A Sales officer/Relationship manager of a reputed bank scouting for prospective customers in a small town in North India.

Designing a CRM tool which the sales people actually like!

Run of the mill CRM tools need to make the shift from being organization-centric to sales-centric. They need to be knowledge-feeding virtual assistants to field sales folks in order to be effective.

The picture above is from a town in northern India called Panipat. The man in the picture is a sales officer/relationship manager of a reputed bank. Everyone else in the picture is a prospective customer for him! His biggest weapon is his relationship with his clients (most of whom he connects at a personal level as well having grown up in the small town). His tools are his brain, his rough notebook and his mobile which holds the contact details of his clients. How would a CRM tool of his bank compete with these three to become the sales enablement tool of his choice?

Unfortunately, this is the reality faced by most banks in India. Banks tend to have a CRM tool which was designed keeping the priorities of the organization in mind. These tools are complex, difficult to comprehend and navigate and, most importantly, have minimal adoption rate amongst the sales folks. While the business leaders associate the tool as a source of information for actionable insights, the whole purpose of the tool fails because the sales folks fail to update the information as necessary. This leads to a vicious cycle.

No data = No Information = No Insight = No Adoption

We started asking ourselves…how do we fill the gap here? How do we improve adoption and utilization of CRM among sales folks?

Our ethnographic research across different cities in India have thrown some really interesting facts about behavior of sales folks.

A scene from Ambala, India

For instance, in Ambala, which is a trade town with lots of new money, we found that customers are careful with their investments and expect salesmen to highlight the long term value and advantages of their products against other banks before taking a decision.

A scene from Panipat, India

On the other hand, in Panipat, which is a town full of businessmen and manufacturers, customers are highly relationship driven and trust is paramount. They expect the salesmen to be aware of their social interactions as well.

While there were stark differences in the manner in which banks operate, their salesmen operate and their customers behave across towns and cities, we realized that some key things were common across all. Throughout the day, the salesman would equip himself to enable a powerful customer interaction making this the ‘moment of truth’ during the entire process. He needed to be in control during the last mile of his client call to be successful.

However, the current set of CRM tools are non-existent at the moment of truth. His prime interaction with the CRM tools are before he leaves for the client visit and after he returns back to office. While the mobile version of these products exist, there was limited usage in the field due to the lack of relevant information being pushed through during his client visit and access was severely constrained.

Most CRM tools in the market today haven’t been developed with the sales folks in the field as the hero of the story. They fail to help him at ‘the moment of truth’.

What would a CRM tool need to make the sales folks the hero?

Design from the Mobile upwards to the Organisation needs: Adopting a mobile-first approach would empower the salesman to carry the power of the CRM tool along with him wherever he goes. The information should not only be contextual but presented in a manner that is quick to consume to help engage in the specific interaction. Adding value to the interaction will ultimately encourage him to capture more meaningful information about the interaction on the go.

Utilizing the power of familiarity of most used mobile apps: The sales person already uses common applications on his phone during his business day. He relies on his phone’s contact list much more than the set of leads provided by any CRM tool. He collaborates with his friends using Whatsapp to share information and leads. He is already navigating to client locations using maps. The opportunity is to design a CRM tool which takes inspiration from his familiar applications of choice. This would drive a much higher degree of adoption.

Gamification for learning new products: One of the biggest grouse held by banks are that salesmen don’t learn about new products thereby missing out on additional business opportunity. Applying gamification principles can encourage salesmen to compete agains colleagues towards the pole position of a leaderboard. Most Branch Sales Managers are already using versions of these leaderboards made in their office whiteboards to drive performance. Scoring increased participation, completion of trainings, higher number of shares, timeliness of updates can all be used to drive desired sales behaviour.

Going Local: Salesmen have a wealth of local information through informal networks. These are often more relevant and real-time in nature. A crowd-sourced model for assimilating local knowledge about a place would help the sales person with more relevant and contextual information. A CRM tool which provides them just-in-time local knowledge is absolutely priceless.

Building a digital ‘Relationship Card’ to enhance the traditional business card: Any customer expects consistency of experience from his bank irrespective of the number of teams he is interacting with. Having all the relevant details of the customer including his interaction with various teams and his relationships on a single screen is the need of the hour. A relationship card concept addresses this problem by consolidating all that exists between the bank and the customer into one comprehensive and concise element.

Focussing on providing value to the Sales folks at their “moment of truth” in the field will build a virtuous loop for the organisation.

CRM tools of the future built on such “mobile-first” design principles could create an empowered sales organisation who will be more effective during their interactions and ultimately increase the number of products sold per customer. Higher adoption by sales folks would enable organizations to derive better insights for future product strategies from more contextual and better quality data uploaded.

The challenge is to re-think CRM products away from the typical top-down enterprise software driven approach to a ground-up “consumer-like” Sales officer driven product strategy. Companies which are able to execute that will have a tremendous advantage over competition with more qualified and contextual data at their disposal and an empowered sales organisation.