CRM and Sales: If it's Broke, Fix it.

CRM systems are a reflection of the sales and marketing team. So when both are broken, should you fix the CRM first, or fix the organization first? The answer: Yes.

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What Can Be Done in Sales

When upgrading a sales organization, there can be policy changes that blow away a lot of the status quo — particularly if there's a change in channel or vertical-market strategy. Even so, the sales folks can be helping build the future while waiting for the new boss:

• Helping the CRM team understand the semantics of custom fields, picklist values, and workflow states.

• Helping the CRM team understand (or, heaven forbid, document) business processes and policies at the start and end of the sales cycle, particularly those that involve channel partners.

• Helping the CRM team understand the usability issues, particularly items that slow reps down or degrade system credibility.

• Cleaning up Account and Opportunity data, particularly the stuff that only they know.

And What Has to Wait

There are certain issues that simply cannot be progressed in the CRM system until the sales and marketing organization has solidified its leadership. The list below may look simple, but each item has ramifications all across the CRM system:

• Security model and access: how much should reps see?

• Lead, account, and opportunity distribution: how is ownership of these key objects determined? What happens if a rep has let one of these assets go stale?

• Territory definition, particularly when there are territory overlays

• Use of the named account vs lead generation model

• Sales and support teams

• Rules of engagement for channel partners, inside sales, and outside sales

• Quotas and forecasting model; comp plan and incentive structure

• Price list SKUs, number of price lists, and discount schedules

• Standard terms and conditions, and related internal approval processes

As I've written endlessly, CRM systems aren't like the rest of enterprise software. To be effective, CRM systems must closely match the policies, processes, and people in the sales and marketing organizations. Even so, when there's change ahead for those teams, there's no excuse for delaying the start of CRM work. As always, an Agile methodology is the most effective way to cope with concurrent efforts and ongoing policy or organizational change.

David Taber is the author of the new Prentice Hall book, "Salesforce.com Secrets of Success" and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified Salesforce.com consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems. SalesLogistix clients are in North America, Europe, Israel, and India, and David has over 25 years experience in high tech, including 10 years at the VP level or above.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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