July 30, 2013

Selecting the Best Enterprise CRM For Your Sales Team


Too often, the CIO or VP of Technology is tasked with choosing and implementing a new platform without the explicit buy-in of the department that will be using the system.

This reality is never as stark as it is when you look at a new sales or marketing technology. Particularly with sales, the team is so busy with the today's tasks that the idea of instituting a new system and technology not only sounds like a back-burner issue but more importantly it sounds like a huge pain in the ass.

The beleaguered CIO is then left reading the writing on the wall. The writing probably says #CRMfail.

Regardless of which enterprise CRM he selects, the sales team is likely to be dissatisfied because it has needs the CIO could never imagine (and needs the sales team never knew it should communicate). He will also fight an uphill battle in implementation and adoption because he is imposing a system on them rather than aiding them in implementing a system of their choosing. There is a silver lining though (as this is not just a Debbie Downer post).

As someone who has spent most of her career managing the sales and marketing side of a business, I raised my hand to answer the question of selecting the best enterprise CRM for your sales team rather than leave it to my more technically-inclined comrades.

Here are the 5 things sales teams will value in a new enterprise CRM.

An intuitive user interface.

While everyone appreciates an easy and intuitive user interface, a sales team will slam on the brakes if, upon log in, a dashboard looks like flying a 747. "Intuitive" may be difficult to determine so look at which client companies have successfully implemented and adopted the enterprise CRM. You will be in good company if the CRM shows a strong list from creative industries in its list of happy clients.

One of the best examples of a dead-simple user interface is accounting SaaS company, Freshbooks. While it is not a CRM, Freshbooks did have to make accounting and invoicing completely intuitive for people who used the right side of their brains for a living. Regardless of the tech-savviness of your sales team, a cleaner and easier design is always superior.

Best question to ask: "Can you provide a list of companies that you work with in more creative industries?"

Easy reporting.

The sales team should be able to generate their own reports and slice and dice the contact, lead, and account data as they see fit. If they are constantly relying on IT to get any information it will lead to frustration and a higher likelihood that sales will make decisions based on gut and not data.

Best question to ask: "May I speak to 2-3 of your clients that solely run their reporting through their sales team without ever involving IT?"

Decreased need for manual entry.

If the enterprise CRM can automatically gather contact information from sales teams' emails and update from marketing software, your organization will be in much better shape. If the CRM relies too much on all manual entry, you are asking for trouble.

While sales teams should all be diligent about entering all notes and updates, this is not always a reality. Often it's well-intentioned and is purely a case of back-to-back calls and meetings and then forgetting to enter information from meeting 1. While all enterprise CRMs have some level of manual entry, the more you can automate, the more your sales team will gladly adopt the system.

Best question to ask: "What information is automatically updated from integrations and what needs to be manually inputted by our team?"

Data quality checks.

If the sales team cannot trust the data pulled in reports (especially if it has to do with quota and compensation), you're going to have a mutiny on your hands. End of story.

Best question to ask: "What is the internal process for checks and balances to ensure data integrity and accuracy?"


Unlike some other members of your company, the sales team will need to update and access the CRM from every place and every device. The enterprise CRM should be mobile-enabled, have an app, and be easy to enter information on the go. If the system does not have an app for the major mobile operating systems, be sure to test the design to see that it is easy to read, enter information, and perform filtering to help your guys in the field.

Best question to ask: "Which devices does your platform currently support?"

If you have implemented a new enterprise CRM for a sales team, what lessons did you learn?