I still have quite a few Don't get paper cuts from your CRMconversations every week with sales managers or CEOs who are running their sales teams on paper. Just yesterday I was speaking with the manager of an inside sales team responsible for setting appointments for manufacturing reps. She was spending time every week printing lists to hand out to her team and then gathering the paper back to see who was contacted. She had heard about CRM and was interested in bringing the sales process into the computer age. It became obvious from the questions she was asking that her view of  CRM was limited to basically having the data in a digital format and available to her sales people, but with the process remaining essentially the same. She is far from alone in this view, as many CRM’s were built to just help a sales person better organize their client information.

In some sales processes that is exactly what you are looking for. You just want to have data in a central place and make it easier for sales people to look it up and store it. But many of the companies we speak with are using the telephone to reach out to large numbers of prospective or existing clients. Success depends on driving this activity while maintaining quality, and they are considering CRM to help with this. Surprisingly though, when they choose their CRM they simply replicate the same problems that they have with paper. Sure the information is now more readily available, but it gives management no extra ability to truly drive and affect the behaviour of their sales people.

In the recent 2012 Sales Leadership Priorities Survey published by Frost & Sullivan enhancing sales reps’ productivity was one of the top two concerns. As Gil Cargill pointed out in a recent blog, you cannot manage sales but you can manage activity (http://www.gilcargill.com/sales-skills/surprise-you-cant-manage-sales) and it is by increasing the quality and quantity of activities that you will impact results. When implementing a software system you must think about how it will allow you to drive activity, both increasing productivity and establishing a consistent and standard process for your salespeople. If management can’t enforce a process then they will be relying on each individual to recreate the entire sales process every time, and we know that can be a recipe for disaster.

For sales teams where boosting activity is a crucial component of success – appointment setting, prospecting, lead generation, cold calling, telemarketing and inside sales among others – you cannot afford to simply replace paper with a computer. You must look at the entire sales process and choose a solution that will drive activity in addition to tracking it. If all a sales manager did every day was look in the filing system for the information on a contact when asked by a salesperson and then write down what happened would you be happy with their performance? Then why should you expect so little of your software?

There are many solutions available for almost any type of sales process imaginable, and with the number of online or SaaS offerings available even a small company can affordably act like a big one. So if you are thinking of updating your current CRM, lead management or telesales solution, don’t shortchange your company by just ending up with digital paper.

President & CEO of VanillaSoft, Inc., is a successful software executive and entrepreneur with a background in finance, business development, sales management and marketing. He draws on his experiences in these disciplines in his leadership role at VanillaSoft. Connect with David on Google+

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