Companies spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, on databases for their sales teams. Then they hire sales admins whose entire job is to curate data the sales team collects, and leverage it to improve the company’s sales processes.
These sales admins spend 60 to 70 hours a week tinkering away in their CRM system, trying to make data consumable and useful for their sales team, only to hit a dead end with an interaction like this:
— Jenna Weiner (@RatherGeeky) October 31, 2013
— Laura C. Busse (@lcbusse) April 29, 2014
Every time I see Sales Mgrs updating a white board with what their team sold that day, a little piece of me dies inside. #WhySFDCadminsDrink
— JP Seabury (@jpseabury) January 2, 2015
So what’s an admin to do?
How do you get to a point where the sales team is deriving real value from their sales performance data, maintaining the CRM system, and improving the sales process on their own?
The Heart of the Problem
To answer that question, you have to put on your sales rep hat. You’re moving at a hundred miles an hour, navigating accounts, chasing down contacts who have gone dark, putting together contracts, keeping an eye out for triggers, and closing deals — meanwhile your manager is breathing down your neck, asking when you’re going to hit your number the whole time.
Now, on top of all that, you’re expected to switch away from the tried-and-true methods you’re used to and spend time learning the ins and outs recording data in a CRM system… For what?
Unless you see an immediate return on the time you spend recording data, it’s just not worth the effort. The data you record doesn’t help you to close the deals you’re currently working, so you don’t bother with it.
The key is to reach a point where your data helps you close more deals. As soon as you hit that point, sales reps become a sale admin’s best friend. They’ll be more intentional about entering information correctly, and be open to workflow changes — so long as they help them sell more effectively.
Of course, that’s also the catch — you can’t do anything useful with bad data, and sales reps won’t adopt the CRM until it’s helping them to close deals. This leaves admins between a rock and a hard place, because their whole job revolves around improving CRM and data usage.
To resolve that conundrum, you need some help from the sales leadership — the VPs and the managers. The only way to get the ball rolling is for the sales team as a whole to adopt the philosophy of: “If it isn’t recorded in the CRM, then it didn’t happen.”
There are two ways to make that happen.
The Wrong Way
The incorrect (and most common) way to force reps to become more data-driven is to use data as a stick.
This approach is more widespread because it’s simple — you implement a policy that reps have to record all their daily activity into the CRM, and then you beat them over the head with it until they give up all other methods of managing their pipeline.
The thing is, the only incentive reps have for maintaining a high level of data quality is to avoid getting yelled at by their managers for showing up on the exception report. They’re never trained on how to become data scientists and dig into their past performance to figure out how they can improve in the future.
As a result, they never make the connection between data maintenance and sales results. The reps see the CRM as nothing more than an added burden, and they depend on managers to do the analysis for them. This leads the managers and VPs to demand increasingly sophisticated reports and workflows from their admins to account for everything.
And that’s why the #whysalesforceadminsdrink hashtag exists.
The Right Way
Training on how to use data to improve sales processes is the core of a data-driven sales organization. The data-driven approach to sales begins with the culture of the sales team.
Performance data should be a carrot — it should inspire friendly competition within the ranks and encourage reps to investigate their own performance to figure out how they can improve it. The company has to set a tone of: “We’re buying into a data-driven approach to sales, and you’re going to be a better sales rep because of it.”
For sales reps to derive value from data, it has to be accessible and consumable. When you are working with a sales team that understands how to dig into the database and uncover insights about its own performance, they’ll begin closing more deals, and truly value data.
Reps can use it to manage their pipelines more effectively, managers can go beyond exception reports and give tactical advice based on historical performance, and admins can work on optimizing the sales process instead of worrying about data quality.
To create a successful, scalable, data-driven sales team, your reps must understand how to dig through their past performance to uncover the keys to improve their performance in the future, and have the freedom to access and analyze data at will.
That’s the only way to get past the “I’d rather keep track of everything on paper” hurdle.