(Too) Many sales organisations undertake a CRM strategy and associated hefty investment, and then when the software vendors come on site to undertake their (too) often “generic customisation”, the purchasing sales organisation is jolted into a process that forces them to retro-think about the functionality and the process support that can be derived from their investment.

This common egg-and-chicken scenario usually results in one or two forms of investment sub-optimisation:

  • Paying for functionality embedded in the system that is unnecessary but the organisation was not well prepared to say they didn’t want it;
  • Conversely, they don’t adequately tailor the software to provide the functions or support the processes they need.

Truly understanding this point often aligns to the  difference between a CRM investment being a software purchase vs a customer relationship business system and cultural journey.

Specifically, when it comes to the sales team, we often see that the members are the main users of the software and key subjects of the system.  A year down the track, they are usually the ones who bemoan the legacy of the investment as destroying productivity value, not adding to it.

Leading sales organisations make the pre-investment in their CRM strategy more valuable than the actual investment in the software tool that supports the philosophy.  The analogy is as simple as getting the architecture, designs and plans right first before building a house.

There are critical bedrocks to optimising the sales process and systems and a well designed CRM software tool can be specified to support them and then managed to drive sales team productivity and return, before the choice is made to select the most appropriate tool. Customer classification and coverage; prospect profiling and penetration; infrastructure to support farming existing customers – account management structures, partnership planning; infrastructure to support hunting brand new customers – pipeline and/or opportunity management design, hunting-flushing-trapping sub-processes; Sales Exec scoreboard and league table development often get missed in the vendor driven scramble to ensure that all department staff can enter notes against the contact record, the Marketers can undertake snappy mail merge campaigns, and other “vanilla” functions.

The key learnings in watching sales organisations continually squander significant amounts of money on CRM products and then disparage its “underperformance” are:

  • Review and redesign your sales processes, practices and systems first and then specify the right CRM tool to support and automate; and
  • Don’t select the ‘right” CRM tool and allow it’s vendors to constrain your sales processes, practices and systems to what the post-purchase implementation will tolerate.


Glenn Guilfoyle is the Founder and Principal of The Next Level, a specialist B2B sales consultancy. For more insights like this, check out The Next Level’s proven sales process.