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January 27, 2012

Football & Opportunity Management

Missed Kick

Death threats!

A dropped ball and a missed kick led to death threats. Last week during the title matches that produce the participants for the Big Game in American football, two players suffered season-ending miscues. As a result, two teams went on vacation. Those with a stake in the outcomes were devastated, and a tiny fraction displayed their contempt in a seriously anti-social manner. With so much at stake and such great visibility, it is not a big surprise that these high-profile bungles received so much attention.

So my question is, what happens when your sales guys fumble? My guess is that they don’t get death threats if they drop the ball on an opportunity. I am fairly confident that most dropped balls go unobserved.

I don’t think it is unfair to compare your sales team to a football team. The selling process is often discussed in sports metaphors, particularly hunting – the thrill of the chase, and all that. In fact, it would be pretty interesting if sales SVPs could pick their fantasy sales team and compete with each other on a weekly fantasy forecast.

But, getting back to botched plays, it would be great if sales reps were monitored with as much visibility as football players. In fact, the concept of Moneyball, borrowed from the statistical analysis performed by some baseball teams, makes even more sense when it comes to sales as a sport. It would improve overall sales performance if we could track more information about sales activity and compare that to results. We don’t need to see the sales rep up on the Jumbotron in slow motion replay, but it would be better if we knew more about what happens along the way.

It is possible to make progress when it comes to improving sales rep performance. I believe it starts with a formal approach to opportunity management. Deals should be tracked and the activities that go into moving deals along should be tracked as well. Opportunity stages should be defined, and key activities for advancing deals should be outlined. Sales managers need to enforce the discipline of this method, primarily by measuring and reviewing results.

All of this gives us a better chance to coach, another sports metaphor. When a sales rep does make a misstep, it is best to know what went wrong, and what will make it right next time. It is much harder to self-correct than it is for a sales manager and a sales rep to work as a team to make improvements. This is why teams review game video footage – the equivalent of tracking sales activities by opportunity stage and discussing once or twice a month.

What we need is more visibility into fumbles, but what we don’t need, however, are death threats.

January 13, 2012

To Be or Not To Be (centralized)

We just finished a presidential primary race in our neck of the woods. It is interesting to watch, but the television advertising gets quite fatiguing. Another interesting element of the process is that it will eventually end with one winner – first for the party, then for the entire country. It is an evaluation process that has some pretty wild criteria along the way to the final selection.

On a regular basis I will go through this with a client. Not to select their president but to select their CRM platform. It doesn’t always happen for the entire company, like a presidential election works for the entire country. Most of the time it is more like selecting the governor of a state. We pick the best technology for a division, a country, or a function. But, every once in a while we go for the whole enchilada – one platform for an entire multi-division, multi-geography enterprise.

When is it a good idea for a large complex organization to rely on one technology to run all or most customer interaction management? From my experience, not all that often, but it is possible.

Size Matters

As your organization grows and becomes more complicated, it starts having more parts with needs that differ from other parts. Getting the organization to use one ERP is one thing. CRM is a different beast. Geographies have different business models; business lines sell to different segments. Acquisitions cause more differences, in some cases that should remain, in some cases that should not. If you are not too complicated, it might not matter. If you are big and complicated it probably does.


The first question to ask, if you are big and complicated, is why would you want to go to one system? There are common answers:
- Executives want one pipeline and forecast
- IT wants to manage one system instead of 20
- Many groups don’t like what they have, and just want to change
- Clients are irritated that they are treated differently by different groups that can’t communicate
These are fairly valid reasons, but might not necessitate one technology platform. The easiest way to kill an initiative looking into a single technology approach is to request a business case. Can you justify the expense of migrating everyone to a single platform in order to resolve one or more of the above issues? That kind of business case is usually a quixotic endeavor. The other challenge is whether you can satisfy everyone with one system. Looking back at recent elections, it is hard to get a country to accept one president.

The other question to ask is whether the conditions that drive you to investigate a single technology approach might be satisfied with another approach. There are a number of things that must be accomplished to satisfy most of the issues raised above. For example:
- You probably need to standardize your data. If you can agree on data standards, you will solve much of the need for bringing together technology.
- You probably need to standardize some processes, in order to have the chance of achieving data standards. Again, this will possibly take you much of the way there.
- The final component of getting this all to work is the connection of platforms, although this can be a challenge under the wrong circumstances. Integration can be more expensive than migrating to one platform, but in many cases it is a better solution, especially when one platform will not satisfy every group.

So, when does it make sense to go with one platform?

The biggest condition is when each customer-facing function across the whole organization is willing to perform most processes in a similar approach as each other. The sales team in one group is willing to perform similar process steps as a sales team in the next group. Timing is another condition, when the majority of the business is ready for a technology upgrade or change. The business case is much stronger when there is a need to change many groups at one time. A third major condition is when moving to a single cloud environment enables you to reduce technology management costs to offset the migration of business units that don’t need a change. If you can stagger your migration over time, the business case gets even better. Don’t make everybody change all at once, but get there eventually.

Still, all in all, I don’t see this all working very often in big and complicated companies. Business units get frustrated that they are performing processes in a way that satisfy another business unit’s needs (or at least that is their perception). Regions feel they are different and can’t conform to the region that the system was built to satisfy (in their perception). The technology gets thrown under the bus and the business unit or region goes rogue – they go out and get their own CRM and disconnect from the mother ship. I see it continuously. It is just like an election.

We have to go with the majority vote but there is always a new majority that wants to change, sometimes very four years.