In one of my previous posts, I had written about how the science of sales should be left to software. This is increasingly becoming a reality. The fundamental ingredient, if sales tech is to help organizations, is data. For the most part, this is the data that salespeople need to input regularly and accurately in their sales CRMs. And this is exactly the point where most doubts creep in about whether sales tech will be able to live up to its promise.
Getting sales reps to update their CRMs has been a challenge ever since CRM solutions came into existence 30 years ago. Over the years, with the advancement of CRM technology, the average usage rate has increased but as an Experian study found out, 91% of US corporates still believe that their bottom line is being adversely affected by incomplete and inaccurate data.
In our view, whenever one is in the process of implementing a sales CRM, making it easy for reps to enter data regularly and accurately should be one of the main considerations (Tweet this). The ROI of your CRM investment depends on it.
Successful implementations, based on our experience, have an average user engagement of 80%+ on a weekly basis for a sustained period of time. Here are some strategies that have worked towards getting this high engagement:
Strategy#1: Give Back More to the Sales Rep
The first strategy that we have seen working is to give back much more to the user than what is being asked of her. The idea is that instead of designing the tool around the CXO (which most CRMs are), we design it around the sales reps, give them what they will most value . Over a short time, sales reps realize that more they use the system, the more value they get back.
So what do you give to the sales rep? Here’s a list:
Comprehensive analytics around a person’s performance, both leading and lagging indicators, embedded across the daily sales workflow that provides ready insight e.g. aging of an opportunity within a stage, or the number of days a client has not been contacted or business information of a client
Relevant content that is dynamically embedded in the context of the workflow, that is an insight for the user, that is very easy to access, and that is available at the precise point of need.
Guidance & suggestions:
Specific guidance based on analytical insights and customized as per the organization. Guidance could take many forms – next best actions, best practices, early warnings, reminders, map-based suggestions, and so on.
Frequently done tasks that can be automated or at least made easier e.g. prioritizing leads, call logging (both inbound and outbound), note taking, directions to a client location, to cite a few.
A very important question to consider for this strategy to work is – how do we surface all these insights, content and guidance, to the sales rep?
Our answer lies in the smart use of triggers.
We can take a leaf out of Hooked – Nir Eyal’s book on habit-forming technology. The system should present insights to the user in the form of visual triggers and notifications. If a user responds to the trigger, the aim should be to make it very simple for them to access the details of the insight and then take action on the individual items. The rewards of responding to the trigger are immediate. This is a strategy that we have used in 19th Mile quite effectively and that has been extremely helpful in driving user engagement. In fact, almost 70% of our usage happens around triggers.
Strategy#2: Make it Very Useful for Front Line Managers
We have seen that if frontline managers find a tool useful, they are the ones who drive usage among their teams. Our learning has been that managers want to get visibility, control, and decision-making support.
While managers like to have visibility into the rep’s activities, leads, and opportunities, what has made managers engage more is when they get a 360-degree view into a rep’s performance daily.
This includes not only outcome metrics like sales but leading indicators like activities completed, type of activities, pipeline quality, size, distribution, conversion ratios, sales velocity, average deal sizes, and so on. Along with visibility, managers have most appreciated various tools that enable them to make quick decisions, such as team heat maps, which give them the ability to decide which team member they need to engage with, at a glance.
Strategy #3: Remove Friction
Our aim should be to remove any avoidable points of friction between the sales rep and his or her recording of accurate data. This strategy has 5 sub-elements:
Field sales reps are meant to be out on the field. Getting them to update their CRM in office or home means less customer facing time. It is only logical to provide the entire sales CRM functionality in a mobile app. However, care has to be taken to ensure that it isn’t difficult to perform complex tasks on a smaller screen.
Sales reps are often on flights, subways, or in low network areas. A mobile sales tool should have full offline functionality so that a sales rep has access to all of his or her data and app functionality even without access to a network. This increases the potential interaction opportunities with the tool, especially while the sales rep is waiting for meetings, or traveling. This significantly drives usage.
A big benefit of a fully offline capable tool is that its performance becomes very fast. This improves user experience tremendously. Users can get into the app, update data, and get out real fast. No waiting for screens to load.
Ask for data only when needed:
Another aspect of reducing friction is to ask for information only when it is absolutely needed. The default number of fields for creating say an opportunity, should be very limited, thereby making it very easy to add one. If there are numerous mandatory fields that are to be captured, the CRM should ask for it only when an opportunity progresses or closes. It is much easier to get people to fill additional data about an opportunity when they are marking it as closed or won.
End users will always have questions when using a tool. Our endeavor should be to provide resolution to the user ASAP. An end user support strategy should be an integral part of the overall implementation. Video tutorials, FAQs, Help functionality need to be very easily accessible. Email support should be backed by SLAs. For large enterprises, it usually makes sense to have a central team within the client organization provide the first level of support, especially for IT support and business related queries.
Strategy #4: Focus on the Middle
If we implement all the strategies mentioned above, will we achieve 100% user engagement? Maybe. Maybe not. Empirically speaking, it is not easy to get top performers (the top 10–20%) to update their CRM so easily. It is near impossible to penalize them for not using the CRM. The bottom 10% may not have enough data to update the CRM. Worse, they may update the CRM with bogus data. The middle 70%–80%, is a different story. This is a group of sales reps who are good performers, usually without the arrogance, by and large conscientious and with the desire to perform better. A company can more reliably increase their sales if they focus on this group. The insights, content, and guidance will yield the best results if they are tailored to this group of users.
Focusing on the middle implies that the CRM usage in your sales team, in steady state, will hover around 75%-80%. This is the least level of usage that an organization should gun for.
These are the principles we have used to design 19th Mile. We have seen very high and consistent usage of our application at our clients. If you’d like to try 19th Mile for free, send us an email at email@example.com or visit https://19thmile.com