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Do your salespeople hate your CRM system?

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Avoid making your salespeople CRM puppets and empower them to sell more.

Customer Relationship Management software, or CRM for short, is the beating heart for most businesses. Gartner predicts that a staggering $36.5bn will be spent on it by 2017. What’s more, CRM adoption is growing faster than any other enterprise software category with a 9.7% increase year-over-year.

So, with headline figures like this, it begs the question: do your salespeople HATE your CRM system?

There’s no roundabout answer as every salesperson will have their own opinion, but in this guide, I’ll cover the most common thoughts that I have come across and how to address them.

Bad CRM examples:

The impersonal approach.

As I’ve mentioned in the introduction, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, with ‘Relationship’ being the keyword.

The whole idea of a CRM system is to build a stronger dialog with your customers and contact them at the right time, for all the right reasons.

By being impersonal, you’re stripping your customers of their individuality and losing your personality as a business (yes, businesses have personalities too).

Nobody wants to do business with a faceless company!

The automated approach. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think automating processes is great; it saves time and can minimize human error. My gripe is that some companies overuse automation or set it up so wrong that it confuses their customers.

For instance, I once (stupidly) asked for a quote from a leading car buying service to take my Hyundai Coupe off my hands. I filled in my details online and requested a ‘callback’. However, there was no call, just an email that gave the quote.

That’s fine, I got what I wanted (even if it was a ridiculously under-priced offer).

I didn’t feel the quote was right for me so decided to sell the car privately. I did, however, fully expect someone to follow up with a phone call after a day or two.

This never happened.

Instead, I was bombarded with automated emails, where there was no chance to negotiate and most were irrelevant to my situation.

Now, nearly two years on I still receive emails about how I could sell my Hyundai Coupe to them. Surely a service like theirs must realize that someone will most likely sell their car within two years and that circumstances will now have changed?

It’s safe to say that I now feel that enquiring was definitely not worth the hassle.

13 Common misconceptions of CRM systems:

Managing your CRM system correctly is as important (if not more important) as your employees using it.

Getting the right system for your business is imperative for success, as is in-depth training for users.

Management, IT, marketing, customer support, and the sales team all need to be on the same page to ensure a successful, profitable CRM implementation.

1. "Isn't it just the 'Big Brother' effect?"

I’ve overheard salespeople on multiple occasions say that CRM was only implemented so that their manager could keep a track of their performance and activity. Sales is already one of the most measured departments within a business, so many feel as though they’re being victimized.

What can you do?

CRM is a great way to track targets, but managers need to communicate to their team that it’s there to help them sell and not to micro-manage them. Don’t run reports on their behalf; ask them to do it themselves so that they feel like the emphasis is placed upon them instead.

2. "I already know my leads from my spreadsheet."

Far too many salespeople still rely on spreadsheets to manage their calls and meetings. In essence, their spreadsheet is their CRM system. Spreadsheets can destroy your business (I’ve even written an article about this before). Why? Because they’re unreliable, time-consuming, and difficult to understand.

What can you do?

Shifting a salesperson’s behavior from using spreadsheets to using CRM is a daunting task.

You need them to change, otherwise, you’ll silo your business’ data, meaning marketing and other departments can’t benefit from it.

What’s more, if the worst comes to the worst and a salesperson was to leave your company, they could easily take a spreadsheet with them, meaning all of that data is lost to you. But as long as they store it in a CRM system, it’s yours to keep.

You, therefore, need to enforce change on them, but in a way that involves them. You could ask your top seller to trial a ‘CRM only’ approach and monitor their performance.

After a successful trial, they can share their experience with the rest of the team to increase adoption rates. This approach will make it feel as though management isn’t enforcing CRM on them.

3. "It's full of bad data."

At every company I’ve worked for, I’ve had the charming and desirable task of having to clean data in the CRM system in one form or another. Bad data is the silent killer of a CRM system. It’s like a woodworm, slowly eating away at the integrity of the system.

This is what happens when multiple people with varying skills and approaches perform data entry; the data is inconsistent, there are shortcuts to speed up the process and contacts are added from multiple sources.

What can you do?

Bad data equals bad decisions, so you need to fix this one quickly. Write up housekeeping rules and add them to your salespeople’s KPIs.

Make certain fields mandatory like first name, email address, company, and phone number to ensure you always capture this information and have it formatted correctly too, with names starting with capital letters and so on.

This way, if your marketing team automates anything in the future, their campaigns will have a much better chance of succeeding.

4. "I've never been trained on CRM."

My guess is that most of your salespeople are motivated by commissions. Am I right?

This is no bad thing, but it means their focus won’t be on CRM. Couple this with a lack of training and a salesperson will see no value in using CRM, even though it’s proven to aid their selling efforts.

What can you do?

