How to sell CRM systems?

For 8 years now over 100 people approached Polish companies about selling CRM solutions. Presently, it is widely known that the CRM educational and marketing activities have been a failure.  

Become a consultant not a salesman

Up till now companies proposing CRM solutions added just a new product to their offer. And that would be it. The old sales and support structure of a company, including sales, operations, and (usually) marketing departments was left unchanged. An average sales representative who with the beginning of 2000 started to deal with CRM, gained his experience by selling Back Office solutions and probably he still does that. Such a sales representative used, in a better or worse way, the competence of freshly trained consultants, retaining the style and approach employed for ERP or MRP selling. Such an approach implied the following:     

1.     The meeting in preparation focused on system’s objects not processes.

2.     The lack of knowledge about a solid aggregation of output data led to a fruitless presentation of a need to gather numerous information on detailed files without finishing with a proper report. 

3.     Preparing the presentation the focus was placed on inserting proper referential data, forgetting about modelling a given process or stage. It resemble more a preparation of a demonstrational account plan then designing a sequential operations described on a system. 

4.     Numerous sales representatives used Power Point presentation due to their lack of competence. Frequently those presentations used old statistics of Gartner Group and slogans such as “the client is our capital.”

5.      Today however, many sales representatives starts to use several basic CRM sales rules:

6.     Your client wants to earn money so talk about his clients.

7.     Your client wants to cut costs so talk about his sales representatives and marketing department.  

8.     Your client does not want anything so go to his competition.

9.     Sell your knowledge about the solution for your client, not the solution itself. IT system is but a medium for realization of the solution.  

10.  Knowledge presentation should be carried out on a “live” system.

11.  The first stage of selling is gaining clients trust for your knowledge, not person, which is the second stage. 

12.  Take part in implementations.

13.  Invest your time and knowledge only where need goes along with money.

14.  Write articles since you have got knowledge.

15.  Do not fear conferences—you can learn a lot there.

16.  Use the suggested solution.

17.  Avoid routine. 

An expensive business

Due to CRM solutions market specificity characterised by a long time of sales, the costs of sales are high. Especially that this sales process is more demanding than the sales process of Back Office systems. Unlike the CRM, ERP systems functioned largely according to rules described by law. Front Office is based on rules established by the market and company. Those rules are not always described; frequently they are changeable, multiple and they generate a frightening number and variety of data.         

In the first stage the sales representative ought to focus not on the amount of information but on defining the client’s largest problem. That could be, for example, drop in sales, increase in sales and marketing costs, lack of sufficient supervision of sales representatives, or a significant loss of regular clients. After diagnosing the problem the focus should be placed on the process in client’s company which generates the problem. Now we should find the cause and check if we can help our client. If we can, a detailed analysis of the process must be carried out and  a subsequent implementation. The next stage is the presentation. At this point you may move to strictly sales talks. If a client is not convinced whether he wants to sign the contract, DO NOT WAIT! 

Let us move to the trial installation and supervision of the system usage. After successful testing talks about the actual selling ought to take place. If the client speaks positively about the solution but refrains from buying it, suggest your client to write a letter of reference. That will certify the high quality and professionalism of your company which carried out the implementation.  Do remember that if your would-be client ever decides to buy CRM solutions you will surely be on his short list. Such a sales process implies a crucial value added, even if it does not result in selling the solution.   

1.     Competence building

2.     Reference gathering

3.     Efficient client base building (which implies realistic prognoses)

4.     Accurate analysis of the causes of failures or delaying the sale

 The sale process presented above is valid only for those software providers who can take the costs and risks of investing in a client. This method of selling requires perseverance and determination to maintain the highest standards of a potential client service.  

Ill.1 The ratio of sales costs to project incomes in time. 

Sales   Realization

Own Source project realization time        

“The shoemaker is ill-shod!” 

Even nowadays, numerous providers make the huge mistake of not implementing solutions for themselves; thus, the paradox of the shoemaker appears. The sales representatives selling such solutions but not having a daily contact with CRM cannot put themselves in the client’s shoes. They may; however, exaggerate when it comes to functionality issues and become more of a visionary pedlar than a professional and business-like sales representative. From the point of view of a potential client that may be discouraging and decrease the chances of buying a solution within the available on the market technology or a considerable prolonging of the entire sale process.       

Marketing. That does not pay off!

At this point I would like to reassure all the disbelievers that marketing is needed. Especially, if we want to sell CRM solutions on the Polish market. What I propose are not some advertisements in the newspapers, but a list of specific actions such as: 

1.     Competition research—what they do and where they do it

2.     Market research—what are the moods and economic situation, when can we take another sector 

3.     Closed conferences—their effectiveness and attendance is much higher than in the case of open events 

4.     Website—our clients always start their search from that medium

5.     Publications in carefully selected newspapers

6.     Highly professional publicity materials as such are difficult to dispose of.

7.     Carefully selected client’s model—to spend our money on such clients who have not only needs but also money to fulfil them.

These actions are aimed at stating a conviction on the market that if anyone thinks about CRM implementation, he or she goes directly to your company.  

Something for the end …

It out to be clearly stated that if we want to sell today CRM solution on the Polish market we have to approach the client with a wide IT knowledge and above all else a working-knowledge of:

1.     marketing

2.     sales

3.     service

4.     ISO procedures

5.     Call Center secrets

6.     Contact Center awareness

7.     the Internet

8.     financial aspects of company’s operations

9.     and also:

·        sales psychology

·        selling techniques

·        employee motivation techniques

·        loyalty programs for the client 

This range of required knowledge is a result of two crucial premises:

When it comes to CRM one has to understand and be conscious of all the existing levels concerning company-client relationship in order to offer CRM and not Contact Manager.  

The present client needs an advisor with a business not IT knowledge (which can be bought at a considerably low cost).

These premises tell us one thing—in order to sell CRM solutions effectively, one has to offer actual solutions to client’s business problems; previously convincing him to our knowledge as the software is solely an implication of the actions presented above.  


Adam Piętera (born in 1974)—Sales and Marketing Manager in SI-Consulting S.A. (Inc.)

Adam Piętera for the last 10 years gained his experience in the leading companies on the ERP market. He cooperated with T-Systems Polska and QAD Poland Sp. z o.o. (Ltd.) amongst others. He is the author of numerous sales, ERP and CRM implementation publications. His articles were published in Manager, Modern Marketing, and Monitor rachunkowości.