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Quotable Podcast Episode #89: Continually Add Value to Your CRM, with Larry Davis

Host: Kevin Micalizzi
In many companies, implementing a CRM is equivalent to freezing it in carbonite. Don’t even think of trying to change it. Join Larry Davis, Sales Operations Product Manager at Boston Scientific, as he shows that, with CRM, you should never accept the status quo. Sales doesn’t sit still and neither should your tools. Only by understanding what's important and what drives action can you make your sales teams more efficient and effective. Software is a living product and should never be static. Iterate, learn, and make changes so you’re continually adding value.

With software, you can iterate, learn, and make changes.”

Larry Davis | Sales Operations Product Manager at Boston Scientific
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Episode Transcript

Kevin Micalizzi: Welcome to the Quotable podcast. I'm Kevin Micalizzi. Today we're going to be speaking with Larry Davis. He's a Sales Operations Product Manager at Boston Scientific, and we're going to talk about implementing a new CRM, the challenges around that, how to address them, how to really get the most out of technology and the teams you're working with.

Let's jump into it. Larry, welcome to the podcast.

Larry Davis: Thanks, it's great to be here.

Micalizzi: For our listeners who aren't familiar with you, I'd love it if you'd share a little bit about yourself. And especially, your title is Sales Operations Product Manager, and you don't hear that very often. I'm curious how that came to be.

Davis: Sure. So, I've got an interesting background. Maybe eclectic is the word. For the first half of my career I was in high tech, software, storage, network attached storage, things like that. Then I made this transition into medical devices, specifically medical software. I was a sales engineer for a number of years. Then I transitioned to a product manager, a medical device product manager on the marketing side.

And then a couple years ago an opportunity came up at Boston Scientific, where I work, to move over to sales operations and take over management of our Salesforce implementation. And I insisted, as part of that transition, to be called a product manager. I think maybe still the only one in the company that's a sales operations product manager.

I really wanted to treat Salesforce as a product that we were implementing for customers. In our case, customers were our field sales users. So, that's kind of how that came about. I think it was the right decision, and I really did want to treat this as a product and a product launch.

Micalizzi: Excellent. So, Larry, I know you're in the midst of a CRM implementation, and there are so many challenges involved with doing that. I think first I want to get a feel from you, where did this start from? Was this bottom up? Top down? How did you develop the vision for what you were doing?

Davis: I would say overall the CRM strategy at our company started top down. Which is good or bad depending on how you want to look at it, but that's the way it was at our company. So, with this top-down decision that CRM was going to add value, and hopefully drive revenue, we had this mandate from the top to implement it.

The challenge with that is, if it's top down, what are you implementing? Because with any CRM solution, you've got to think about, what do your users need? What do they care about? Do they care at all about CRM? Because if your users aren't using it, then the tool, no matter how great the technology is, isn't going to be effective.

So, it was a little bit, I think, a challenge with the top-down implementation, but that's the way we started. So, then when I kind of rolled into this position, I wanted to think about, what do the users actually care for? What the [WIFM], what's in it for them? So, that's how I approached it as we developed the solutions that we ultimately came out with.

Micalizzi: I know, optimally, if it came top down, your executives are bought in, but I'm assuming you still had to scramble and hustle to make sure everyone was on board.

Davis: Yeah. You'd think, with the top-down implementation, the executives are bought in, but at a company like ours it's multiple divisions. With multiple divisions sort of run like separate businesses, the corporate top-down structure is only part of the layer. So, you've got, sure, corporate buy-in. We had buy-in from the CIO, we had buy-in from the executive council, and buy-in from the CEO. But what we didn't necessarily have was buy-in from our divisional president or our sales vice president.

That's where we had to really try to build up some momentum because they were doing it because they were told they had to do it. They weren't doing it necessarily because they were asking for it. So, that's where I started, was really building up some interest, some excitement, some education around CRM so that we could get some internal buy-in within our division.

Micalizzi: In terms of the executives that you had to convince, what kind of an approach did you take? Was it, you know, here's a great way to run your business? Here's where we're lacking in the new system? There are so many ways to approach it. I'm curious what you found worked for you.

Davis: What worked for me was, I think, initially, education, right, so informing them, what is a CRM? What can it do for your company? Not necessarily getting into specifics of what we wanted it to do because I don't think we knew at that point, but just really giving them that foundational piece of what we could do potentially with this sort of solution.

And then taking that and going to my users and starting to gather input, feedback on pain points within their day. And taking those pain points as really the launching point to the features that we ultimately implemented.

