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Why Visualization Matters in CRM
Blog / For Sales Pros / Jan 26, 2015 / Posted by Bruce Boyers / 5268

Why Visualization Matters in CRM

When it comes to CRM, why does visualization matter? Is it just because visualization makes things “look cool”? Or are there deeper reasons?

The Old Way: A Spreadsheet on Steroids

Let’s take a look at what our CRM solutions have looked like for the past 20-some years. While they’ve become enormously complex—evolving from mere contact management solutions to sprawling enterprise database solutions—the user interfaces have not evolved along with them. There are deep wells of information available from these solutions, but how is it displayed? Pretty much the same way it was all the way back in the 1990s: with tables, pie charts and graphs. In other words, a spreadsheet on steroids. Unless you are schooled in reading this kind of data, you may be frustrated by knowing that a lot of hidden information is not at your fingertips.

Your Brain Knows What It Wants

While the data is displayed in this deeply flawed manner, what does that data look like inside of the user’s head? Well, if you’re an unfortunate user of one of these “tried and true” CRM applications, it’s confusing.
But well-designed systems create a whole, new world.
You’ve got a sales process at least somewhat visualized, and have various sales cycles mapped at appropriate stages. Attached to these sales cycles you have important pieces of data, such as the buyer’s temperament, the company’s pain points, the decision makers, and more. While this data may be present in your current CRM, the way you’re visualizing it is a million miles from how it’s appearing on a traditional solution. And yes, it’s enough to give you a sizable headache.

5 Problems Caused by Bad CRM Visualization

Besides headaches, that incredible gulf between the layout of CRM data in a person’s head and its actual appearance in traditional CRM highlights five stubborn problems:
Difficulty Onboarding. Because the traditional CRM is not visual and intuitive in nature, it is difficult to learn. Onboarding for a CRM solution can take weeks or even months.

Lack of Adoption by Salespeople. When a CRM is hard to learn, it’s unlikely to be adopted. A CRM is intended—at considerable cost to a company—for use by salespeople and sales management. But salespeople, constantly pressured to make sales quotas, beat competition to the punch, and earn those commissions, don’t have time to devote to a CRM solution that’s not user-friendly or intuitive. Salespeople will only pay CRM the interest that they feel it’s due. They enter the minimum amount of data they can, and get out. If they don’t like the application, and don’t find it useful to them, well, let’s say determining ROI will be a difficult task.

Reluctant Data Entry. Because of this reluctant data entry issue, much of the vital data that should go into CRM is actually ending up in spreadsheets and notes of the individual sales reps—because that is how they track their own sales. This data is falling through the cracks and will never make it to sales management or anyone else (other than the rep) that needs it, and will be lost forever, once the sale is won or lost.

Lack of Monitoring and Control. Salespeople aren’t utilizing CRM for monitoring and controlling their own sales. They are therefore left to their own devices, which can be very hit-or-miss. This lack of support directly impacts the making of sales quotas and the company’s bottom line.

Sorry Sales Management Support. On the other side of the use proposition, that of sales management, we have managers using CRM to monitor salespeople. They’ve learned CRM a bit better than salespeople have—but how effective has this cumbersome CRM tool been in helping managers manage? In most organizations, sales managers are constantly chasing up sales figures with salespeople or gathering guesses during lengthy sales meetings so that sales management is current on sales cycle status.

All of this data should be right in the CRM. But because of the complex, non-visual nature of CRM, it’s not easily available or understood.

The Visual Difference

The failure of CRM to keep pace with users’ needs is puzzling because, at the same time that traditional CRM has steadfastly refused to modernize, visualization itself has taken a giant leap forward. Through tools such as HTML5, JavaScript, Flash, PHP, and others, we now have dynamic web pages for Cloud-based applications. The same tools that are being applied to web applications, web sites and even games, could be applied to CRM solutions.

Fortunately, some CRM solutions (ahem…like Pipeliner CRM!) are seeing the need for change, and the benefits are clear:

  • Matching Mental Models. Finally and blissfully, users can now take the mental visualizations they’ve been carrying around in their heads for years and have them out in front of their eyes, right on their screens. Along with all the important information such as tasks, appointments, and communications, they now have a have a truly visual CRM solution that is light years ahead of its “spreadsheet on steroids” predecessors.
  • Logical and Intuitive Interface. Visualization automatically brings another benefit to CRM: its user interface now makes total sense. When a sales rep or sales manager is looking for specific data about a sale, a pipeline, or even an entire sales unit, it’s right there. The same can be said for data entry: how much time will be saved when a salesperson knows right where to go to enter it?

And perhaps most important…

  • CRM Is Actually Useful. Probably the single most significant impact of visual CRM is the speed at which it actually gets adopted and used. Salespeople drop their own makeshift solutions and actually use CRM to track their sales. Sales managers can view sales data without all the added time and effort of extracting it from a complex CRM solution and/or chasing it down from reps.

You can certainly see why, when it comes to CRM, visualization not only matters, it’s everything. It finally and certainly brings CRM out of our heads, and into the real world where we can use it.
>Related posts:
The Most Visual CRM on the Planet Just Got More Useful

The New and Ancient Art of Data Visualization

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About Author

Bruce is a freelance writer and a 20+-year marketing veteran. During his career he has worked very closely with salespeople, achieved an understanding of how they can best be assisted by marketing, and gained a keen insight into the innate and singular abilities they demonstrate day in and day out.

Sales Process Automation
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