July 10th, 2015

5 Tips to Leverage Your CRM for Sales Forecasting

crm for forecasting

How do you get the most out of your CRM for Sales Forecasting?

If you were an early adopter of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology, you probably found it to be an expensive, complex tool that often fell short of delivering on expectations. Today, CRM is easier to use, more cost effective, and a must-have for managing nearly every aspect of business data.

Now that you either have or are probably considering a CRM system, how do you get the most out of it? Here are five tips for leveraging your CRM for sales forecasting to gain greater confidence in sales forecast accuracy:

1) Understand the primary purpose of your CRM.

There are many, many applications that you can layer on today’s CRM systems, but the key is restraint. To get the most out of your CRM, you need to embrace its primary purpose as a customer relationship management platform. So, use it in that regard to manage your relationships and sales opportunities. Don’t get stuck in the trap of trying to make your CRM do everything it possibly can, or it will become too complex for the everyday use intended.

2) Don’t use your CRM to fix operational inefficiencies.

Yes, there are cool systems and platforms that can bring rich functionality into your CRM. You can layer in project management and integrate it with your financial systems. These add-ins can provide a lot of additional data, and it’s tempting to use the CRM to try and fix operational inefficiencies. But, while a CRM can do many things, it first must be a customer relationship management platform. Your priority when configuring the technology should be to make it more useful for your sales team and managing those relationships and to not make it more complicated and cumbersome. The key is to think about marketing, sales, and customer service first. Once you have those nailed down, you can layer in additional uses more effectively. It’s when you lose sight of priorities that the CRM can become a jumbled, nonstrategic barrier to productivity.

3) Align your CRM with your sales process.

You need to be thoughtful about how your CRM is initially set up. The first step should be to develop your organization’s sales process. Then, make sure your CRM can mirror and align with that sales process. At every step in development, you should be thinking from this perspective: How does this help me better understand and serve my customer? How does this benefit my sales team, and how does it get my sales rep, my sales manager, and the executive leadership the information they need to effectively manage this business, close deals, and gain insight into forecasting and predicting performance?

4) Add the right functionality. When considering what functionality to add to your CRM, approach it from a sales perspective. What does a sales rep need to do in order to manage deals effectively? What makes it easier for sales reps to gain access to the information they need about their clients and their deals? One key element to consider is a content management platform so that sales reps have easier access to marketing materials and other internally developed content that help them promote and sell.

LinkedIn and other social media platforms can be integrated into your CRM so that sales reps can more easily connect with prospects, get leads, and gain insights into their contacts and industry issues. And, with e-mail and other communication systems integrated in the CRM, sales reps can approach prospects and contacts directly and avoid duplication of effort in taking notes and updating records.

Accessibility on mobile applications and devices is a given in today’s on-the-go environment. Just make sure that your CRM mobile apps are thoughtfully developed and designed for ease of use.

5) Maintain good relationships across departments.

Being in Sales Operations, I make sure to maintain good relationships across the company and stay informed about what’s happening in other departments. As people make decisions in their areas of the business, I need to be able to determine whether it makes sense to integrate their initiative into the CRM to both make their information more accessible to the sales team and better serve customers.

Any time you create something that is supposed to provide more information or value to the sales team, make sure that the team can take advantage of it easily and without adding yet another place to go to access the data. Just remember, the CRM is first and foremost a sales tool. While it can also be useful in sharing knowledge and information across an organization, the key is to find a balance that works for your sales reps and your leadership team.

Ease of use and sales support: those are my priorities with CRM technology.

Learn more about Richardson’s Consultative Selling Sales Training Solutions.

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About The Author: Michael Rogan

Michael is a sales operation professional with 15+ years’ experience in senior level financial analysis, budget planning, forecasting, report creation, and financial accounting. Michael is a poetic strategist who combines strong quantitative and interpersonal skills to collaboratively improve sales organizations by identifying efficiencies, leveraging talent, creating innovative processes, and eliminating barriers.Michael's experiences range from start-ups to Fortune 1000 organizations. He has deep expertise working in rapidly changing and evolving business environments. Industry experience includes over ten years of experience in retail, wholesale, and consumer products and five years in professional services.

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