If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
That’s not an existential riddle often discussed among sales teams. But a less philosophical question is pondered in the sales operations world: Did something really happen if it’s not logged in Salesforce?
“Salesforce is our source of truth,” said Alex Miller, the sales operations manager at messaging startup Zinc, which formerly was Cotap. “If it’s not in there, it didn’t happen. That’s very much our mantra. A sales rep can say that they reached out to this person or made a touch on that account. But everything in Salesforce is time-stamped. It’s either true or false. It’s binary. When you have a data-driven approach, you need a central hub of information. For us, it’s Salesforce.”
Zinc is hardly alone. That sentiment is due, in part, to the ubiquitous nature of the popular, cloud-based CRM. But it also speaks to the growing belief that sales should be as much science as the art of persuasion. The way to build a high-performance sales machine is to analyze all the available data about won and lost opportunities to find ways that will make that engine more productive.
But that can’t be done if all the information isn’t available. And so, if it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t occur.
“This is definitely something that’s becoming more and more important,” said Peter Kazanjy, the founder of the sales ops community, Modern Sales Pros. “If it’s not in the CRM, we lose our ability to analyze our performance, our wins, and our soft spots.”
And it’s the job of sales ops, who are typically in charge of the company’s Salesforce environment, to make sure all of that information is getting into the system — either automatically or by manual entry. So on one hand, sales ops pros are putting tools and automation into place that take away much of the administrative drudgery for a sales rep so they can focus on closing deals. But at the same time, sales ops specialists can be in the uncomfortable position of nagging reps to make sure they’re entering all of their activities.
“Everything needs to be logged,” added Jonathon J. Leon Guerrero, who oversees sales operations at LeanData. “It’s as simple as that. That’s the way you have to think when you’re building a sales process. That’s why if a rep emailed or called someone, and it’s not listed in Salesforce, you just have to assume that it didn’t happen.”
Sometimes it can be generational. A common refrain from seasoned reps can go something like: I just close deals. I hit my number. Let me do my job. Reps who make that argument can have a point, say Miller and Jin Daikoku.
“In sales, if something is working well, people can get away with more,” said Daikoku, the director of inside sales at the cloud app security company Netskope. “They get a longer leash. And it’s a lot easier to judge how well somebody is doing. So when people are set in their ways and are successful, I generally just move out of their way and say, ‘Let me know if I can ever help you out.’ I want them to be successful.”
Miller added that the sales ops person can sometimes be a proxy for reps who don’t have the attention to detail for making sure their activities are logged.
But, he said, it’s a very fine line. Good data is the lifeblood of a strong sales organization. In order to make the best business decisions about where the company needs to go, sales ops needs to have strong insights with what’s going on with accounts.
“For instance, we run a lot of analysis on what’s happening in the pipeline as we try to refine our ideal customer profile,” Miller said. “We want to know in what verticals are deals taking longer than our average deal time. What are our deal velocities? What do our buyers look like? What kind of objections are we seeing? Strong data analysis is what keeps the deals flowing consistently. When you want to scale your team and move up-market, you need that customer data.”
In other words, it’s about making reps think not only about “me,” but also “we.”
Another way to look at this is consider what happens when a sales rep leaves and all the breadcrumbs of an opportunity’s progress aren’t logged. That knowledge just evaporates with the rep’s departure. No digital trail is left behind. Suddenly the business is left with “phantom ops” and those conversations basically revert back to square one.
Historically, Kazanjy added, sales reps have been resistant to CRM compliance because it was viewed as time-consuming and only benefitted the team’s leadership.
“But this is clearly not true because a clean pipeline helps reps jump on deals and handle more opportunities at once,” he said. “And, of course, sales ops can work hard to ensure that activity data flows into the CRM with minimum effort by the rep. That’s a nice way to win hearts and minds on the sales team, in addition to simply showing folks that CRM excellence results in bigger commission checks.”
And when that happens, so to speak, Salesforce adoption surely will increase.
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