How Important is CRM Adoption and Sales Process Maturity for Sales Enablement Success?

The headline could also be, “How important is a solid sales operations function for sales enablement to succeed?”

Following our research here at CSO Insights, you might be familiar with the idea that we consider sales enablement and sales operations to be two sides of the same coin. One side of this coin, sales operations, provides a scalable platform of sales productivity and performance. The other side, sales enablement, has to engage, equip and empower customer-facing professionals and their managers to be valuable, relevant and differentiating in every buyer interaction along the customer’s path.

In our 2018 Sales Operations Study, we saw that CRM adoption is slowly getting better: In 2018, 67.8% reported having a CRM adoption rate greater than 76%, compared to 61.6% in 2013. The next question is, does it matter? Yes, it does. Analyzing the outcomes of forecast deals shows that win rates for forecast deals improved by 6.4 percentage points as soon as the CRM adoption rate was greater than 75%. And that’s a lot. In many organizations, win rate changes of a few percentage points can make or break a fiscal year. Now, what’s the role of a mature sales process in this context?

Sales processes matter. They matter a lot. Analyzing the data of organizations with CRM adoption greater than 75%, the more mature their selling processes were, the better their performance was.

Given a CRM adoption rate of greater than 75%, organizations with a formal or dynamic sales process achieved 14.9 points better win rates and 19.3 points better quota attainment than those with a random or informal sales process.

In other words, the performance improvements that can be leveraged with a CRM system are not based on CRM adoption alone. Equally, if not more important, is your organization’s sales process maturity. The performance improvements (within the group or CRM adoption greater than 75%) are significantly higher if your sales processes are formally implemented and dynamically aligned to the customer’s path. Driving CRM adoption should always be combined with a focus on sales process maturity to be able to leverage the performance potential.

For sales enablement, a high CRM adoption and a mature sales process are the foundation for successful sales enablement. Why? Simply because enablement services cannot exist in a vacuum. Enablement services need a frame of reference, and that’s a solid sales process, supported by a well adopted CRM.

Ideally, sales operations is working on their side of the sales performance coin so that sales enablement can build on that and provide the relevant enablement services to engage, equip and empower salespeople and their managers effectively. Let’s have a look at some results of the 2018 Sales Enablement Study (soon available for study participants and research members).

Organizations with a dynamic sales process and a sales process adoption greater than 75% performed better (win rate improvement by 12%, quota attainment by 16%) compared to those without.

So, even if you look at the situation from the enablement perspective only, a solid foundation of a mature, formally implemented sales process is one of the prerequisites for enablement to be successful.

Why is a solid CRM and process foundation so important for sales enablement? Because enablement services need a frame of reference, the sales process. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Effective content drives customer engagement:
    Content has to be tailored to the different phases of the customer’s path and to the relevant buyer roles to be effective to drive customer engagement. And that requires a formal or even better dynamic sales process that is well aligned to the customer’s path in the first place. As our 2018 Sales Enablement Study proves, irrelevant content lowers sales performance.
  • Leveraging social media to drive customer engagement:
    This practice can only be applied successfully if two prerequisites are in place: tailored content that is valuable and relevant and differentiating for targeted buyer roles, and salespeople who know how to leverage social media effectively so that they see a return on their efforts when it comes to lead generation. Also, a solid CRM and sales process adoption enable a successful social selling practice.
  • Sales coaching has to be formalized to be effective:
    As we see in our data year after year, sales coaching is most effective when there is a defined coaching approach that follows the sales process. And, of course, if sales managers are enabled to become better sales coaches. Also here, a process and CRM foundation are essential to achieve win rate improvements of more than 27%.
  • New hire onboarding requires a solid process as a frame of reference:
    Onboarding services that were ranked as meeting or exceeding expectations, combined with a formal or dynamic sales process, were the foundation for remarkable performance improvements, based on our 2018 Sales Enablement Study: 58.3% win rate, compared to a random sales process with a win rate of 46.0%. That means even if the onboarding service was ranked as meeting or exceeding expectations, the sellers could not translate that into performance based on a random process. It makes sense, because there was no frame of reference in their daily reality.


Successful enablement leaders know that their services need a frame of reference to be effective. Ideally, they build on what their sales operations colleagues have defined and implemented: a solid sales process, implemented and automated with a well adopted CRM. If that’s not the case, both teams should collaborate on a solid foundation to help each other to be successful.

Stay tuned, more details are included in our upcoming 2018 Sales Enablement Study! The report will be shared with study participants and research members next week.

If you haven’t already, have a look at our new book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. Lots of “how to” information to address the challenges mentioned here.


Questions for you:

  • What about CRM adoption and sales process maturity in your organization?
  • If it was not in place, how did you collaborate with sales operations to get there?
  • If it was not in place, did you build it from an enablement perspective?
  • Both ways, what are your lessons learned?


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  • George Brontén
    Posted at 07:52h, 05 October

    So happy to see these findings posted. We’ve been on the barricades about the importance of dynamics sales processes, intertwined with methodology, and supported by CRM and sales enablement technology for years 🙂 Thanks for the great research you are performing!

  • Tamara Schenk
    Posted at 13:41h, 17 October

    Thanks, George! I know that you are hammering home the need for solid processes for a long time. And thanks for doing this. As we see here, it really matters.

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