A lot of sales reps hate their customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and it’s not hard to see why. Nearly two-thirds of reps’ time now goes to non-revenue-generating activities, CRM updates chief among them. In fact, your average seller must update over 60 records every day, or more than 300 each week, just to stay current.

That’s a heavy reporting burden. It also suggests that the goal of adopting CRM in the first place—to help you close more business—is in practice being undermined. Considered in that light, the fact that so many sellers feel boxed in and micro-managed by CRM systems, rather than supported and empowered, should come as no surprise.

Clearly, it’s time for a new approach. In this article, our enterprise sales experts explain how you can not only optimize CRM systems for sellers, but combine CRM data with human insights to power the success of your entire sales team.

Optimizing CRM’s for Success

It’s estimated that anywhere between 25 to 60 percent of CRM projects fail to meet expectations, and you can’t afford to let your organization’s count among them. The bottom line is that if your current approach to CRM isn’t contributing to business wins and empowering sellers to close more deals it isn’t the technology’s fault—it’s yours.

So you need to chuck your old top-down approach to CRM, which privileges management’s perspective, and reboot your system from a sales rep’s perspective.

To wit, here are three steps to help you get there.

Communicate the value

Sales reps will resist any non-revenue generating work unless they understand what’s in it for them, so this is an essential first step—and the failure to do so helps explain why fewer than 37 percent of sales reps report actually using the CRM systems at their companies. In purely black and white terms, your sellers might be interested to know that CRM systems have been shown to increase revenue by as much as 41 percent per salesperson.

Gather input and customize

Once you’ve demonstrated the value of CRM adoption, you need to meet with sales leaders and reps alike in order to align on the features that matter the most to them. You can then use their answers customize the platform in ways best-suited to their specific needs, and identify areas where you can use sales intelligence tools to automate data-entry processes. (Check out our comprehensive sales intelligence playbook for more on that.)

Train users on the process, as well as the product 

Now that you’ve got the proper customization in place, it’s time to roll your shiny new platform. Of course, you won’t see much value unless people know how to use it. And that means training should focus not only on the product itself, but on associated processes, too. Try to make sure everyone gets a high-level overview of the system, and understands why your CRM is being used the way it is.

Follow these three steps, and you should be in a position to see ROI on your CRM investment. Ideally, sellers should now be able to craft more effective outreach, better manage their pipelines and move more deals over to the closed-won column. But to get the most out of your CRM, you need a little human insight.

Bridging the Gap from CRM Data to Enterprise Insights

Interacting with people—that’s what salespeople signed up for and what they do best. Time-consuming CRM data-entry, not so much.

So the good news, now that you’ve effectively optimized your CRM to serve your salespeople, communicated the value of the system for them personally and secured buy-in, is that it’s time for action. And to really move the needle with your top accounts, nothing is more effective than validating your strategy and approach, based on CRM data, with former enterprise buyers at your prospects’ organizations who have seen the end-to-end buying process firsthand.

Working consultatively with your sales team, your Emissaries will give you unprecedented visibility into your most lucrative deals in progress, shedding light on all of the black boxes that exist between CRM form fields.

Specifically, your Emissary can give you insights to questions like:

  • Am I targeting the right person with my messaging and outreach? Who are the stakeholders that truly matter to the outcomes I want, and what’s the role of each in the overall buying process?
  • Am I serving sales outreach content to contacts at my target account at the right time?
  • Are there regulatory concerns or other considerations I should be aware of because they’ll impact my outreach and messaging?
  • What are the key motivating factors for the buyers at my target accounts? Are there events or other opportunities I could attend to personally build a relationship with them?
  • What messaging is likely going to resonate when I pitch or present to my prospect?
  • All told, how long does my prospect’s buying cycle usually take, from start to finish?
  • What roles do procurement or IT teams in the buying process? And at what stage do they get involved?

Of course, these are just a few examples of the ways your Emissary can help guide you. And while navigating the path from CRM intelligence to closed deals isn’t easy, having an enterprise expert to take you through the steps and validate your CRM data will give you a definitive advantage.

Keeping Your CRM Human

Optimizing your CRM around sellers real-world workflows and needs, then leveraging insider insights to validate CRM-based intelligence, are two ways to get more value out of your CRM system. But to make sure your CRM intelligence remains, well, smart, there’s a third step you should take, too.

It’s simple: Too often, sales reps tend to populate CRM systems with the most bare-bones information about interactions with target accounts. While trying to dig up valuable information and insights on accounts, you’ll often instead get meager updates: “Went over platform features” or “OOO email, will try back next week.”

The goal—and the expectation across the sales team—should be to flesh out CRM entries with as much information as possible. The two examples above, for instance, effectively raise more questions than they answer: Which platform features did you discuss, what was the buyer’s level of enthusiasm, and did they have any specific objections or concerns?

The “OOO email” is a missed opportunity for valuable insights as well. Who was listed as the replacement or interim point of contact in the prospect’s OOO email? This can be a valuable source of insights into the org chart at target accounts. Beyond that, it might help you work backward to understand permissions and approvals later on. But in its current form, it’s just bad information.

Finally, bear in mind that CRM systems aren’t just repositories of customer information. In fact, you should be using your CRM for a lot more than that. For example, it can serve as a kind of ad hoc notepad for you to scribble down ideas about prospects and sales opportunities as they occur to you—plus, you can even assign yourself action items to ensure that you follow through.

Executive Insights

Technology systems should never get in the way of sales—yet, across the board, that’s the painful reality today for many sales teams today. Ensuring your sellers are empowered with tools that provide value and deliver insights, therefore, starts by rethinking your approach to CRM. And that means not only optimizing your CRM system for sellers, but combining CRM-based intelligence with actionable insights from insiders who know your prospects’ organizations firsthand. It’s the double whammy that will pay dividends at your next quarterly performance review.