Sales Transformation – Don't Do Software Trials!


The most difficult part of an enterprise to transform is the sales organization. Many leaders see their revenue machine as a mystery black box filled with a little bit of science and a lot of art. On this, the allure of sales and marketing software tools (CRM, Methodology Playbooks, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and social selling platforms) promise to bring increased reach, accelerated results, buyer alignment, consistency in sales execution, transparent pipeline creation, timely opportunity progression and predicable forecasting.

Yet the failure rate of software projects is alarming. ERP implementations fueled by Y2K fears back at the turn of the century had failure rates of 40% (source: Dr Michael Hammer). Hot on the heels of the ERP craze (Enterprise Resource Planning – eg; SAP and Oracle enterprise management systems) was CRM (Customer Relationship Management – eg; Salesforce, Siebel, Oracle, Sugar, Dynamics, etc.) and the statistics are sobering:

  • 73% of companies do not have high confidence in their CRM data. Source: Miller Heiman Research Institute, 2014 Sales Best Practices Study which is an ongoing program with >30,000 participants over 11 years.

  • Up to 70% of CRMs fail in the USA according to Gartner Research in 2012 and they stated that they did not anticipate any improvement through to 2015.

  • 70% of CRMs fail in Europe according to Butler Research and published by Dun and Bradstreet infographic 2013.

I think the failure rates of CRM today are approximately 30% - 40% today based on anecdotal and 'show of hands' surveys when I speak at conferences. But does this mean we should avoid implementing CRM and other sales transformation technologies? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

"You have no chance of being customer-centric and driving effecieint process to create best customer experience unless you have a brilliant CRM"

You also have no chance of improving sales success without embracing social selling, especially LinkedIn's platform.

Every leader knows that they must drive transformational change. I've been preaching for years that "the way we sell is more important than what we sell" and our ability to leverage technology and create superb customer experience is the biggest point of difference as we go to market.

Using technology and people to create sensational customer experience is the key to dealing with the forces of disruption and commoditization. The best leaders and sales people embrace technology and social platforms to remain relevant and prosper in competitive markets. But how do you manage the implementation risk of CRM, Sales Navigator, Playbook methodologies or social selling tools?

I've been the regional leader for a CRM technology provider and I've also been on the other side as sales Director for a public corporation implementing CRM and LinkedIn. I now work with clients helpingthem navigate the risks in achieving the outcomes they need from investing. Ironically, I see many increasing their risk by sending the message that they are uncommitted in driving the necessary change; and they do so with ill-conceived trials and pilots.

"Doing software trials with sales people is like hitting them on the head with a hammer and then asking them what they think"

The stakes are high in any change management program and that's exactly what's being done when implementing LinkedIn's Sales Navigator, CRM, Playbooks, qualification methodologies or opportunity management tools. Success is not an option when you consider the fact that B2B sellers have somewhere between 40% (Corporate Executive Board research) to almost 70% (TAS Group) of their sales people failing to achieve their revenue numbers!

Here is my candid advice for anyone considering the implementation of CRM or LinkedIn's Sales Navigator.

  • It must be a strategy and process before being about technology.Be crystal clear about what it is you're automating or seeking to enable. CRM, SFA (Sales Force Automation) and Social Selling must be designed for internal and external users including staff, partners and customers.

  • It's a change management program rather than a technology implementation. You're seeking to bring people, process and technology together for transparency and better execution. Bring people along with you on the journey and lead with why it's important before communicating the detail of what, when and how.
  • Don't send mixed messages to your sales people or the inmates will continue to run the asylum. Be committed and don't 'play' with software, process or methodology to see what people think. Do your homework, prepare, plan and fully resource for success. The power of Sales Navigator is in the network effects of having everyone using the platform. The power of CRM is having it used by everyone as the single source of truth about clients.
  • Forget having an 'executive sponsor', you need executive commitment. The leaders of the enterprise must fully understand and use the tools themselves. Everyone should transform their LinkedIn profile away from being an online CV to instead be a personal brand micro-site in harmony with the employer. If a sales person wants resources for opportunity pursuit... the deal must be up to date and well qualified for an approval to be granted. Any time a senior executive is asked to talk with or visit a client, the call plan must be there in CRM.
  • Measure the right things and carefully select the best KPIs.Interestingly, only 17% of metrics being reported in CRM systems can actually be managed.Source: Cracking The Sales Management Code by Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana.
"SSI is the new KPI for stategic selling"

Click here to get your LinkedIn SSI score now with links explaining how your score is calculated by LinkedIn


Independent researcher C9 Incsurveyed 36 companies and 9,000 sellers, finding that those who embraced LinkedIn's Sales Navigator tool created 7 times more pipeline and 11 times more revenue. LinkedIn themselves analyzed a cross section of new and existing sellers who increased pipeline by 45% and the probability of achieving their sales targets by 51% simply by improving their social selling index (SSI) scores.

For LinkedIn Sales Navigator or any other sales enablement technology; build your business case, understand user experience, be clear about the problem your solving and the results you expect. Carefully design and communicate KPIs and then drive change with committed leadership. If your considering LinkedIn's Sales Navigator, deploy to the entire organization just like many others have done to realize the network. See case studies here. Avoiddoing small pilots because they achieve nothing but damage momentum and the probability of success.

"The risk is not in the technology, it is in your ability to lead and manage change within your sales team"

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker

Main image photo from Flickr.