Because those pain points cost time, and time costs money, and the more time we can give back to our sales reps to actually sell product, rather than doing administrative tasks, that efficiency we can definitely capture.

At Boston we have a formal process for capturing value improvement, so I really leverage our value improvement process, which helps quantify the value and record it in a structured way so that that gets bubbled up to leadership.

Micalizzi: Is there anything you can share from that value measurement tool or process that you guys use that others might be able to adapt for their own organizations?

Davis: Yeah, I don't think there's anything unique about what we're doing other than maybe formalizing it. But the basics are pretty universal, I think, so capturing time saved. So, if you're making efficiency improvements, maybe there's headcount that you're going to be saving. So, future cost avoidance.

There's hard cash savings. So, if you are literally stopping payment on some solution and you're migrating to another, less expensive solution, it would be a time savings. So, process efficiency savings and time savings. So, future spend and current spend are really the main categories that we try to capture.

Micalizzi: You convince the executive team in terms of why you need to proceed. How did you get the sales team on board? The actual reps who pretty much make or break a CRM implementation.

Davis: That's the hard part, I think. So, the sales reps, they have a very small world by design, right? We want our sales reps focusing on their territory and their accounts, and that's by design. So, it's really hard to break them out of that thought process of their day-to-day and their routine and trying to implement some new technology.

Part of the problem, at least, we have is we have too many technologies. So, one of the selling points I guess, was convincing them that we're going to consolidate technologies onto a single CRM platform. And that's what we've been actively doing for the past couple years.

So, instead of introducing yet another tool, we're trying to reduce the number of tools and try to put that into a single platform. As part of that, we're also trying to implement process improvements. That was how we started to engage our sales reps. We did have a pilot group. We brought that pilot group in, we had meetings, we had conversations just to try to figure out what it is that's the pain point within their day.

But, part of the promise was that single platform. And that's still a promise, we're not 100% there yet. It's a never-ending effort, but that's kind of what we're striving toward.

Micalizzi: So, you worked with them though a pilot process. I'm assuming, you know, there are two sides to what I want to ask you here. The first one is, far too often people take whatever their previous process was, they take a new CRM, new tool, and they just try and wedge that process in there instead of looking at, is it optimal? Are they taking the right approach?

And then the flip side of it is, obviously you can't tackle — to your point, this is an ongoing process — you can't tackle everything at once. How did you, one, figure out what process needs to be adopted with the new system, and what you wanted to tackle? How did you prioritize what you wanted to get into the CRM first?

Davis: I think we really were kind of going with the Pareto principle, so the 80/20 rule, and really looking at, what is going to give us the most value the fastest, and that's going to help drive that adoption. So, moving old processes into a new system oftentimes just doesn't technically work, right? It's a new system, your old process was following an old system. In our case emails and spreadsheets and old technology.

Moving it into the new system, we did rethink the processes quite a bit. We're not simply doing a forklift of old processes and putting them in a new technical solution. We're trying to reimagine the process within the construct of this new solution and the pluses and minuses that the CRM solution provides.

Because every solution is a little bit different, and you have to take that into consideration. Some things are going to be a little bit better, some things a little bit worse, but they're probably going to be different. Now, we have a lot of institutional support, I guess you might call it. One of the cultural norms within our company, or at least within our division, is that we don't accept the status quo

So, this is from our president on down. If we see a process that's not a good process or not efficient, there's no reason we have to continue with that process, and that's really a top-down decision. Why would we continue on with a process? We created the process, we can change the process.

That's the approach we took, and we reimagined a lot of those processes to bring value to internal users, to our sales reps, and use them to evaluate what was important to them in terms of features and functionality, not in terms of solutions or process.

Micalizzi: You don't have those processes that just can't be touched. I absolutely love that.

Davis: Yeah. A lot of the processes are considered quality process and people think those are untouchable, but they're not. A quality process was created by a person, so if a person created that quality process, another person can change the quality process. You know, it might be a little more complicated. It might delay the time line a little bit. But we can still change those processes.

We have implemented our solution as a quality system within our company, and that gives us advantages and disadvantages. But because it's considered a quality system, we already stepped over that first hurdle of implementing quality processes as well.

Micalizzi: Right. Now, doing the pilot gave you an opportunity to get direct feedback on what you were building, what you were doing. Did you find you had to make some significant changes, or you had learnings from that pilot that you hadn't anticipated?

Davis: Yeah. A couple of us did field rides with our sales reps. So, I had worked on the marketing side for years, and, you know, I knew the sales reps. I kind of thought, hey, I've got an idea of what their day-to-day is, but I really didn't once I got out there in the field.

