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    What is a CRM and how to choose the best one for your sales organization

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    A Google search for “What is CRM?” returns a whopping 37 million unique results, each of them focusing on a different aspect of CRM or attempting to unify all the different purposes and meanings of Customer Relationship Management into one, and usually failing.

    But, despite all the diverse answers to the question, “What is a CRM?” the truth is actually very, very simple. A CRM system is a software platform consisting of three parts:

    • A database of customer and prospect contact information
    • With tools built on top, based on what developers think will make the data most useful to sales teams
    • And a user interface
    A CRM system consists of a database, tools, and a user interface. Stop obsessing about the database. The tools and UI makes the difference.
    George Brontén

    Though this definition is simple, choosing the right one for your organization is not. Many organizations choose one of the big, legacy CRMs on the assumption that any CRM can be customized to their purposes.

    Unfortunately, for many organizations, the legacy CRM purchase causes a cascade of consequences that grow more costly with every passing month.

    The problem is that most legacy CRMs were built on several faulty assumptions, making them cumbersome to serve today’s sales team needs, especially in complex b2b environments.

    The three faulty assumptions of legacy CRMs

    The original CRMs were simply digitized Rolodexes. They were built purely for the purpose of storing contact data for salespeople to access quickly and easily. As such, their developers made several assumptions that we now know to be faulty:

    1. False: Salespeople know how to sell and only need the CRM to log what they’re doing.
      True: In today’s complex b2b sales environments, salespeople need effective guidance.
    2. False: Simply having access to information about prospects will automatically increase sales.
      True: Unless you know what to do with the information, it won’t improve your effectiveness.
    3. False: Increasing a salesperson’s efficiency will automatically lead to increased effectiveness.
      True: If you’re engaging in the wrong activities, doing them faster won’t help.
      Corollary: As everyone becomes more efficient, your sales teams need to do more than just be faster in order to stay ahead of the competition.

    But there’s a fork in the road

    Today, some of those legacy CRMs are still the best CRM for certain organizations. Certainly, the big ones have made an effort to add tools to make them more effective for all types of organizations.

    Over time, however, in attempting to be one-size-fits-all, these CRMs can grow into a many-headed hydra that you will fight until the day you leave the organization. Read more about the hydra here.

    This is the fork in the road. You can choose that one-size-fits-all CRM that leads to the hydra, or you can choose a purpose-built CRM for the type of sales your team engages in, and sail right past the hydra battles that your competitors are faced with.

    Reasons to choose the one-size-fits-all CRM

    There are a lot of reasons organizations choose the one-size-fits-all CRM, despite its flaws. For one thing, it may look cheaper to purchase initially. Initially is a key word. Due to the nature of the hydra, this initial cost is often later dwarfed by the cost of all the “heads” that appear.

    But because it looks cheaper upfront, organizations make the mistake of grabbing hold. Besides, it’s the thing everyone else is doing, so it feels “safe.”

    But these giant legacy CRMs are also:

    • Expensive to customize
    • Create plug-in fatigue
    • Rely on 3rd-party consultants and developers to customize and update on a regular basis

    Over time, their cost goes up, even as their effectiveness goes down, and the sunk cost syndrom instills a fear of letting go of such an expensive project, even if that would be the rational thing to do.

    Reasons to choose a tailor-made CRM

    In response to the need for better tools and less technology complexity, a new generation of tailor-made sales enablement CRM has arisen. A tailor-made sales enablement CRM begins on the same foundation as any other CRM: The database.

    But the tools and interface are purpose-built to enable sales teams effectively based on an accurate understanding of how you need to sell and how sales teams need to be supported.

    A tailor-made sales enablement CRM may look more expensive upfront, but if it’s chosen and configured correctly, it will cost substantially less over time. Maintenance, customization, and updates will be simpler and less intrusive. It will serve your team more effectively. And you won’t spend as much on auxiliary technologies, because everything you need is already built-in.

    How to choose the right purpose-built CRM

    If you choose the purpose-built fork in the road, the first thing you need to know is how your salespeople sell.

    • Are you operating in a transactional environment?
    • Or a complex environment?

    In a transactional environment, your CRM should focus on numbers and volume. In a complex b2b environment, your CRM needs to:

    • Focus on the right accounts, deals, and stakeholders
    • Guide salespeople through the process
    • Embed sales enablement content and collateral into the workflow
    • Enable effective and ongoing coaching
    • Provide actionable analytics and insights for forecasting and continuous improvement

    You also need to know if your team is operating in a proactive or reactive way. If you want your team to be proactive, your sales enablement CRM should help you:

    • Define ideal clients and qualify with scorecards
    • Train and coach salespeople in your “way of selling”
    • Embed enablement and guides into workflows, content, and tools
    • Help salespeople and managers to consistently reach their goals
    • Analyze to continually improve strategy, skills, and execution

    Once you understand how your sales team sells and what they need in order to succeed, you can choose a sales enablement CRM built specifically for your needs.

    For instance, we built Membrain to serve the medium-to-large complex b2b sales team where HOW you sell matters. Our Sales Enablement CRM makes it easy to embed your strategy, process, and methodology directly into the salesperson’s daily workflow. To serve up sales enablement content and collateral in context as needed. To enable effective training and coaching in the way you sell, and guide towards set goals. And to provide exactly the data, analytics, and insights you need to continually optimize and make effective decisions.

    If you sell or consult in a complex b2b sales environment, I’d love to take you on a test drive so you can see how Membrain is built to enable your team to optimal performance.

    George Brontén
    Published September 4, 2019
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn