Step fiveAt last we come to the sweet spot for many CRM: management of contacts within the selling process. As you get into testing CRMs’ fit for your selling, remember these key points:

  • You probably have contacts beyond those you are selling to. If your CRM doesn’t support dealing with those contacts it will be a waste of time and money—and will probably drive you crazy.
  • Put aside the issue of B2B versus B2C (and CRM branding). It’s more about a complex sale with many steps versus a sale with less complexity and fewer steps.
  • With so many features focused on selling, it’s easy to think what you see in the CRM is how your selling should operate. This is not about “should,” it is about finding a tool that suits your selling reality.

Need to See Deals in Process?

Most of the fit—or lack of it—will center on how the CRM deals with sales process or flow. This flow is often shown in “stages” and those stages often match layers of a funnel, with the first stage at the top of the funnel or the beginning of a “pipeline.”

  • Most CRM include four or more stages in their sales process. If your typical sale involves one or two, these CRM can easily over-complicate things.

Do not let what the CRM shows you make you think you should parse your process into more stages. Instead, look for a CRM that lets you streamline the process.

Regardless of the number of stages, consider whether seeing deals in process will be useful or not—don’t assume you should want or need it. Find the tab or reports that show which deals are at which stage. (If you would have to add data to see what this looks like, find examples on the CRM’s website and evaluate based on that instead.)

  • If you typically have just a handful of deals in process at once it’s doubtful this information will have value. In fact, it’s doubtful a CRM with robust sales features will have value at all. Don’t take that as a sign you should have more deals working, take it as a sign you don’t need this kind of CRM.
  • If you typically have fewer than ten active deals at a time, you may not need a system to show you where each deal is in process. However, you may find it useful to see the deals as a whole. For example, seeing several deals at a later stage might indicate it’s time to contact your favorite sub-contractors and tell them you may have a project for them.

Still, take a moment to consider whether you want or need a program to show you this information. Some people find the filtering helpful, some prefer to track manually and on paper.

  • If you are managing more than one sales rep you will probably find the sales-in-process information is useful, even if each rep has just a few active deals at any given time.

Adjustable Flow?

If you decide you want to see deals in process, the next step is to test the CRM’s stages. The default stages for many CRM apply to selling to enterprise-size organizations and do not work for the rest of us. Fortunately, many CRM are now easily customized at no additional charge.

  • Rather than testing the fit of the CRM’s sales flow to yours, see if the stages can be changed. Can they be renamed? Can you add or delete stages and move them in order?

If the stages can be changed, this CRM is probably a keeper. If you cannot make changes unless you upgrade to a higher version, dump this CRM and keep shopping.

Projections and Probability

The other functions that get a spotlight in many CRM supposedly project which deals will close, and when. These functions are primarily designed for sales managers but sales reps use them, too. Regardless, these functions often have serious hidden problems.

  • Probability is usually shown as a percentage and supposedly measures how sure the rep is that the deal will close. Choosing a probability is a guess, which makes the feature a waste—and misleading.

Can you delete the probability ratings function? If you can, good. Keep testing this CRM (and do not use probability if you end up buying it).

If you cannot delete the probability function, try this work-around: Change probability for all deals in the CRM, adding deals if needed. Give all of the deals the same percentage, no matter their stage. Try 0% probability first and try to run the report showing where deals are in process. Does it work? If not, try 50% probability—remember to give all deals at any stage 50%.

If the reports still don’t seem to work—or if the reports aren’t particularly useful to you—let go of this CRM and keep shopping.

If the reports work and seem useful, keep testing the CRM. (If you use it in real life, use the same probability, 0% or 50%, for all deals in process…and ignore it.)

One more twist on probability: Instead of using a percentage, see if the CRM lets you assign points to each deal. See this article for more.

  • Projections are often shown as projected “close” and generate reports based on month, quarter, or even specific dates. This function has realistic application as long as you add two things:

#l: What does “close” mean? You may want to use the date prospects say they will make their decision; or the date a contract is projected to begin; or the date the deposit or first payment will be received. (The latter is especially useful for clients with long pay cycles.)

#2: Make sure the whole sales team uses the same definition with all deals, otherwise this data is too fuzzy to have value.

Wins and Loses

The last group of features to evaluate handles tracking deals “won” and “lost.”

  • This kind of information will only be valid when generated by more than 100 deals per year. If your sales situation falls under that number it will be best to ignore these features. Consider how easy it will be to do that, and whether ignoring them also means the CRM doesn’t have enough value. Again, don’t let these features make you think you’re doing something wrong—it’s the CRM that’s wrong.

Seeing the number of deals won versus lost is not particularly useful unless you manage sales reps and their quotas are based solely on units. Having data about the reasons for wins and losses can be quite useful, but both the CRM and the humans involved can get in the way. Here’s why:

  • To analyze the reasons for “wins,” you need CRM that lets you customize the options for reasons (their preset options rarely have a good fit). If the CRM will not let you customize the reason/options, either ignore these functions and reports or find a CRM that allows easy customization. If you can customize the reasons, be sure to include an “other” option.

Having the right reason/options is only half the picture. You must also ensure sales reps ask new customers to share why they chose to buy—the reps’ best guess has zero value. Tip: Remember to ask renewing or repeat customers why they buy, too.

  • In order to analyze reasons for “losses,” you have to collect honest information from prospects. That’s not going to happen often enough to give the CRM—and you—good data. Instead of testing the CRM for customizing these options, test whether you can skip inputting it. Will the “wins” reports still work?

The good news is that seeing why deals were lost is not nearly as informative as knowing why they were won. Customize the options for “wins” and don’t bother collecting or evaluating the “lost” data.

If the Sales Features Fit…

When the CRM appears to have features that will help manage sales process, pipeline, etc. you should still double-check: Take time to specify your sales process or stages and make sure the CRM accommodates them before the trial period runs out.

If the Sales Features Don’t Fit…

Sometimes the above evaluation makes you realize the CRMs on your short list are not a good fit, after all. Turn your shopping efforts toward lesser-known CRM, including those designed for B2C. Alternatively, especially if you’re tired of shopping, go with the CRM that handles everything else and manage your sales process manually.