So, seeing what they're really struggling with is not the sales side of things. It wasn't talking with their customers, in our case supporting clinical cases. It wasn't any of those things. It was a lot of administrative tasks.

So, learning those tasks and being in the field and understanding what they were struggling with really helped inform the solutions that we were focusing on and trying to get some of that buy-in. Now, implementing this was complicated in some cases because we had  to integrate with external systems or other systems within our company, and that made things complicated.

But it became very clear what they really wanted and what was going to add value to their day.

Micalizzi: Now, typically when you're talking about CRM functionality, it's always a plus, you're always adding to it, you're never subtracting from it. I know when you and I were talking in advance of this interview you talked about how, based on some of that feedback, you found that there were features you were building that your reps didn't actually need.

Davis: Oh, yeah, plenty. So, when we built this, we built a lot of features because it was so cool and it was so easy. But the problem was a lot of those features aren't really, for us, valuable. So, we tried to go back and look at the features that are actually being used, look at ways we can streamline existing features and functionality that are being used by getting rid of some of that cruft.

And we try to be a little bit proactive there because, you know, when you first implement a solution like this, you make a lot of assumptions. You try to take some guesses and place some bets, and that doesn't always work out. And you don't want to leave that around because I think it confuses users to have too much in there. So, if they're not using it, or if it's not adding value, we try to actively take that out and replace it with something that is adding value.  

Micalizzi: Now, you said you were looking at what features people are using. What are you measuring, especially in that pilot process? For those listening who want to either launch their new CRM or take it to the next level, what kind of metrics did you keep an eye on to really get a good handle on how the pilot was going and where to guide things.

Davis: A pilot is a great opportunity because it's limited in scope. So, you have a lot fewer users, typically, in a pilot. So, you're able to reach out to those users one-on-one. In terms of feedback, giving them a phone call, shooting them an email, shooting them a text. That sort of thing is a good way to get feedback on what they care about and what they're using.

Then, there's also just technical measurements. Are they logging in? How often are they logging in? What things are they interacting with? You want to measure all of that. I don't think you can put together, easily, really good dashboards because you don't know what your business goals are yet in a pilot oftentimes. But, what you can do is measure activity. That activity is what's going to inform how you shape that product.

Micalizzi: Have you adjusted the metrics that you look at since going live?

Davis: Absolutely. So, as we've matured, we actually know what we care about, right? We didn't know what we didn't know before. Now we kind of do. So, just actually a couple weeks ago — we've been live now about a year and a half — just a couple weeks ago we rolled out a new dashboard for our sales managers.

In that dashboard we have really specific, actionable KPIs. So, it's a dashboard that I can use. I can look at this information in this report. But, our managers can actually look at that information and take action on it, which is what we're trying to do.

We didn't know that really before until we kind of learned what it was that was important to them and what was actually going to drive action.

Micalizzi: Is sounds to me like you were looking at this from two perspectives. Not only how do you help the leadership team run their business, but also, at the rep level, how do you make that process more efficient? How do you take away some of the obstacles and some of the, we'll call it busywork, that your reps had to do, remove some of that administrative burden? Am I reading that right, or is there even more that you were trying to tackle with this?

Davis: That is definitely part of it. I think the administrative burden aspect was a way to get them invested in the system. Hey, this system actually helps me. Then, integrating data that we care about into those processes, and into the solution. So, the solution is, hey, let's try to do something that makes the reps life a little easier rather than adding more burden to their day.

And if it makes their life a little easier, and there's data we can pull out of that that management can take action on, then it's kind of a win-win I think. So, you've got to think through the whole problem and make your end user's life a little bit easier, hopefully, while actually capturing data that you can turn into metrics that ultimately turn into action.  

Micalizzi: You've been live for a year and a half. With the sales leaders that you initially pitched and worked with, you mentioned the dashboard that you've created, and I'm sure you've created many others for them. Has it been difficult keeping those lines of communication open now that you're live with the new system?

Davis: I think we're lucky in that we're relatively flat, organizationally. We are a big division within our company, but organizationally we're pretty flat. Lines of communication are very open, so I can just go and knock on the VP's door if I need to. But, more importantly, we have buy-in that this is the solution for the various activities that we're trying to drive within the company.

And because of that buy-in, management is certainly going to listen to any feedback or any input. They understand that this is a living product, which is one thing I really love about software in general. It's never static. It's not set in stone. When we make a med device, nature of the beast is you have to have a static product and it has to be well-defined and it has to be very specific.

