversations and correct the behaviour. Inputting information into a CRM can help reps by showing them exactly what activity will lead to success.

Reason #3: There Are No Consequences

This is typically the biggest reason salespeople don’t accurately track their activities. Most companies that have a CRM in place know that most of their salespeople don’t input 100% of the data they should, but the companies don’t do anything about this. Yet there’s a simple fix:

If it’s not in the CRM, it didn’t happen

and you don’t get paid

If that doesn’t wake up your sales team and get them inputting information, I would suggest it’s time to get new salespeople. You have to understand the biggest single motivator of most top salespeople: money. If you tell them that they’ll get paid only if they input everything you need, and you follow through to enforce that, guess what? They’ll do it.

Matthew Cook has 17 years of sales and sales management experience, primarily in the financial services and staffing industries. He is founder of SalesForce Search Ltd., which was No. 4 on the PROFIT HOT 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies in 2010 and No. 19 in 2011.

More columns by Matthew Cook

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