Dear CRM Leader: Stop Doing This

The #1 Mistake Sales Leaders Are Making In The Big Data Era

There was a time not too long ago when sales ops positions were viewed by executive leadership teams as a needed expense to keep the trains running on time. Too often, though, sales ops professionals lacked the organizational support to think in bigger terms of the wider strategic impact they could have on the rest of the organization – marketing, finance, and corporate strategy. The big data revolution which has been accelerated by advances in technology and business schools’ focus on “data driven decision making” has rapidly changed the profile of sales ops leaders. More often than not, we are seeing today’s sales ops leaders having a sharper quant focus. They are seen as having a more integral role in the C-suite.

Exactly as expected with this newly refined profile of sales ops leaders, a focus on better sales data has taken center stage. However, at company after company, we see a common mistake repeating itself. Too many sales ops leaders and their marketing counterparts are simply equating “more data” with “better data.” And, in plain fact, more data very often is better. Since most CRM systems are so easy to modify, we see incredibly elaborate customizations in which sales reps can enter sales data into several dozens of fields.

However, in seeking so much feedback from field reps, there are too many practical realities of 21st Century B2B sales that are being ignored. Ask yourself this, have you ever heard a good sales rep ask the following question: “What do you want me to do, close deals or enter data all day?” Whether the question is fair or not is irrelevant. Of course we want reps to close business AND comply with company CRM standards. But before we just brush off the combative rep, perhaps it is worth examining our CRM expectations.

At piLYTIX, we closely monitor CRM usage stats. Remarkably, we have found an inverse relationship between the number of added custom fields and the level of rep CRM usage. Hidden deals, surprise short term closes, and clear “sandbagging” indications tend to be highest at the organizations that have asked reps to enter the most fields of data.

While our clients benefit from specific recommendations for CRM adaptation, we encourage all senior sales ops leaders to consider the following when considering their data policies:

  • Take the time to educate sales reps how they will directly benefit from complying with your CRM standards. Hint: if you can’t convince sales reps of what’s in it for them, you will never solve your data collection problems.
  • Focus on those fields that directly speak to the most important priorities of stakeholders throughout the organization.
  • Learn which fields correlate with deal success (or failure) and ensure that there is focus on those fields. Don’t assume that these fields will be identical from one company to the next.
  • Recognize that while sales reps are tremendous sources of market intel, they are not professional market researchers. What information is better collected via full time professional market researchers?
  • If you use third party prospect engagement technologies, ensure that the quantitative outputs of those systems is integrated into your sales data. If your sales rep is doing the hard work of selling and you have paid a vendor to track open rates, phone meeting time, or web conferencing data, then it seems reasonable that you would want that technology seamlessly integrated.