With software you can iterate, you can learn, and you can make changes. That's what I really love about it. I think we're starting to get that mentality that we can do things quickly, we can iterate, and we can continuously add value.

Micalizzi: One area I didn't ask you about, we talked about the pilot process and getting that feedback directly from your sales reps, your users of the CRM. When you rolled this out, what additional training did you have to do for your sales teams?

Davis: That is a complicated question. We don't have a lot of opportunity. We, I guess, me, I didn't have a lot of opportunity to get out in front of 300 field users and train them, for a variety of reasons. The biggest is just pulling them out of the field. There is a measurable impact pulling our sales reps out of the field, so we don't want them out of the field any longer than is absolutely necessary.

So, we provided a lot of video tutorials, a lot of continuing emails. Every few weeks we would send out a new feature, a new tip, new trick. I tried not to overwhelm them, but I think the most important thing was focus. We've got 100 features, let say, but we care about five or ten of those, really.

This is what we care about right now, so let's focus on just a couple of things, and try to execute on those really well. That's been probably the biggest benefit, is that even though we have a lot of features and functionality, we're really focusing on a handful of them, and that's driving the usage that we really care about.

We did have an opportunity at our national sales meeting recently to do the hands-on training that we always wanted to do. We had everyone in a room, we had a lot of people floating around and helping with hands on, and we walked them through scenarios. So, we said, hey, let's find some targets, let's find some customers that you want to focus on with a very specific product and put it in your pipeline.

By focusing on that we could walk them through the tasks and the clicks that they needed to get to, to get to that end result. So, just a very hands-on, didactic type approach.

Micalizzi: In this whole effort, how did you define success initially? And I'm assuming you've had to adapt it, so how have you modified what success looks like over time?

Davis: I think initially we really were focusing on logins, right? Are people just even logging into the system, which is a really rudimentary, basic form of usage report. But I do think that's important. Are users even logging into the system? That was how we started.

But, then we got beyond that and got into the actual business processes. Are people using the tool and the processes that we put in place, and how are they using them? How frequently are they using them? What are they interacting with? What we're trying to measure now is less, how many people are logging, and more, how many people, and how often and how frequently are they interacting with the processes that we care about?

Micalizzi: I like that. It's clean. And I like the fact that you're keeping that tighter focus on what functionality is most important to you. In your measurement of it, have you found that there were features or functionality that you hadn't anticipated getting broader adoption on but folks are really finding more useful than you had anticipated?

Davis: Yeah, there's one that came out of our pilot that we knew had some interest, but we just didn't, I don't think, comprehend how much interest. It's probably used multiple times every single day by a good chunk of our field sales team.

I don't want to talk about the specifics of it because it's kind of proprietary. But, this piece of functionality, we knew it was going to be at least liked. We knew people would use it occasionally, but it is used dozens of times every single day throughout every single week and every single month to the point that the way we implemented initially, we have to kind of re-address and enhance, I think, because the demand is there for that functionality to get better.

So, we're not taking a cross-divisional approach and working on this solution with other divisions because they all have a similar need. And saying, hey, is there a common way we could implement this that will benefit all of us and enhance the functionality.  

Micalizzi: Let me ask you, for someone listening who is thinking about implementing a new CRM, or they're looking at what they've done with the CRM and really feeling like it hasn't addressed their needs, where's a good starting point?

Davis: I think first, evaluating what the business problem is. Which is weird, I think coming from me because we didn't necessarily do that. We did it backward. But, evaluating what business problem you're trying to address.

If you don't have a need, if you don't have a problem you're trying to solve, then the greatest solution in the world, the greatest technology in the world, isn't going to help, right? It's not going to be adopted. It's not going to help users throughout their day.

So, really digging into, if you've got a new implementation, what business problem, what business process, what business activity are you trying to drive through this solution. If you don't understand that then it's really hard to even understand what it is you're trying to develop.

Now, if you've got an existing CRM solution and you're not getting the adoption you need, it's going to be a similar approach, but first of all evaluating what they don't like about the existing system, and then understanding, again, that business problem you're trying to solve.

Maybe you have this idea of the business problem you're trying to solve, but you've made it so cumbersome within the CRM that nobody wants to do it that way. So, you may need to re-evaluate how you solve the problem, even though you know the problem you're trying to solve.

Micalizzi: How about, for the reps listening, obviously they don't have direct control over the CRM and how it's implemented, but if they see opportunities for change, what would you recommend? As someone who's gone through this, and especially through your work in the pilot, working closely with your reps, what advice would you give to reps to influence that process?

