CSO: More CRM sales, tougher avenue for Willy Loman

A sales performance survey just released by Boulder, Colo.- and San Francisco-based sales consultancy firm CSO Insights shows that there are more CRM sales these days, but salespeople are having a harder time of it. The key statistic stated that the percentage of sales reps making quota had remained steady, but quotas had increased an average of twenty percent. "Things clearly are improving," said Barry Trailer, CSO Insights partner and report co-author.

"Is that because people are working harder or working smarter? … In our view, reps are working harder." Trailer theorizes that one reason for the increased difficulty is the change in buying cycle. Since the internet provides so much information, goes the argument, the buying process often starts long before a sales rep even gets involved. No longer does someone simply ask for information from a salesperson. This shift has companies re-evaluating their sales goals, reasons the survey. The study also claims that the role of CRM software in the life of the sales representative is evolving as well. Nearly sixty percent of the firms that have implemented CRM have seen adoption rates above seventy-percent, a number that Trailer says is “a far cry from the 1990s.” Trailer said.

More than one-third of respondents said CRM improved sales performance, and fifty-six reported little or no improvement. On the extreme success-story end, there was the professional services firm whose lead conversion rate more than tripled, a medical products firm whose cell cycle increased by almost forty percent, and a financial services firm that nearly doubled its closing rates. The study also shows that more firms are opting to buy instead of build. Just twelve percent of respondents said they were building their own CRM software, as opposed to fifteen percent last year and nineteen in 2004.

Under key findings, study authors listed the forecasting of “very aggressive growth” in B2B and B2C firms; firms are currently attempting to optimize the hiring process; and that “there will be significant jump in the number of salespeople hired in 2006.” The data for the web-based study – the twelfth annual conducted by CSO – was collected by CSO in tandem with CRMGuru.com, Sales and Marketing Executive International, and Selling Power magazine.

Survey questions focused on obtaining feedback on sales performance metrics in the areas of sales force demographics; sell cycle analysis; detailed performance assessment; change analysis; use and impact of sales methodology; and use and impact of CRM technology. Almost 1,300 firms participated in the survey, and it was conducted across the board, to industries high-tech, non-high tech, financial services, business services, distribution and retail. In terms of sector, manufacturing accounted for 42.4 percent of responses, services 36.1 percent, and all others 21.5 percent. Geographically, it was 62 percent North American, 14.4 percent European, and 12.2 percent Pacific Rim.

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