EXPERT ADVICE

Customizing Your Sales: Familiarity Breeds Success

Too often, a company chooses a CRM/SFA (customer relationship management/sales force automation) solution that just does not fit. Each company has unique sales and marketing needs, so a “One-Size-Fits-All” CRM solution is not the best approach.

An expensive Armani suit is worthless if it is not tailored to fit your body. The same is true for a CRM/SFA solution. It must be personalized to meet your company’s specific sales and marketing needs.

Buying “out of the box” CRM software may seem like a simple solution. After all, finding and implementing the right CRM application requires a good deal of time and energy. In the long run, however, such an approach will not only diminish the ROI (return on investment) of the software purchase, it will also decrease the effectiveness of a company’s sales and marketing force. Typically, the solution will be blamed when, in fact, the real culprit is the lack of customization.

Flexibility Is Paramount

The key to a successful sales force is choosing the CRM solution that best fits your company. A successful CRM product should be built on its ability to embrace and empower your existing sales process and culture to make adoption of the solution quick and painless. The CRM solution a company chooses should, above all else, increase sales and work flow without causing unnecessary disruption.

A CRM tool should mirror existing organizational structure,and it should be adapted easily to a company’s existing sales process. This is best achieved through choosing a CRM package that provides this flexibility. Such a CRM package will be adopted quickly and will provide a short learning curve, allowing sales teams to focus on selling, not technology.

The most important feature of a CRM solution is a flexible user environment. Users should not be forced into obeying what a generalized SFA or CRM product tells them to do. A sales team should not have to use a sales process developed in an engineering lab. A solution that allows the flexibility to build an individual sales and customer interaction process is a key component of a successful sales team.

Unique Selling Process

For example, theBetter Business Bureau of Metropolitan Houston is a nonprofit organization funded by dues from member companies. With a list of more than 200,000 local businesses to consider, Juan Ortega, the regional sales manager, needed to find a CRM/SFA solution that could allow him to build a customized sales process and help the internal sales team focus on building and acting on leads to grow membership.

Since the Houston Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit organization, it focuses on selling its mission. Selling something intangible requires a unique and often discreet selling process. The Bureau needed a solution that would allow it the flexibility to subtly tweak its sales process without completely overhauling it.

Ortega found a CRM package that gave structure to his organization’s unique sales efforts while providing the benefit of flexibility to manage the evolving sales force. He chose a solution that gave him the ability not only to create the right questions to ask when qualifying a prospect, but also to effectively utilize the answers.

This ensured that the entire sales team would be equipped with the right tools for qualifying leads and making initial sales calls. It also ensured that the most efficient sales processes would be shared and followed by everyone in the organization.

Record Membership Growth

The team at the Houston Better Business Bureau had the sales process narrowed down to ten fail-safe questions to determine whether the team had a viable sales lead.

“Our CRM solution allows us to dump thousands of pre-screened leads into the system and choose the best prospects,” said Ortega. “The result is a shortened sales process; usually one call equals one close.”

After a year of implementing the CRM solution that allowed Ortega to customize the Better Business Bureau’s selling process, he now has a fast and efficient sales tool that has led the Bureau to record months of membership growth.

The unwieldy “out of the box” sales process that contributed to a high employee turnover rate and low morale is gone. There is now a proficient sales group propelling the Houston Better Business Bureau to record growth.

“After customizing our selling process to meet the Better Business Bureau’s unique needs, our average sales representatives have become more consistent in their sales efforts,” said Ortega. “After implementing our customized solution, 75 percent of our sales team is now producing at the bonus level.”

Customization Tips

Here are the most important CRM features that will help the customization process. A company should choose a CRM solution that excels in each of these areas. This ensures both that the technology will grow with the organization, and that the initial learning curve will be minimized.

Flexibility. A flexible CRM platform must be able to

  • Adapt to the way your sales force sells;
  • Implement your current sales process;
  • Work on the devices of your choice;
  • Work online or offline with the same interface and provide access to all data.

Easy Integration and Adaptation. The importance of ease of integration and adaptation cannot be overstressed. CRM technology should work seamlessly with a sales force’s methodology. It is especially important for CRM software to minimize its learning curve to allow a sales force to continue to close sales with minimal disruption. These points will ensure painless adoption of the technology:

Before you choose a CRM package, make a list of your requirements and inspect this list critically. It is important the CRM package you choose accommodate all of these needs.

They include all business processes: sales, pre-sales activities, post-sales support, quote generation, standardized pricing, purchase history and commission tracking.

Be sure to list each user by role and name. List the skills and proficiencies of each user with all business processes and software applications used in your business.

Affordability. Concerning cost, keep these points in mind:

  • Match the price to the level of costs your business can sustain;
  • Don’t spend more than the CRM package is worth in increased revenue;
  • Avoid a long-term contract unless required by management;
  • Understand the pricing model and list the cash flow for the costs over the next 12 months;
  • Vary the user count and calculate cash flow. Be sure to compare this figure to the pricing model.

A CRM solution that fits your company’s needs and is customized to support your existing sales processes will help grow your business, increase sales and focus your sales and marketing efforts.

You must, however, commit your organization to using the CRM solution. You must recognize this is a change event in your company, and make it your personal goal to become successful. You must also compel your business leaders to effectively use the solution.

Having successful CRM takes research and planning, but you will end up with a happy sales team and a profitable organization. Armed with this knowledge and through proper research, your company will be well on its way toward the right CRM solution.


Geary Broadnax, chairman and chief executive officer ofDovarri, is a recognized expert in the development of hosted sales force automation and customer relationship management software serving small business to enterprise companies.


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