How to Get the "Sludge" Out of Your Company's Sales Opportunity Pipeline - Part 2

October 14, 2018

In Part 1 we examined the first of two key reasons while sales opportunities stall: poor sales opportunity qualification. In this article we will examine the second key reason why sales opportunities stall: poor CRM system utilization/compliance.

Why is it so hard to get salespeople to put data into CRM systems?

The short answer is there is a basic conflict between the amount of data entry required to fully populate CRM system records and the amount of interest most salespeople have in performing administrative tasks. Let's look at this conflict in more detail.

What data elements are required to fully populate a CRM system record?

The answer to this question differs by company. However, some common data elements include:

  • Company Name

  • Division/Department Name

  • Billing Address

  • Shipping Address

  • Contact Name

  • Contact Title

  • Office Phone Number

  • Cell Phone Number

  • Fax Number

  • E-mail Address

  • Website URL

This is just the basic data required to establish a record. There are also a whole host of data elements that must be entered for each sales opportunity line item. And, if the CRM system is used as a repository for notes related to prospect and customer conversations, a whole lot more typing will be required.

The bottom line is if salespeople are going to fully populate CRM records for each of their opportunities, prospects and customers, they will probably have to invest between 20 minutes and one hour PER DAY on this administrative activity.

Why is this a problem?

It is a problem because most salespeople have little interest in performing administrative activities!

I have personally assessed several thousand salespeople over the years. One of the characteristics measured by the specialized sales assessment tests I use is the salesperson's interest in process, procedure and administrative activities. Approximately 80% of the top sales performers I have assessed scored a 1 or 2 (on a scale of 1 to 10) for this characteristic.

These low scores indicate that many top-performing salespeople have little interest in administrative activities. (If you have been managing salespeople for any length of time, I'm sure this information comes as no surprise to you!)

How do we solve this problem?

The best solution is to assign as much of the data entry as you can to administrative personnel. You can do this is two ways:

  1. Use internal administrative people to perform most of the data entry.

  2. Switch your salespeople to a CRM system that includes data entry assistance.

Let's examine each of these solutions in some detail.

Solution #1: Re-assign Data Entry to Internal Administrative Personnel

If you want to continue capturing all of the detail required by most CRM systems, assign as much of the data entry as you can to internal administrative personnel. A side benefit of this approach is administrative personnel are usually much less expensive than salespeople. Wouldn't you prefer to have your expensive salespeople focus as much as possible on the activities that only they can do?

Salespeople can supply CRM data to administrative staff in a number of ways. Here are several examples:

  • Salespeople can give business cards collected during cold calls and networking events to administrative personnel for data entry.

  • Salespeople can give administrative personnel copies of written notes from sales calls

  • Salespeople can provide information to administrative personnel via voice mail

If your salespeople are going to perform any data entry, focus it on data that will help you track your salespeople's effectiveness at generating new business and advancing opportunities through the sales cycle. Basically this involves tracking "first meetings" (discovery conversations) with new prospects and "next step" action items, owners and due dates.

Solution #2: Switch to a CRM that provides Data Entry Assistance

The second option is switching your salespeople to a CRM system that also offers data entry assistance. The only system I am aware of that does this is called CampaignerCRM.

CampaignerCRM will help your sales team close more sales by providing them with:

  • A live, dedicated assistant to create and edit account and opportunity records and perform prospect, customer and industry research.

  • A clearly defined sales process that provides access to all the right tools and messaging just when they are needed. All of your salespeople will know exactly what to do and when to do it. Plus, forecasting accuracy will improve dramatically when subjectivity and opinion are replaced by close probabilities that are auto-generated based upon completion of specific sales process steps and achievement of milestones.

  • A dedicated portal (website) for each customer and prospect that provides a central, secure repository for posting all sales-related documents. This gives everyone involved in the sales effort access to the same information. Plus, your salespeople will no longer have to guess whether documents have been received or opened - these events are confirmed automatically!

Regardless of the choice you make, remember that the key to improving CRM system utilization and compliance by your salespeople is minimizing the amount of administrative work they have to perform. Re-assign as much data entry as you can to (lower cost) administrative resources and focus your salespeople's data entry on new business activity and sales opportunity status updates.


If you want to improve the quality of your company's sales opportunity pipeline, focus your efforts on solving two key problems:

  1. Poor sales opportunity qualification

  2. Poor CRM system utilization/compliance

If you implement the suggestions made in this two-part blog post, you will enjoy:

  • Greater sales forecast accuracy

  • Fewer "stalled" opportunities

  • A steady flow of NEW opportunities being added to your company's pipeline