Editor’s note: David Gardner is founder of Cofounders Capital in Cary and is a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire. He and other columnists are part of our regular Startup Monday package.

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CARY –  A lot of things can be the cause of an under-performing sales team such as poor hiring practices, ineffective training, the lack of sales collateral, bad leadership, etc.  Much of what you need to figure out where the problem(s) are can be found in a company’s customer relationship management tool (CRM) data.  When we start digging in to help a company to get its revenue back on track, we always start by looking at the CRM data first.

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Why?  Data is the gift that keeps giving

For example, a well-managed sales team tends to have sales development representatives’ (SDRs) performance metrics clustered together.  As you drill down on activity metrics, pipelines and quotas, all of the reps, after an appropriate wrapup period, will have relatively similar levels of performance.  That’s the tell-tale sign of a well-hired and well-managed sales organization.

If you see a rep or two consistently and significantly outperforming the rest of the pack, it is generally an indication that they are doing so not because of the organization and leadership but in spite of it.  In other words, these SDRs have figured out on their own what processes, activities and collateral they need to succeed and they are just doing it on their own.  Some reps are just that good.  In a well-run sales team, competent sales leadership will have figured this out already and institutionalized those practices and processes into a program that enables all of the SDRs to perform at a similar level.

CRM data is the gift that just keeps giving when it comes to fixing revenue generation issues.

Another example of this is activity metrics.   These are the number of calls, emails, proposals, etc. a SDR does each week.  If you see SDRs hitting dollar quotas but with low sales activities then you have order-takers rather than hunters.  You need to hire more SDRs, split territories, or increase required activity quotas.

If you see consistently high activity metrics but regularly missed sales quotas then you probably have a training and/or a sales collateral problem.  In other words, the issue is not effort but rather one of skill and preparation.  The SDRs are showing up for the battles but just getting their butts kicked for one reason or another.  This might also indicate that your SDRs are showing up for the wrong battles i.e. targeting the wrong buyers are chasing unqualified leads.

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Ask the right questions

So long as you are asking the right questions, the CRM probably has pertinent insights for you.  Are sales cycles shorter for some types of customers than others?  If so, focus activity metrics predominantly on those customer types.  Are some job titles more likely to buy than others?  If so, make those job titles a larger part of your SDR activity quotas.  As the old saying goes, “We don’t get what we expect… we only get what we can inspect.”

If your sales leaders are not asking these questions and regularly fixing these types of problems then new leadership may be required.   Questions that I like to ask to determine if a sales manager is data-driven and proactive is, “Tell me about a problem your sales team has faced.  How did you discover this problem and how have you fixed it?”

CRM data is not a substitute for individual SDR coaching, joint sales call evaluations, role playing, etc. but it is a great place to discover organizational systemic problems and trends as well as new opportunities for process improvement.

One of the first questions I ask a chief revenue officer in an interview is, “Could you lead this team without the use of a CRM?”  If the candidate answers, “Yes”, then the interview is over because this person obviously does yet understand how to use or benefit from the greatest tool in the revenue generation arsenal.

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