25 ways to improve sales productivity with CRM software

by Richard Boardman on January 11, 2011

Photograph courtesy of Patrick Hoesly

Many years ago I visited the assembly line at the Nissan car plant in Sunderland, one of the most productive car factories in the world at the time. I guess I was expecting to see huge numbers of robots and other automation, but in fact it was a surprisingly manual process. What particularly caught my attention was the care with which everything had been set out in order to make each individual as productive as possible. All the tools a worker might need to complete the task in hand were immediately available even if that meant they were suspended in mid air so they could be reached without undue movement.

What I took away with me was an appreciation of how a lot of minor improvements can add up to big overall gains in productivity – what GB’s hugely successful cycling team call the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. One of the key benefits of CRM technology is the impact it can have on sales-force productivity.  While no one aspect of CRM software offers a magic bullet, a number of productivity enhancers together can have a big effect. Here are twenty five examples of the some of the ways most CRM systems can be improved to support productivity gains for sales teams:

  • Set personalised mail-merge templates up so that frequent communications can be produced more quickly
  • Provide mobile access to the system from PDA’s
  • Ensure sales collateral such as price-lists, case studies, product specifications, return on investment calculators etc. are all immediately available and can quickly be emailed out to prospective customers
  • Automate quotation generation
  • Implement a lead scoring and nurturing programme to ensure salespeople are only working with sales-ready leads
  • Review the set up of the existing CRM system – are there unnecessary steps, data capture requirements, and key strokes that could be removed?
  • Integrate data from other key internal applications into the CRM system to allow salespeople to get the data they need quickly
  • Proactively provide information salespeople need to be aware of – for example major customer issues
  • Set up individualised reports dashboards personalised to the needs of the salesperson
  • Establish robust marketing communications processes that reduce the amount of input required from the sales teams
  • Integrate the system into the phone system to speed up making and recording calls as well as launching records based on the incoming caller id
  • Provide the means for salespeople to get answers to issues quickly through being able to assign tasks to other departments or through collaboration applications such as Chatter
  • Automate the sales order process
  • Improve key customer facing processes, such as order fulfilment and customer support, in order to reduce the number of instances where salespeople become involved in addressing issues
  • Cut the time to produce management information by automating report production for example forecast, pipeline or sales activity reports
  • Integrate relevant external data and news-feeds into the system
  • Automate key operational processes to reduce sales involvement
  • Integrate product configuration capabilities to avoid the impact of invalid configurations
  • Provide better visibility of user activity to avoid unnecessary duplication of work
  • Provide links to social media applications such as Twitter and LinkedIn so that background research be accomplished more quickly
  • Ensure that sales executives have the reporting information they need immediately to hand – even something as simple as a standard client visit report template can save a lot of time assimilating and printing data
  • Integrate with mapping applications such as Google Maps to assume directions are immediately available from within the CRM software
  • Speed up data capture for example through integration into post-code data, or card scanning devices or by providing administration support
  • Ensure senior executives are users so they can answer their questions and queries directly from the system

These are just a few examples, by carefully analysing your own sales processes and using CRM technology to address drags on productivity, big gains can quickly be made. Given the cost of running a sales-force, and that many of the improvements can be cost effectively achieved, the principle of Kaizen – the process of incremental improvement – applied in this area can potentially produce a very significant return on investment.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chuck Schaeffer January 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Excellent post. In this recovering but still fragile economy many executive teams are looking to get more out of their existing investments. Beyond the valuable concept of Kaizen, CRM is itself a journey, often advanced with small but progressive steps which steadily improve customer relationships and achieve organizational objectives.

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John Oldest January 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Centralizing information for sales executives means increasing the external data integration into you ERP, or CRM environment.

Basically you are moving the sales info from the head of the account-manager to a system.
Having information present is great.
With the added centralizing comes a responsibility to keep the system workable.

You need to start using duplicate finders and remove redundancy on a regular base. IF you fail to do this people will get list blind or information overloaded.

My advice would be to seek balance in your cleaning and integration efforts.

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Richard January 20, 2011 at 8:53 am

Chuck, John, – thank you for your comments on this. I totally agree using CRM to improve productivity is a great way to get more out of your existing technology investment as many improvements can be achieved without further expenditure. From an integration perpective, you make a great point, this has to be done well, or the time and cost involved in maintaining the data outweighs the benefit.

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Antje Wilmer February 3, 2011 at 4:32 am

really good to read

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