Previous CSO Insights studies have shown a correlation between CRM adoption rates and sales performance. The 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study now demonstrates how a formal process promotes higher adoption rates and generates an even greater positive impact on win rates and quota attainment.

How satisfied are you with the rollout and adoption of your CRM system? When we ask sales leaders this question, answers often range from “not very” to “not at all.” In our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study conducted by CSO Insights, only 47 percent of respondents reported adoption rates of greater than 90 percent.

While you might be satisfied if you’ve come anywhere close to that level of adoption, our research and experience in the field suggests that 90 percent adoption is the minimum required to impact sales performance.

In this post, we’ll discuss how developing a formal sales process drives adoption rates and creates synergies that increase the impact of your CRM investment.

The Impact of Low CRM Adoption Rates

In our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study, we also asked respondents to share which areas needed the most improvement over next 24 months. The top three responses were better sales enablement, improved forecast accuracy and more decision-making data for executives.

Not coincidentally, these are also some of the same targets sales leaders are looking to achieve when they invest in CRM. While they may not use the term “sales enablement,” sales leaders want a system that enables their sales team to sell more in less time, but they also require a system that provides easy access to the information needed to manage the business. CRM adoption rates of anything less than the 90 percent threshold are a strong indicator of the failure to achieve these three objectives through an investment in CRM.

In the end, low adoption rates are a vicious cycle. Salespeople do not see the CRM system as a boon to their productivity or efficiency; therefore, they do not use the system as they should. When salespeople do not use the system, the data in the CRM system is out of date, inaccurate or incomplete. (Less than 25 percent of respondents to our 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Study expressed a high degree of confidence in the data from their CRM system.)

When sales leaders can’t get the data they need, they gather it through other means, such as manual forecast processes. As these non-automated methods become ingrained, salespeople have even less reason to use the CRM system.

CRM ROI: The 4 Benefits of a Formal Sales Process

When we cross-reference the data from our many studies and compare it against the backdrop of our experiences in the field, we reach an interesting conclusion: A formal sales process is the missing link between an investment in CRM and improved sales performance.

No. 1: A formal sales process drives CRM adoption

Nearly all the participants in our 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study have a CRM system in place. The clear majority (85 percent) purchased a commercially available CRM system, but a few (16 percent) chose to develop a system in-house.

Regardless of which route you choose, establishing a formal sales process helps the implementation team align the tool to the needs of the sales team. When the CRM system supports the processes sales uses every day, the team sees value and adoption rates rise.

No. 2: A formal process improves the quality of CRM data

When adoption rates rise, the data in the CRM system is naturally fresher and more complete; however, a formal sales process can also improve the quality of the data as well. Formal processes ensure the right data gets collected.

For example, one of the hallmarks of a formal sales process is the definition of when and how an opportunity gets moved from one phase of the sales cycle to the next. Having a clearly defined process creates a level of consistency that helps sales leadership and the entire organization make better, data-driven decisions.

No. 3: A formal process removes the top barrier to accurate forecasting

The consistency of data also removes the top obstacle to sales forecasting as identified by respondents to our study: Salespeople are too subjective. When the data in the CRM system is fresh, complete and accurate, sales managers don’t need to rely as much on subjective opinions about what will close and when.

The 2018 study has much more to say about improving forecast accuracy, so we’ll cover that topic in greater detail in an upcoming post.

No. 4: A formal sales process plus higher adoption rates drive higher ROI

Last, but not least, the 2018 study shows that driving higher rates of CRM adoption in the absence of a formal sales process is not as effective. For comparison, companies in our study with CRM adoption rates of less than 75 percent had win rates of only 51 percent; whereas those with greater than 75 percent had win rates of 57 percent. So, there is obviously a small improvement in win rates when we account only for CRM adoption.

When we account for both adoption rate and a formalized sales process, the results are more dramatic. Without a formal sales process in place, win rates for those organizations with greater than 75 percent adoption dropped to 47 percent. But when we added a formal sales process, win rates for those with greater than 75 percent adoption rate rose to 61 percent. Doing the math, greater adoption rates combined with a formal sales process correlates to a 14-point increase in win rates.

We saw comparable results when we looked at the impact of CRM adoption rates and a formal sales process on quota attainment. To learn more, download the full report here.

Reversing the Cycle
As we stated earlier, low CRM adoption rates lead to other challenges, which often exacerbate CRM adoption issues. On the other hand, in our study, a formal sales process correlated with higher CRM adoption rates. In turn, greater CRM adoption led to benefits for both sales leadership and sales professionals. In turn, these benefits lead to greater incentives to use the CRM system, reversing the cycle.

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