Nothing Is Different, But Everything Has Changed

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(Or, How Sales Got Short-Changed by CRM)

I’m lucky enough to have been around when CRM technology was invented. The concept of Customer Relationship Management was born much earlier when people first started selling stuff to other people, creating customers in the process. In the early nineties, powerful list management tools became available to small and mid-market business driven by the proliferation of personal computers in the workplace. Contact Management applications came first, morphed into Sales Force Automation, and soon everything became CRM. I tell that story in this post.

Small to mid-sized business (SMB) were late adopters to CRM. Fortune, Enterprise, or whatever we call gargantuan business entities, blaze the trail with paradigm shifts, sea-changes, etc. They can do this because they have the incentive and the cash. But one thing surprises me (maybe two). The first is just how slowly small business is incorporating CRM as a mission critical technology in their processes. Daily, I am still made aware of companies who have not yet made the move to CRM. Most of them are “fudging” things using Excel and the like.

But, secondly, it seems that adoption rates are really not good at all. It’s a double-pain to suffer the expense and disruption of transformative technology if, at the end of the day, it doesn’t work. You only have to Google “CRM adoption” to see that there is a problem. A few years ago, a study showed that more than $1 billion had been spent on software that was not being used, and 43% of respondents admitted to using less than half the functionality of their existing system.

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Sales Automation Was Hijacked

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Twenty years ago Sales Force Automation (SFA, or Sales Automation), was just about to gain traction. Everyone talked about it. It made sense because most people were trying to automate their sales teams, but were going about it the wrong way, by feeding their processes into inadequate Contact Management software. They thought this would fix their problems, but sales opportunities were still getting neglected, along with the strategies, skills and techniques that occurred in the sales cycle.

Just as software developers were coming to grips with these problems, up springs this concept of Customer Relationship Management. Almost overnight, SFA and CRM got hastily paired together in the growing e-business lexicon, and they came out synonymous. The industry, the experts, even the customers, used them interchangeably, believing them to be one and the same. But they are wrong. SFA and CRM are related, dependent and intertwined, but they are not the same thing, and it’s a disservice to the market to suggest they are.

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Opportunity Management – Making A Change

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We all can agree: professional opportunity management is good for both the sales person and for the company. It generally takes the form of a defined, consistent sales process, designed for the company’s organization and goals, and shared data for transparency and teamwork.

So, why doesn’t everybody jump on it? What makes people sometimes feel wary? And what can be done to make implementation a smooth and successful process?

The introduction of professional opportunity management means change – change for the better, but change. In order to manage the implementation for everyone’s benefit, we must understand what change means to people.

First of all there is uncertainty. People get used to their own way to work. They develop routines and habits that they feel comfortable with, and although these may not be optimal, they provide confidence and make life easier. Changing the way you work means learning how to do things differently, adjusting habits, and hence giving up routines. This can cause uneasiness, which makes changing anything difficult, not just the implementation of a professional opportunity management.

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