The Sales Manager’s Burden

2019-04-08 Blog


Running a sales team has never been simple, and technology has only made it more complex. The internet has changed the sales cycle and the sales representative’s role. Mobile phones make you always available. The current generation of CRM systems was meant to ease the burden, but they don’t, and that is a problem.

The Problem

In The CRM Industry’s Dirty Little Secret, we discussed from the perspective of quota how CRM systems require lots and lots of time to keep current but don’t close any business. Almost universally, the sales rep who makes his or her number but doesn’t use CRM will be kept on while the sales rep who doesn’t make his or her number will be let go – no matter how much data they enter. Sales reps are not stupid. They don’t question the value of the system; they just ignore it.

This willful ignorance makes the sales manager’s job more difficult. Low adoption impacts the manager’s ability to coach, mentor and achieve better sales. When the information is not complete, the sales manager cannot trust the raw forecast numbers coming out of the system. Reps don’t help the problem when they game forecasting. Cagy reps sandbag CRM systems when they have deals, they are pretty confident, but not absolutely sure of bringing in. Devious reps forecast non-existing deals if their pipeline is thin to buy more time.

This gaming means the sales manager must constantly chase the rep and scold him or her into using the system or spend more time on forecast calls trying to ascertain the truth of the numbers or both. This is a pity. If the sales manager knew the right information at the right time, he or she could work with the rep to turn around the deal. On top of that sales managers don’t have much time.

A recent CSO Insights survey found that sales reps’ tenure is of two years or less[i]. Since the same study found that it takes about nine months for a sales rep to ramp up, the time a sales manager has to guide a rep in a positive direction is minimal.

The Cloud Has Passed the Rep By

The Cloud has been great in many ways. Cloud Computing helps the business implement new applications and systems much more quickly. The subscription model has helped the vendor maintain regular cash flow and provide better service to its customers. Cloud application interfaces have helped the IT department develop new applications more easily. Only the sales reps’ job has been made harder.

This abuse of technology is ironic since as reps have gotten younger and younger, they have gotten better and better at using technology.   According to the Pew Research Center, more than nine-in-ten millennials (92%) own a smartphone, and more than eight-in-ten (85%) say they use social media[ii]. A more significant number of millennials have adopted new platforms such as Instagram (52%) and Snapchat (47%) than older generations. Sales reps are ripe for the right kind of technology.

The Answer – Using AI to Leverage the Sale

The right kind of technology is artificial intelligence. In some limited cases, AI has the potential to replace some types of work entirely such as reading x-rays. Despite this potential, in most professions, and especially in sales, AI is more about computer-enhanced performance – taking someone who is good at a task and making them unbeatable.

The next generation of CRM systems will use AI to gather data that leverages the sale.  From the sales reps’ perspective, these systems are very lightweight and do not require a lot in the way of data entry. Much like Alexa, Cortana, or Siri the next generation of enterprise CRM systems will act like personal sales assistants and be prepared to offer the sales rep information, advice, and guidance whenever they want it. The bottom line is, you don’t need your father’s CRM; you need a system that younger reps will adopt and use.

[i] (2019). Michael Schultz’s Presentation. [online] Available at: Accessed 9 Mar. 2019.

[ii] Jiang, Jingjing, and Jingjing Jiang. “Millennials Stand out for Their Technology Use.” Pew Research Center. May 02, 2018.. [online] Available at: Accessed March 15, 2019