As we know, Sage CRM is moving its’ value proposition to one of the “integrated Sage CRM & Sales, Marketing and Service modules of the Sage Business Management Solutions”. This is designed to speak of CRM capability within our range of accounting products (the aforementioned Business Management Solutions, or BMS for short) available around the world.

Skilling up a Sage company’s ecosystem of marketing, sales & service teams to talk “modular CRM within a BMS” requires careful consideration of people, processes and outcomes, across the ecosystem of both direct & indirect operations. A region that has successfully transformed its organisation to successfully sell integrated CRM is Sage United Kingdom & Ireland (UKI).

Looking at the middle period of FY16, we opened our story on the UKI organisation & how they transformed their approach to marketing & selling CRM modules. Having worked closely with the team (assisting in the design & delivery of programs), I believe the UKI story proves the value of first uncovering challenges, then working across teams to apply pragmatic & compelling reasons for the business to enact the strategy. The results, I believe, are plain to see as you will read below.

This article is the second of four, where we look at the marketing & sales changes undertaken in support of driving increased CRM sales to our customers.

We hope you enjoy and take useful suggestions from this series. My thanks to the contributors for their considered opinions & bringing the story to life. Any errors are mine in transcription.

-= David
CRM Principal

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[David Beard, CRM Principal, Sage CRM] So, part 1 of your story uncovered some great understanding & support for your thinking. And, for me, speaks very much to the what should be best practice in selling, in my belief. Before we move on your next work piece, did you get a chance to consider the "poor performers", as a counterfactual exercise?

[Peter Day, Channel Enablement Manager, Sage UKI] Yes, we did do that too. It was important to me have a strong case for those who still didn't believe - both inside Sage & within the partner channel. The lowest AUP partners were typically demonstrating the Sage 200 proposition in a sequence of financials then commercials then CRM. They didn't follow the prospect's end-to-end business so it didn't resonate with the buyer.  

It also seemed to me that, within this group of lower performing partners, sales people showed the software they were familiar with (i.e. financials). Also, as they often demonstrated it to a financial focused person, CRM wasn't really high on the list of features. That was also compounded by demonstrations that often ran over time, so the CRM piece was never shown. All in all, it was no surprise that CRM sales suffered within this group.

[David] Interesting - not only poor selling technique in not focusing on the buyer but also having the wrong (or not the full compliment) of stakeholders engaged in the buying decision?

[Peter] Yes, the approach was all back-to-front. So, I had now formed quite a solid case on what was wrong & how we needed to fix things. I believed I could point to three key reasons for poor performance:

  1. Partners not getting in front of the right people to begin with (eg. accountants, who represent only 30% of a business needs)
    (a related point here is that some partners are still not being comfortable talking about CRM.)

  2. A perception that introducing CRM to a Sage 200 sale slows the closing process. Another connected point is that many sales people were compensated on an overall Sage 200 number (i.e. without a CRM seat target), so they just worked towards an overall number which, for many, could be made up by the financials sale only.

  3. A negative experience of integration (from years gone by) that meant many sales people had turned themselves off mentioning CRM to a prospect.

[David] Right, so what did you do with each of these pieces?

[Peter] Looking at them all with the larger picture in mind:

To help us really drive home the story that it was better to "understand & show CRM in every deal", we had a key lever we could pull: lead allocation.  I worked with the lead allocation team to review & agree the allocation of each lead to those “best able to sell”. The lead allocation team (CDT) loved it because they saw leads that included CRM going to partners that could then close the deal. So, in the first instance, the sales volume went up, with increasing attachment numbers closely following (and, of course, a higher AUP).

We also noticed these leads were turned around faster, with sales of 200 + CRM to new sites averaging 79 days to close, whereas traditional Sage 200 (i.e. just financials) was running at 120 days.

What we were making clear (with evidence to back us up) to all partners was that getting the right people in the room, with an end to end demo, showing them how the overall system could help save money worked to drive sales. Despite commonly held misconceptions,introducing the full Sage 200 proposition to a prospect's widest possible range of stakeholders, as early as possible, developed an internal momentum that propelled the sale to a faster close - with a larger AUP.

As the internal lead metrics continue to build, we believed we proved the point to the rest of the channel & the Sage business that it was working & they needed to get on board. As we told this story, the partners who weren’t getting leads started to ask questions & started to look further into their own business practices.

As a side note, there was another benefit. Many partners would say "we treat CRM as a second phase of the project & will sell the seats then". However, for many partners & their customers, that second phase never came. In the new world, having engaged more prospect stakeholders earlier and selling the CRM seats in the first phase, the customer had a momentum to move forward & realise the value from those modules.

[David] You mentioned a negative experience of integration (from years gone by) - what happened here?

[Peter] Prior to my taking up the enablement role, it was acknowledged by product management (Mark Norris Development Manager) that the previous integration releases were functionally poor (at best) and error prone (at worst). Partners who had worked with previous integrations had lost customers & money and were, unsurprisingly, wary of offering CRM to their customer base.

----- Next time: A new integration - the value of a new approach & resetting beliefs -----