Davis: I'd say, first of all, embrace the technology. That's probably our biggest challenge with our sales reps. They struggle, probably, to embrace the technology, at least a large portion of them do, and it's that resistance to change. That's the first piece of advice, is let them know that, hey, technology is going to help you, let me show you how.

And then, encouraging feedback. Open lines of communication. And when you get that feedback it may take three months, six months, a year or more maybe to implement some of those features and functionality, or that feedback that you've gotten. But, once you do implement it, make sure you follow up on it.

So, if I get a piece of feedback and I implement that, you can bet that I'm going to follow up with that person who gave me the feedback and say, look, we did this thing you were asking for. Here's that feedback. Because by closing that loop, you're going to encourage them to use the tool, but you're also going to encourage them to talk in a good light with their fellow sales reps, which is what you want. You want that word of mouth.

Micalizzi: Right. You're really opening the door for, hopefully, more feedback over time.

Davis: Yeah, absolutely. The solution will never be good unless you get feedback. You can't build it in a vacuum.

Micalizzi: Yep. And unfortunately I think a lot of people try.

Davis: Yeah, it's way too easy nowadays with all the technology that's out there to build a really cool tool. But, really cool is not good enough. It has to be useful. So, if you're building it in a vacuum it may be supercool, but it may not be really useful to the actual users.

Micalizzi: Yep. Just because you can build it doesn't mean you should build it.

Davis: Right.

Micalizzi: Totally. So, let me ask you, Larry, were there any other areas that you think I should ask you about, or that you think are worth touching on that I haven't thought of?

Davis: Maybe thinking about, from a technical perspective, how your users will engage with the tool. So, for us, we've got a lot of mobile users and not a lot of desktop users. Because of that we have to really think about what that mobile solution looks like as opposed to the desktop, because oftentimes they're different.

Micalizzi: I think mobile is a fact of life now. I mean, most reps are not tethered to a desk, and most folks, I think, prefer to work whenever, wherever. What did you find in terms of mobile?

Davis: So, we found, with our users, and I don't think it was a big surprise, but about 85% of all our sales users use mobile for our CRM. But, they're not just using mobile, they're using it exclusively, which presents some of its own challenges.

So, what we had to do is really think through just how the screen even looks on a mobile device. If they're using their phone, or an iPad or something like that, you really have to think through, what does that user experience? I'm not a user experience or a user interface engineer by any means, but I do at least try to think through, what is the user going to see when I give this to them?

Is it going to be buried after 20 taps, or is it going to be evident what I'm asking them to do within the confines of that small screen. That's something we really had to think through because when you have a desktop screen, you've got this big, broad canvas that you can do a lot of different things with, but if your users aren't using it that way, who really cares, right? You have to focus on how your users will engage with that technology.

Micalizzi: Yeah. It's like the difference between buying a house on a good-sized lot and having an efficiency apartment and trying to figure out what you can fit in both.

Davis: Right. And it's a little bit of a cost-benefit thing too, right? Maybe that efficiency is everything you need, but not necessarily everything you want, but does that really matter?

Micalizzi: Right. I want to shift gears and ask you our lightning round question.

Davis: Oh, I'm excited.

Micalizzi: If you could take all the knowledge and experience you have now, go back to the beginning of your career, and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?

Davis: That is a good question. I would actually defer to a fortune cookie. So, I had a fortune from a fortune cookie — I'm not a superstitious person, I don't really buy into this stuff, but this was good advice. I actually have it taped to my monitor at work. It says, "Sell your ideas. They have exceptional merit."

I think that's what I would tell myself, because when I was younger, I had a lot of ideas but I don't think I understood, and probably didn't have the confidence to go into the businesses I worked at and really say, hey, I've got this idea, here's how it's going to benefit the company.

I'm a little older now, a little more mature, a lot more experienced, and think, now I can do that. Definitely 22-year-old me couldn't do that.

Micalizzi: I love that. That's great advice. And if you never ask, then, you know, it'll never happen.

Davis: And I think part of that is also selling the idea. So, having the idea, I think for me, always came kind of naturally, but I didn't know how to sell it. I didn't know how to put it in the right context where anybody who mattered would listen to that idea and understand the value.

The idea of selling your idea is really the important part, because you have to go out there and let people understand the context, let people understand the value, whether it's financial, efficiencies, whatever, of that particular idea.

Micalizzi: Larry, thank you so much for joining me today.

Davis: Thanks, Kevin. It was great to be here.




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