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Hedge Fun

One of my bigger challenges as a consultant is convincing my clients not to think too small. When I am approached by a business that is looking at the possibility of buying a new SFA tool there is often an expectation to keep things fairly narrow in scope. Typically the interest will focus on a primary capability such as better forecasting or more sophisticated contact management. But, while the desired scope of effort may be small, the expected outcomes are disproportionately big. This is where the problems arise. Spending a few hundred grand on better forecasting or contact management may not ever see a positive return.

If you were to pour through the different research reports on sales effectiveness, especially those utilizing CRM and SFA software, you will find trends that help to resolve this problem.

Viva Las Vegas

First, one of the big limitations of SFA as a stand alone solution is that it tends to be best at lowering cost of sale, but less effective as a sales growth solution. This can be a big disappointment for those sales VP’s who were making the investment in order to drive higher sales volume. However, further digging into the research indicates that this potential disappointment can be abated with the correct additional investment. The best chance of improving sales growth is to combine sales force automation with marketing automation, particularly lead management solutions.

The irony for me regarding this significant benefit of combining sales and marketing as an integrated solution is that I often have to push to get marketing invited to the table when it comes to planning for these CRM programs. The push back is often centered around wanting to contain scope in order to maximize results. Buddy, if you want results, don’t think so small.

A similar inappropriate scope limitation involves the idea of containing the reach of SFA. This next problem is often disguised as a desire not to burden the field with unnecessary admin. It goes something like this. There is a recognition that the customer data base is patchy. Too much contact information resides on PDA’s and rolodexes. So, the request is to implement SFA for the resolution of this problem but not to overtax the field with unnecessary tasks such as sales call reporting. However, when you look further at the results of the research we find that these programs have the least ROI. You want results, then you need to build a sales methodology into your SFA – these initiatives show the best returns.

The added discipline of the sales methodology drives better account targeting, facilitates coaching, enables collaboration, and reduces the risk of leads falling through the cracks. It does take more effort to get right, and it does increase the scope of the program, but it also delivers better results. Is that not the reason you were making that CRM investment in the first place?

Now, you may be thinking, “wait a minute, the research also indicates that keeping project scope small also improves the likelihood of success!” This is very true, but the studies specifically point out that chunking programs into bite size project pieces is the best way to implement. This is not intended to imply that keeping the span of the overall program small will lead to better results. To the contrary, the integration of multiple initiatives spanning functions like sales and marketing leads to the best results - according to the research.

Hedge your bets. You don’t have to do it all at once. Start with sales then add marketing, or the other way around. Just don’t think small.


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