When I moved into sales management 20 years ago, the #1 rule preached in management class was: “Inspect what you expect.” Which, back then, was easier said than done. It required detailed review of every salesperson’s paper call reports, quotes and sales reports. From there I would “back into” the numbers to review activity and close ratios, determine if there was a problem – and if so, where and why. Because of this difficult process, I, along with most managers, didn’t inspect much, if anything, having to do with top performers (who were over quota). We spent almost all of our time (incorrectly) with the under-performers.
Today, I manage multiple multi-million dollar sales forces in a fraction of the time. I correctly allocate my time and resources into making top performers even better! I can do this because of the advancements in sales management software, commonly referred to as SFA (sales force automation) or CRM (customer relationship management).In the early stages of sales management software, cost and complexity factors put these tools out of reach for smaller companies. Today, dozens of programs offer single user licenses for free or very low cost. They’re easy to use and give you the data you need to make decisions about time management.
With all of the choices available, I thought I’d provide two links to sites that have conducted independent research on the options. Once you’ve established your shortlist, you can investigate in detail based on your individual requirements.
There are many good options – but I encourage you to conduct your own research as well. Just a word of caution: due to the competition in this market, many SFA manufacturers publish white papers and comparison charts that “look” like independent research, but really are sophisticated sales and marketing pitches for their own product. Be mindful of this when conducting your research.
If you are a single user, or you manage a small sales force (fewer than 10 sales reps), I recommend keeping it simple. If the system is too complex, users won’t use it – and you won’t get the data you need to make decisions.
That said, the only truly bad decision you can make in choosing sales management software is to not use it at all. The main reason individuals and small companies fail is because they make decisions from emotions (i.e., “the gut”), and not data. Some companies “get lucky” and make the right gut decisions. We’ve all heard the old saying “sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.” While that may be true sometimes, of those two options, I’d rather be good. Being good is much easier to consistently repeat!