When allocating a budget in an enterprise, sales automation often takes somewhat of a back seat to other matters. While the causes for this are many and varied—and fodder for random and age-old finger-pointing—we will not attempt to examine them here, but simply demonstrate the vital importance of IT support for one crucial activity: pipeline management.
Sales Pipeline Steps
When developing the sales process into discreet sales pipeline steps, sales automation must come in on the “ground floor.” At the very least, the IT department must be fully advised of the various sales process stages, once they are decided upon and implemented, so that these steps can be automated for use.
If this is not done, everyone from the sales reps to financial officers will have a very difficult time trying to adapt to automation that is not reflective of current company operations. Whereas if this step is taken, sales automation is working hand-in-glove with current company activity and will only benefit it.
It may be discovered at this juncture that existing CRM software is not flexible enough to embrace the pipeline management steps that have been evolved. If this is the case, it is highly advisable to choose another sales CRM tool that will be flexible enough. While this may require an unexpected outlay of funds, simply trying to customize the existing CRM software will cost the company far more in the future—as the intelligent use of the sales pipeline is further developed—in wasted sales, executive and IT time and resources.
Sales Automation-Sales Use
It is the on-the-ground sales force that will be making the most important use of CRM software. Their time is obviously quite valuable—minutes or hours spent not selling cost the company money. That time can be wasted if a salesperson must hunt for needed information, and drastically wasted if that needed information cannot be found because there was no way for it to be input in the first place.
Conversely, if sales automation is properly utilized from the get-go to support sales activity, that needed information will be just a click away. A salesperson will be able to record vital data in its proper place, so that it can later be accessed and utilized to push the sale along to a close.
Once again, the choice of CRM software is critical. It must be intuitive and easy for sales reps to learn, access and constantly use. It could even be posed as an objective that the application be enjoyable.
Analysis and Forecast
A prime use of sales automation is for analysis by salespeople, sales management and finance executives. A salesperson must be able to quickly examine his or her pipeline and know if they are on-target, behind target, or ahead. Sales management must be able to view the pipeline activity of each of their reps, and their department as a whole, and accurately know where they stand. Senior and finance executives must be able to forecast sales for the next month, year and years, and know their forecasts are as realistic as possible.
It can be stated flatly that none of these important functions are possible if sales automation isn’t fully supporting pipeline management. Whereas if pipeline management is accurately represented by sales automation, analyses and forecasts will be highly useful and result in further company expansion and profit.
In addition to mirroring the sales pipeline, the CRM tool chosen must also allow intuitive and easy creation of these analyses and reports. This again comes back to the choice of CRM tool; flexible analysis and reporting functions must be a priority in the choice of CRM.
With sales automation given its’ proper priority in relation to sales pipeline, pipeline management truly becomes opportunity management.
Stay tuned for more articles in our series on sales pipeline management. To learn more about managing your sales pipeline with Pipeliner CRM, take a look at all the next generation pipeline management demo.