Setting your 2021 CRM Enhancement Priorities

We now have 100’s of sales enablement solution providers working on introducing what feels like an endless stream of new capabilities each year. So how do we prioritize what enhancements to make to our CRM solution set?

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As January heads into the rearview mirror, most sales organizations have an idea of what the revenue expectations are at the individual and company level. The challenge now becomes achieving those goals? Looking for ways to accomplish that question, many organizations are turning to their sales enablement team, looking for new arrows to put in their sales effectiveness quiver. Which leads to the question; what is sales enablement thinking?

To start to answer that question, we reached out to some of our research clients to see what they were focusing on. One of these was a former colleague ours is currently running sales enablement within a Fortune 500 manufacturing firm. An area of focus for him was to wade through all of the buzz around AI for Sales to see if there were solutions his company could leverage to optimize specific aspects of customer lifecycle management.

When asked what he had learned so far, he replied “Two things. First, there is a lot of great innovation going on today. Second, if I attempted to implement every sales enablement solution that promised me an ROI, our company would be out of business in a month!”

His second observation initially made me laugh. But as I thought about it over the next couple weeks and talked to more sales enablement colleagues, the reality that sank in is that we now have 100’s of sales enablement solution providers working on introducing what feels like an endless stream of new capabilities each year. So how do we prioritize what enhancements to make to our CRM solution set?

While contemplating this, the wisdom of Dr. Michael Lodato surfaced in my mind. Mike was one of my mentors and had a great gift for simplifying complex challenges. When considering sales transformation initiatives, Mike’s view was that the goal was not to do everything in sales 1% or 2% better, but rather do 1 or 2 things an order of magnitude better.

His advice to me years ago, when I was running my own sales teams, was to do the following. First create a list of all the things our organization could look at doing to optimize sales performance. This might include optimizing lead generation, more easily gathering sales intelligence, systematizing the needs analysis process, streamlining solution configuration, improving sales coaching, increasing forecast accuracy, etc.

Once the list was complete the next step was to place these items into the 2×2 matrix seen here. The positioning is based on two perspectives. The first is looking at each item being considered and thinking through what the actual impact would be on improving sales performance from Low to High. Then consider your organization’s ability to successfully pull off the implementation of that initiative, from Low probability to High.

As you go through this evaluation process, the initiatives start to prioritize themselves. In the case of this Matrix, item E, and perhaps items B and/or H, might make the cut for the next sales performance initiatives you take on. Those priorities will then clarify which technology enhancements you want to move forward with to support those initiatives, and which you can hold off on.

This simplified approach to viewing sales enablement ensures that a continuous stream of improvements is made to various aspects of Customer Lifecycle Management, while at the same time allowing you to do a phased introduction of these changes in terms of how your company sells. Once a given phase is complete, get the list out, reassess the items that were on it the last time, add any new items that may have come up, and repeat the matrix process. You’ll find this brings a degree of sanity to your CRM improvement process.

— Jim Dickie, Co-Founder of CSO Insights, is currently a Research Fellow for Sales Mastery, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking case study examples of how companies are leveraging technology to transform sales. He can be reached at or at @jimdickie

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Jim Dickie

Jim Dickie

Jim Dickie is a Research Fellow for Sales Mastery; an independent research firm that focuses on profiling case study examples of how firms in the B2B marketplace are leveraging sales process, CRM, AI and knowledge to optimize revenue performance. Jim has over 30 years of sales and marketing management experience. Jim began his career with IBM and Sterling Software and then went on to launch two successful software companies. Jim then went on to co-found CSO Insights, which was acquired by Miller Heiman Group (now a part of Korn Ferry). Jim is also a contributing editor for CRM Magazine, CustomerThink, Top Sales World, and a contributing author for the Harvard Business Review. He has served as an advisor to Baylor Center for Professional Selling, William Patterson University’s Russ Berry Institute for Professional Selling, and is a lecturer at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. Over the past twenty years, Jim’s teams have surveyed over a thousand sales transformation initiatives. Their research has become the benchmark for understanding how the role of sales is evolving, the challenges that are impacting sales performance, and most importantly what companies are doing to address those issues.

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