Tops sales behaviors to avoid in 2014.

Over 50% of companies can’t properly forecast.  It’s not due to effort and expense associated to those efforts.  It’s about focusing in the wrong areas to fix.

Here’s a story that many of you can relate to.  Recently, I was speaking with the head of operations for a $3B public company.  Their trust in the data in their CRM system is so bad that they ask over 1,000 sales reps to update a manual Excel file every week and send to their managers.  These managers then in turn make changes to the forecast and then send to their managers.  Their managers then make changes and send to their manager.  And so on and so on.

There are now literally hundreds of different versions of the truth and none of these versions make it back to the version that really should matter – your CRM system.  That’s why you have a system.  To manage your sales business.  By taking the data out of your CRM system, you are actually making the situation worse.  How?  Your reps will see that you are not using CRM to run your business and it will devalue your CRM system.  If you are not using it, why should they care to properly use the system?

Second, you now made your sales reps very inefficient.  By taking the data out, they now have to potentially enter the same data twice.  Once in CRM and again updating and changing in Excel.  Based on my experience, this external reporting wastes two hours a week of potential selling time.  That’s 12-14 days a year!

Here are a few ways you can get the practice of managing your sales business back into your CRM system.

1.       Find the key sales behaviors that are eroding your data integrity.  Run a diagnostic that will tell you the critical sales behaviors that need to change in how your sales reps are managing your sales process in your CRM system.   At Marseli, we have a diagnostic application that our customers use to see how sales people are using their sales process and the impact it is having on your business. To stop behaviors like sandbagging, deal entry and stage jumping, proper close dates, deal valuations, etc., you have to get to the root cause – the sales reps who are doing it and the managers who are allowing it. These are all behaviors that erode your data integrity.

2.       Plan for change.  Once you know the behaviors and can validate the impact, go for change.  Start by getting leadership approval and support.  Once you have support, run a pilot in a test group.  You will have to develop training materials for management and coach management to be able to coach to the intelligence.  This is your “crawl” phase.  Once managers have a handle on coach to the intelligence (and holding themselves accountable to it).  Then move to the walk phase.

3.       In the walk phase, you roll the intelligence out to the sales reps in a very simple dashboard.  This dashboard will allow them to see the key behaviors in real time and the impact they are having on their personal business.  It is this dashboard that reps will review weekly with sales management.

4.       After 3-4 months of walking and ongoing coaching to behaviors, then introduce 2-3 more behaviors.  Follow the same process as the first 2-3 behaviors that you rolled out.  Once these are in the field and being managed, then you can bring forecasting and commitment management back into your CRM.  That is your run stage.

Once you are in the run stage of the process, your data will be 80-90% more accurate then when you first started.  With accurate data will comes a higher level of trust in the intelligence.  But how do you accurately run a forecast and commitment in CRM?  Depending on your system, you should be able to now use the native reports, or if you are using Salesforce.com, you can use the best practice functionality of Marseli’s application that is native to Salesforce.com and becomes part of your system.

Get back to basics.  Focus on the human behaviors that exist at the sales rep and frontline management levels.  Improve the behaviors and your resulting data set will improve.  Don’t fall into the mistake of thinking this is a software problem and a better forecasting or CRM system will do the trick to solve the problem.  If you are a sales or operations leader, get a mirror, look into it and put the blame squarely on your shoulders.  Change begins with you.