The Solow Paradox “You can see the benefits of technology everywhere except in productivity statistics”​

Robert Solow was so right!

I recently re-subscribed to Harvard Business Review and in searching through a library of past articles found one that covered automation in CRM software (written back in 2016).

I will paraphrase the article a little but wanted to explore the main points made.

“Other than moving from on-site to the cloud, CRM has not changed much since its inception in the 1990s … for all its good intentions to provide sales managers with a way to monitor pipeline and sales activity, we all know that CRM is still hugely inefficient. Reps are required to spend time manually entering data, and then spend more time searching through it.

While senior management clearly values the ability to monitor reps through CRM, the vast majority of salespeople dislike the extra work and overhead it creates and generally use CRM begrudgingly — and rarely to its full potential. This administrative work becomes more significant when you consider that, on average, reps spend only 11% of their time actively selling.”

11% average … WITH a CRM!

The source linked to for this claim of 11% is no longer online but it did seem a fairly hard to believe figure so as anyone else would I hopped on google. The consensus amongst a large number of sites seemed to be that a typical sales role spends around 30 to 35% of their time engaged in actual selling; still disappointing but a little more respectable – so I thought!

Not really.

Generally this ‘selling’ was defined as

  • Time finding and qualifying new prospects.
  • Time and effort to set first-time appointments.
  • Discovery work to uncover desired business results and getting an assignment from the prospect. This can also be done by a current customer to upsell.
  • Developing ideas and proposals
  • Presenting proposals
  • Closing the sale.

If we now consider that many sales roles are provided most of their leads from marketing activity and if we also subtract the average time taken for ‘developing ideas & proposals’ (which is a bit nebulous) then the time that most sales roles spend on the rest – true ‘selling’ – it does settle on about 10 to 15% of their week.

Basically their 11% was very close to the mark!

They proceeded to suggest a fix for this.

” … given that we live in an era of Amazon recommendations and Siri, what if enterprise workflows were as smart and easy to use as Siri? What if sales reps benefited from suggested next actions, the way that drivers and shoppers do … enterprise apps should proactively advise enterprise users on what the highest-value or most-urgent tasks are so they can prioritize them. Artificial intelligence and decision-support algorithms that can offer data-driven suggestions will unleash a new level of productivity among workers, allowing everyone to focus on what matters and to continually help one another improve. For the majority of sales reps, their most frequent tasks right now aren’t necessarily their most important and they waste too much time calling the wrong people with messages that don’t resonate. Harnessing the power of machines to recommend actions and approaches allows every salesperson to become data driven, freeing their time to focus on the human trust and relationship aspects of closing business.”

Thanks HBR – in a couple of paragraphs they have clearly explained why we created our Sentia business.

  • Sentia is installed on top of your CRM (whether or another) as a smart layer – it introduces a clean, easy to use user interface and generates cards that detail for each sales person who they should focus on next, what the value of each activity is and where their time is best spent. Sentia can be applied to just about any enterprise grade CRM.
  • As a part of our Sentia process, we document, review and assess your current sales processes and share what is ‘best practise’ to be certain that your business is operating as effectively as possible.
  • Sentia then automates just about every part of your sales process and automates most of the data entry that your business needs to make your CRM investment worthwhile.
  • We configure your Sentia system for you; to fit your specific business and team’s needs.
  • We then ensure that your entire team is across the Sentia/CRM system, that they can use it effectively and we also regularly review the system for you making any changes necessary to be certain that it continues to fit your needs
  • We provide all of this all for a cost effective monthly per seat charge.

Our applications & services give back enormous amounts of time to sales teams that allow them to focus on what they do well … “the human trust and relationship aspects of closing business.”

To quote HBR, “CRM isn’t dead (yet), but reps will cease to use it unless it can get smart and save them time, rather than burden them with time-intensive data entry and lookup.”

The future of CRM is harnessing the data within while seamlessly providing a smart, proactive system that maybe for the first time add value to the sales team.