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CRM and Sales Training: Improving Sales Through Integration

Investing in sophisticated CRM is pointless if you don’t tie training directly to it

By STEVE CARLSON

How familiar is this scenario? Your team goes through an intensive training program aimed at improving sales effectiveness. However, once training is complete there is little input on how or when the skills learned should be used to improve the selling cycle. Employees may understand the training, but aren’t familiar with ways to apply the new skills to create mutually beneficial relationships with clients.  Reinforcement of skills post-event is a challenge, and technology is absent from the learning strategy.

Or perhaps this scenario rings true: Your organization invests valuable dollars in a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, only to find out salespeople are not properly using its tools and thus, are failing to maximize its potential. Disturbingly, few people understand the value of the technology beyond its application in warehousing information.

The above challenges are experienced by sales organizations worldwide as CRM programs and sales training often exist in silos, resulting in businesses and sales leaders missing an opportunity to improve overall sales performance through integration. CRM software should be much more than a database of information. When leveraged and integrated properly, effective use of CRM programs can lead to increased revenues through the creation and application of customer knowledge. To promote sales excellence, it is vital that CRM integration is connected to the organization’s learning strategy.

In order for a sales organization to be successful, salespeople must create mutually beneficial relationships with their clients. This requires not only offering solutions that meet client needs, but also offering solutions that make business sense for the selling organization to deliver.  The value of fostering mutually beneficial relationships cannot be overstated and include:

Higher win rates: When sales professionals are trained to create positive customer interactions that satisfy client needs, they are likely to succeed at closing more deals.

Shorter sales cycles: When a client is provided great service and information, sales cycles tend to be shorter as the customer is more confident in their purchasing decision.

Expanded deal size: As clients enjoy efficient and proactive service with sales professionals, they build confidence in the organization’s ability to satisfy their needs, leading to potentially larger deals.

A more satisfied sales team: Teams that are successful at forging mutually beneficial relationships with their clients are often more satisfied with their jobs and confident in their ability to execute sales excellence.

More companies are beginning to leverage integration to promote sales success and customer loyalty. Recently, AchieveGlobal, a learning and development consulting firm specializing in sales training, partnered with SalesForce.com to offer sales professionals CRM plug-ins or “apps,” – the Call Planner and the Account Planner. AchieveGlobal has long believed that reinforcement of training is paramount to the success of any implementation. Evolving from paper-based job aids, technology platforms like SalesForce.com are allowing salespeople to use these valuable tools in more extensive ways that reinforce training.

The CRM-integrated versions of these tools, offered free to clients, help sales professionals better manage sales calls and customer interactions. For example, through use of the Call Planner, users are reminded to apply the skills they have learned and benefit from a structured approach to uncovering needs, probing and addressing buyer indifference and closing a call. Sales managers benefit from increased visibility into the call planning process and solid metrics to assess the application of desired behavior on the job. Apps such as these are becoming proven essentials for migrating classroom sales lessons into the real-world work environments.

When integrating sales methodologies and CRM consider these best practices:

  1. Set the Standard – Establish clear and measurable usage guidelines.
  2. Communicate – Communicate the availability of the tool with a focus on benefits to the salesperson.
  3. Be Customer Centric – Assess how the integration will benefit your customers.
  4. Imbed into Coaching – Application of any tool will only be maximized if it is used as part of a coaching process and regularly reinforced by the sales management team.
  5. Share the Information – Make sure that whatever you decide to integrate can be shared across your organization with account teams, not only those who use your CRM platform.

For sales leaders, ensuring that their teams are responsive to customers’ needs and are equipped with the right knowledge to be successful is critical. Complementary CRM tools that enforce previously completed training can aid sales leaders in these efforts. Specifically, CRM apps and plug-ins allow sales leaders to:

  • Gain insight into team strengths and knowledge gaps, enabling more targeted coaching conversations. By reviewing notes and metrics captured by the plug-in, sales managers can better identify the performance gaps of employees, allowing for more direct coaching.
  • Minimize productivity loss during turnover by allowing for more easy data transfer from previous salespeople. CRM technologies house specific customer information, enabling seamless knowledge transfer in the event of employee turnover.
  • Be able to proactively provide recommendations for driving the sales cycle forward to close. By reviewing call preparation and notes, sales leaders are able to help sales professionals identify strategies to help close the sale.

Benefits of CRM technologies extend to the sales force as well, as they promote:

  • Continual reinforcement of sales training and best practices. The structured platform offered in CRM tools help sales professionals adhere to lessons learned.
  • A deeper understanding of employees’ strengths and knowledge gaps, helping them to know when to ask for help. Through strategic call planning and review of results and challenges, sales professionals are empowered to identify their strengths and areas for improvements.
  • A consistent way to share account planning information with team members. These types of plug-ins provide a platform for the capture of knowledge that allows professionals to better share information and best practices.

As companies continue to address customer expectations in an increasingly competitive market, it is vital that they leverage the tools that best equip sales professionals for success. While sales training and CRM each have their individual advantages, sales forces can greatly benefit from the continual coaching and structured sales guidance offered by integrating the two. Those organizations that continue to thrive will be the ones that create valuable relationships between sales professionals and clients by understanding the needs of customers and providing their workforce with the training and tools to not only meet, but exceed, customer expectations.

 

Steve Carlson is vice president of sales for AchieveGlobal. Carlson has more than 19 years of sales, sales management and training experience. For more information on sales training and management, visit www.achieveglobal.com.