Step 3 | Audit the tools you have
So once you have an understanding of the sales process and what has changed externally, you need to assess what works and what doesn't. Although it can be painful to hear what your salespeople have to say, this step isn't particularly difficult. Just ask.
"Most sales reps aren't shy about opening up once they know you'll listen," says School Specialty's Grawien, who had plenty of talkers surrounding him at the national conference where he manned the sales booth. "The key point is you not only find out what they don't like, but you also get a true sense of what technologies and platforms they have the skill set to master."
You must assess how well your company is doing at tracking communication and customer patterns. Can a rep easily access all pre- and post-sales activity related to a customer? That means emails, orders, quotes, website visits, and the like. Likewise, can the internal service and support staff see the sales team's input, especially emails and proposals?
We're talking about a true customer-centric dashboard that puts all of the customer's information in one easy-to-use format. You'll have to leverage enterprise search more than you already do to access emails and documents, but that's not as hard as you might think. Pulling in website activity is a bit trickier, but the data is there if you can prove the value.
If you have a CRM system, odds are it's underutilized. You'll want to tie sales rep activities to what's going on online. All sales force automation software allows this in ways that give reps far more than just a prospect's contact details. If a training event, catalog mailing, or email campaign that could touch a customer is happening, it should be right there for reps to see and reference. If there's a spike in activity around a product or problem on the website, reps should know so they can prepare for questions that come up in live discussions. Most companies never even try to address these links, but they're critical to sales success.
Step 4 | Make improvements fast
Steps 1 through 3 will lead to dozens of tweaks, covering everything from email and CRM to service and reporting. Get right to work on that list.
But first take this pledge: Add no new tools or resources until we better leverage the ones we have. The first step shouldn't be upgraded CRM apps, new business analytics software, or yet another dashboard. IT should be able to immediately impact sales by tweaking existing tools.
When was the last time you sat with your salespeople and went step by step through how they use the CRM system? Chances are, there are fields they no longer use and steps they click past every time they use the system. If that functionality doesn't stand to serve your salespeople, get it out of their way.
In communicating with clients and colleagues, do reps stay within the CRM app, or are they switching back and forth to email? (Hint: Everyone still lives on email.) Is there a way for you to integrate the two? Steps like slimming down CRM and integrating email can make a quick impact, win friends in sales, and prove that IT can move fast and deliver results.
When IT integrates itself into the sales process in the right way, an interesting form of respect evolves. Neither IT nor sales quite understands the other's job, nor are they interested in swapping roles. But once they decide to team up, both groups will see advantages and start working together in new ways.
If sales is struggling, IT must be one of the first places it turns for help--but IT also has to be ready to share the blame if sales quotas aren't met. And if the company blows past those goals, make sure IT shares the glory, because we all know that the sales team throws the best celebratory parties.
Michael Healey is president of Yeoman Technology, an Internet research and product design firm. He still makes cold calls for practice and fun. Read more by him at informationweek.com/mikehealey. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.