Yes, a bit of a contentious title I know.

So how do I justify it?

Well, having been around since the time of the dinosaurs (still hanging on to my old 8-bit original yahoo email address) I’ve been the recipient (victim) of many so-called sales productivity tools. Ultimately all claim to increase win-rate and cut the cost of sales. These are tenuous claims at best.

Take the big boy on the block, Salesforce. Unless you are a mega corporation with an appetite for endless customization, you will find that Salesforce does very little for you in the way of helping with actual sales execution. Sure, it’s a good tool for monitoring what happened in the past. It can also predict, based on best guess input, what might happen in the future. But for actual execution, and making those guesses come true? Nope. You have to turn to the myriad of 3rd party providers to make the tool meaningful for the sales person working their territory. And this can cost a lot of money. It requires people to evaluate, test, implement, and support. And ultimately, very few Salesforce ‘plug-ins’ really help in detailed granular execution.

Let me make it clear, I’m not trying to pick on Salesforce. Simply using them as an illustration. If you truly want to increase the win-rate you need to understand why you lose, and then take steps to cut out these mistakes.

Oh, that was simple, I guess nobody has thought of that before! Unlikely.

So let’s consider a little different way of thinking about the problem.

Try this: The reason we lose is because we lose sales-situational-awareness. Why do pilots achieve a near 100% success rate? Because they focus on avoiding errors and focus on building and maintaining situational awareness. Ok, maybe there’s something here.

So what is this situational awareness thing?

Situational awareness is the accurate perception and understanding of all the factors and conditions within the five fundamental risk elements (sales-person, solution, competition, external pressures, customer). For example, the sales person is new and doesn’t understand the value proposition of the solution – risk; or the solution is new and unproven – risk; etc. etc. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of potential risks to a sale, all need to be identified, all need to be mitigated, and herein lies a problem – what if one is missed? Yes, you guessed, that’s the one that costs you the sale. But how can we hope to manage so many variables? This is where a structured approach is required. And this is beyond the capability of any vanilla CRM system.

There are four elements to building sales-situational awareness. They are Risk Management, Task Management, Information Management and Process Management.

CRM advocates may say that CRM does these things already. Well if one’s concept of process management is changing a sales stage drop down from one stage to another then I guess they would be right. And similarly, if information management is limited to adding notes and comments, then I guess that box could be ticked also. I would venture that both of these elements are much more involved than this, and each are poorly served by CRM. Risk Management in its turn is even more poorly served.

Let’s look in more detail at Risk Management. It’s already been stated that there are hundreds of risks in a sale. Most of these risks repeat time after time from sale to sale. There are multiple general categories of risk each with multiple elements. With so many things to go wrong, it’s hardly surprising that bad things happen during a sale.

So capturing and monitoring these risks is a great start. This approach plays a huge part in aviation safety. But what do you do when a risk or a crisis presents itself? This is where the ‘Sales-Decision-Making’ (SDM) process comes in to play. We have two choices. We panic (also known as the knee jerk reaction), or we adopt a more considered approach. Let’s be honest, how often do we see the panic reaction – yes, a LOT. The more considered approach however has been combat proven. And yes, I mean combat proven. Fighter pilots, Police, Firemen, all use a similar decision-making process to manage crisis. One of the earliest examples is the OODA process developed during the Korean war. Before OODA the US pilots were suffering terrible losses at the hands of their superior MIG flying opponents. After OODA, the statistics flipped. What is OODA? Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. In simpler terms, this means take time to understand what is actually going on, position yourself for optimum advantage, select your action/target and then execute.

Flight instructors tend to preach the FAA’s simplified decision-making acronym, the three P’s. The PPP’s are Perceive, Process, Perform. The FAA has wrapped the Orient/Decide steps in to a single ‘Process’ step. When a sales crisis hits we should stop and avoid immediate action if at all possible. Spend time trying to understand (Perceive) what is actually happening, and only then should we think (Process) about alternative courses of action. Not until both are properly considered should we act (Perform).

So why the above diversion in to SDM theory?

Well, it was just to illustrate an example of where a CRM system will fail to answer the original question ‘how do I increase my win rate?’ Vanilla CRM has the capability to provide only a small amount of situational awareness and little if anything in the way of help in risk management or decision making. Many long term CRM customers have already concluded this and spend money on trying (often without success) to plug the gaps with add-ons. Others are still confused as to why their results are just the same as pre-CRM.

I have no doubt that a different architecture is required. One that integrates Risk Management, Task Management, Process Management, and Information Management. And yes, and make it easy to use please.

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Authored and Contributed by: Adrian Williams, General Manager EMEA Sales-Ai Inc.