I think there are few phrases so synonymous with computers as "garbage in, garbage out." It is so common that Charles Babbage, the father of the computer himself, said this:
"On two occasions, I have been asked, 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?'... I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
I like this quote for two reasons. One is that Charles Babbage was the father of the computer and this sounds like 'father of the IT person' sass. Two, it also shows that from the beginning getting accurate data into computer systems has always been a challenge.
Sales Has a Challenge
This challenge continues as productivity continues to rise. There is a clear need for efficient systems that view and capture the right information in real-time. There are few places in an organization where this is truer than in sales. The correct information in the hands of a salesperson can mean the difference between winning and losing a deal. The right information captured from the sales team can allow a sales manager to more accurately predict a sales pipeline and be more strategic with their resources. Despite the high value this represents, this isn't the world that I often see.
What I have seen a lot more are sales team members that don't have the right technology to allow them to access critical information when they are not in front of their computer. That information is often stored in CRM systems or even in ERP systems. Frequently they are accessing data from multiple different applications that they can only access from their computer or limited separate mobile interfaces.
How Sales is Forced to Cope With It
Sales team members are meeting with clients without a full picture of the relationship between the company and the client. They may have basic sales information, but they lack details around manufacturing information like the status of a client's orders, shipment information, and financial information (like outstanding accounts receivable).
These sales teams survive by manually gathering data before the meeting, often relying on inside sales to email them information with no ability to drill into details. They sit down with the client who asks specific questions they can't answer, and then they promise to get back with answers. The reps must wait until they can get back in front of their computer to get the answers, introducing delays into the sales process, potentially losing a customer's focus during that time.
How a Problem Becomes a Crisis
It is bad enough when a sales team member is impacted like this over and over again, but the problem becomes systemic when it comes to the sales team. If a sales team member cannot enter updates about their interaction quickly and easily, then the sales team loses valuable insight into a customer's history. The sales team member could forget key details before they get to a device where they can record it, which could impact the ability to do effective follow-ups. Also, not being able to update their confidence percentage in closing a deal and when they expect to close that deal, leads to inaccurate sales forecasting.
So let's tie that back to garbage in, garbage out. For the salesperson, if they have incorrect information, out of date information, or missing information, that is garbage going into the sales process. It also impacts the sales team. If a sales team has incorrect information entered, out-of-date information, or no information at all, that is garbage going into the management of the entire sales team.
Making Everyone Look Bad…
Let's review this in the context of what Sales Hacker sees as 12 Ways You're Making Your Boss Look Bad (And You, Amateurish):
#1) Not Being Across the Detail of Your Key Deals
#5) Failing to Take Notes and Follow-up
#6) Not Using Sales Tools Provided To You
#7) Not Keeping the CRM up to Date
#12) Inaccurate Forecasting and Fantasy Pipeline
I recommend reviewing the list, but these also tie to the systems supporting the salesperson. I've never met a sales person that refused to use a software system that makes them a better salesperson, but I've met a LOT that won't use inefficient systems that are complicated, slow, and fail to deliver the information that they need to do their job better. Wording that differently, I'd be much quicker to blame the systems supporting those salespeople for failing to provide value to them.
5 Ways to Know if You Have a Sales System Problem
So what are the hallmarks of a sales support system that aren't right for your team?
1) Let us start with the most egregious—a sales support system you cannot access outside of the office. This system isolation introduces a multitude of problems for a salesperson, from not being able to access the data they need, to the delays in entering in updates. It's the 21st century; the whole world is our office now.
2) Most companies fall into this one— siloed data. If systems are only providing part of the picture and salespeople have to use multiple methods to get the whole story about a client, then that will increase the likelihood that things get lost in the process. I don't know about everyone else, but my brain has a limited amount of RAM, so compiling data across a bunch of different systems can make it hard to see the whole picture. The problem for most companies is that the cost of synchronizing all of the data a sales team needs becomes cost prohibitive. So, they don't provide it, which leads to an incomplete picture.
3) This one is tough, but honestly, any system that relies on synchronizing data. When systems use synchronized data, some details are get lost in that synchronization process. It is often too cost prohibitive to sync everything, even if these systems had places to store all of that synchronized data. However, there is another problem here—timeliness. Data that is synchronized is not available real-time. For some data, this may be okay, but there are plenty of other places where not having real-time information is a killer. A good example is inventory availability—nobody wants to sell the inventory they don't have.
4) Any sales support system that is read-only is a natural choice to make this list. Salespeople need to be able to record updates quickly after meeting with a customer, and any delay in getting those notes entered will mean that details get missed.
5) This final one I think most people have run across—an interface that is just plain terrible. In the past, I would joke with clients that I could tell when software developers designed the interface. When the interface is jam-packed with useless information, and they buried the functionality you need, it's simply not going to work for your team. If users don't like using it, they will be less likely to use it. A proper user interface should work with a user's business process and not impede it. Don't settle for less.
Take a look at your sales support systems, and if you see these or other issues, know that there are solutions. We would love to hear what your experience has been and show you how things can be different. We’ve solved it for Epicor CRM/ERP customers and we would love to show it to you.