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Integrating Sales Methodology into CRM: A Transformative Pairing

In the sales world, few topics are more contentious than CRM systems and sales methodology. Both have been viewed as necessary evils, and implementations are often met with reluctance. Sales reps have nodded along to both before going back to old habits the minute they pull up to their next customer. And the sales leaders, enablers, and operations leaders who have championed these important initiatives have the scars to prove it.

While both critical sales performance steps can be challenging, they are necessary and can strengthen one another when integrated effectively. In this article, we’ll explore how combining Customer Relationship Management (CRM) with a robust sales methodology can improve adoption and elevate sales performance for your team.

Common Pitfalls of Both CRM and Sales Methodologies

A consistently underperforming CRM often signals issues beyond just weak adoption:  poor top-line sales numbers, flat revenue, missed growth numbers, you name it. This can be the result of poor pipeline deal conversion, stagnant existing account growth, or both.

One of the promises of CRM is that it will actually improve sales results, and not just be an activity monitoring tool. However, a CRM that is solely used to report unstructured sales behavior doesn’t do anything to improve it. If a company hasn’t established a formal selling process and methodology prior to adopting CRM, the CRM shouldn’t be expected to deliver one.

The challenges of sales methodology adoption are equally complex. Companies invest considerable time and effort to train their reps, adopt a common language of selling, and center it around a structured sales process. Yet, the most common complaint from companies who put the effort into these areas is that it doesn’t stick. Without consistent application, it can’t do much to improve sales behavior or the results that would follow.

The solution? CRM needs a selling system to build around, and sales methodologies need systems to install into for regular and reliable application.

CRM, meet methodology. Methodology, meet CRM. When you examine each objectively, you can quickly see the benefits of merging the two.

Integrate Sales Methodology and CRM

Whether you have a CRM that you’re looking to integrate a sales methodology into, or vice versa, one of the keys to success is to keep it simple and pace yourself. Overcomplicating processes or expecting sellers to spend extra time documenting or reporting can derail the initiative.

The merging of CRM and methodology is not an all-or-nothing game. There are low-hanging fruit opportunities and easy wins that should be tackled first, and then iterative improvements to be made over time. If you overwhelm your sales team with additional fields, requirements, and tasks for the sole sake of integrating your sales methodology into CRM, the team is likely to check out.

Consider what key models and frameworks within your sales methodology are most pivotal to keeping pipeline deals moving, converting them, or growing existing accounts. In the next section, we’ll explore examples of some of the most natural linkages, but it’s up to you to prioritize what would make the most impact with the least resistance from your sales team. Aim for the easy wins.

CRM-Friendly Methodology Elements

Most any sales methodology will provide key frameworks that apply to different parts of the sales cycle. What they are, or how you can integrate them into your CRM will vary. Using frameworks from the Modern Sales Foundations (MSF) sales methodology as an example, here are several key integrations:

General - Prompts & Reminders

A good starting point when tying CRM activities to your chosen methodology is to add helpful prompts and reminders specific to each stage of the sales cycle. The below graphic shows examples of discovery and qualification frameworks added into a company’s CRM at the point of need, in the discovery or “Situation Analysis” stage. Prompting the sales team with core components of the sales methodology in their daily workflow helps reinforce consistent application. These allows core models to eventually become permanent fixtures in your sales culture.

Discovery Findings

Beyond prompting your team to use core frameworks, it’s important for reps to capture important opportunity information in formats that leverage those frameworks. In the graphic above, we mentioned the COIN-OP discovery framework. Yes, you want your reps to follow it in the meeting, but you also want them to systematically capture their findings from the discovery call in that format as well.

Start by creating simple fields for each opportunity (and potentially each key decision maker within an opportunity) to steer reps into the good habit of using the core models taught in your methodology.

It’s important to remember that your understanding of buyers’ needs and goals should grow with every conversation. Documenting challenges, opportunities, desired outcomes, and similar information should be done on an ongoing basis, constantly refining the opportunity’s specifics.

Buyer Decision Criteria

Documenting and tracking key buyer decision criteria is pivotal. What is needed to move the opportunity forward to the next stage in the purchase process? What is it about a potential solution that will make it the right purchase decision for each unique buyer?

Embedding fields in your CRM that track what factors influence buyers’ decisions is not only helpful to remind a seller of the strategies needed to win the opportunity, but it also forces them into better habits of information gathering throughout the process.

Opportunity Qualification

Have your sellers chased deals that were probably never there to begin with? Or made it through most of the process only to find that they misunderstood a key piece of information? This is not an occasional instance for many sales organizations, it’s common.

Applying a simple and complete qualification framework to the opportunity management screens in your CRM ensures that your sellers are asking the right questions up front to know that a) there is an opportunity, and b) how they should best navigate the sales process to win the opportunity. This allows them to call back and remember specific dynamics that will influence the purchase decision. The example below prompts sellers to capture important opportunity information in the FACT (Funding, Alternatives, Committee, Timing) framework.

Buyer Profiling

These days, complex purchases include several decision makers and influencers. It’s critical to capture information about each’s role in the purchase decision, their value drivers (what is important to them), and their attitude toward the purchase of your solution.

In Modern Sales Foundations, we classify buyer types as one of three Fs: Financial, Feasibility, and Functional. Beyond that, we offer insights into uncovering what type of value each buyer would need to see in order to move forward with the purchase.

Documenting all of the above helps your team strategically navigate the buying committee to move deals forward to close.

Account Objectives & Plans

If your team spends time maintaining and growing existing accounts, there is a great opportunity to formalize account management activities in your CRM.

We recommend integrating a consistent account rating system to define clear goals for each client or customer. Does the account have a high ceiling for growth, or is it more important to maintain the solutions you’ve sold up to this point? Define whether the focus is on account expansion or retention, then prompt reps to provide an account-level plan that accomplishes the selected objective. Capturing concrete steps within an action plan ensures your sales team knows what’s next and is accountable for completing those steps.

Get the Most out of your CRM and Sales Methodology

Whether you’re struggling with CRM adoption or the stickiness of your sales methodology, or both, remember the combined strength can be transformative. Start small and practical in the beginning, so that you’re not creating extra workload for your sales team. The methodology components you add to your CRM should clarify the sales steps and information to capture, rather than add to them. This steers your team into the better habits and execution that you were looking for when you made investments in these systems in the first place.

Interested in a proven methodology that can fit right into your CRM platform? Explore Modern Sales Foundations, which provides end-to-end frameworks designed to elevate your sales strategy and performance.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock | Deemerwha studio
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