In order to see the hands-on value, your sales team will need to be fully trained. Take time out of their day to run a training session that involves no mobile phones, laptops, or interruptions so you get 100% concentration. After all, training is a lot cheaper than sunsetting your entire CRM project.

5. Implement poorly, except poor results.

Generally, the decision-makers aren’t the users or implementers.

Far too many CRM systems are set up without fully understanding the impact on each department. For instance, can IT successfully access, update and maintain the system? Can marketing pull out the data they need? Is it Cloud-based or On-premise? Get it wrong and your users will become frustrated and eventually stop using your CRM.

What can you do?

Don’t rush the implementation!

A CRM system can be costly in terms of time and money so you need to get it right. Ask each department to share their processes and needs and then implement CRM in phases so that you can get one process right before moving on to the next.

6. "I'd rather be selling than doing data entry."

This is a common complaint I hear all the time from salespeople. Whether it’s data entry or finding customer records, the salesperson doesn’t seem to see past their commission check and would rather be out selling. However, statistics show that only 13.9% of time is spent on admin tasks so there is still enough time for selling.

What can you do?

Automate mundane tasks like reporting and save frequent searches for fast access. Implement a CRM system that allows your salespeople to access it on the road so that they can update records immediately without having to travel back to the office to input data they’ve already captured on paper or a spreadsheet. Cut out the paper middleman!

7. "My sales forecasting isn't accurate."

For many businesses, the primary benefit of CRM is sales visibility, but many systems don’t calculate it properly. Generally, CRM systems calculate ‘probability to close’ as a linear function of the pipeline stage.

This is wrong.

A deal is not significantly more likely to close just because the prospect has decided to meet for a second time. Another spanner in the works is how individual salespeople calculate their estimations. The varying levels of opportunity scoring can render the ’quality of deals in the pipeline’ inaccurate.

What can you do?

To ensure that the quality of opportunities is classified the same, you can score them based on a series of questions and take an average from this. For instance, you could include the time they have been in the pipeline, size of business, value, number of decision-makers, and so on.

8. "I don't want to share my leads."

CRM systems promise a collaborative way of working – understandably salespeople see this as sharing their leads and the data they’ve worked so hard to obtain and are naturally protective over their information.

What can you do?

Being protective over leads doesn’t help in any way, resulting in those leads being exposed to poor service or a lack of attention. You can set permissions on a CRM system where salespeople can only see their leads but others such as marketing or customer support can see them all help make customers more loyal.

It’s also worth remembering that any leads that a salesperson generates belong to the company and not the individual, it’s the relationship that they own and that’s what a CRM system is designed to help your salespeople manage.

9. "I can't see all the data I need."

From past experiences I’ve come to realize that some businesses are so scared about data loss that they pin down their CRM users to the bare minimum of visibility. I’ve seen instances where permissions have been so locked down that a salesperson can’t even send an email to a prospect or view information after they become a customer. It’s no wonder salespeople can get frustrated.

What can you do?

Firstly, don’t be so scared about salespeople running off with data; if they really want to, they’ll do it some way or another. Give them the permissions they need to do their jobs well and share any ‘wins’ that the team has. The better informed that the salesperson is, the easier the system is to adopt.

10. "It doesn't benefit me directly."

On face value it may seem that entering data into a CRM system might not bring you closer to the big bucks and that it only benefits the company. Most salespeople work in isolation and get commission for their own actions so using a CRM system is usually an after thought.

What can you do?

Remember that salespeople work for the ‘company’, so any benefits will be passed on to the employees. Correct information is crucial for marketing and farming additional sales, so a salesperson will still benefit even after the sale is won with more opportunities.

Ensuring you have a single repository of customer information leads to happier customers, stronger relationships and, ultimately, more sales. Any salesperson worth their salt should buy into this.

11. "It's too complicated."

CRM being too complex is one of the most common reasons salespeople hate it. I’ve seen systems that require a degree in IT just to add a new contact. It has to be simple, otherwise it will fail. Some CRM systems are separate to other IT systems, require different login details and operate in a dissimilar way to other systems.

What can you do?

If your CRM system is too complicated it will frustrate your users. It needs to be set up in a simple way where your salespeople only see relevant information and won’t be overwhelmed by hundreds of form fields to complete. Get the basics right and the more advanced functionality will be adopted naturally as they use the system more.

After all, 50% of activities recorded into a basic system is better than nothing added into an all singing, all dancing advanced one. Make sure your salespeople can walk before they try to run.

12. "I was never asked my opinion."

So often projects are rolled out by management without consulting the users first. Throughout my career I’ve seen this happen time and time again. This route will inevitably end in failure as the salesperson feels left out because that nobody thought to respect their input and their way of working.

What can you do?

Getting input from the sales team early on is the easiest way to make sure your CRM project is successful. The system should be molded around your sales process and it should be the ones using it who help shape what it looks like. There’s a good chance that your salespeople may highlight an issue that you never even thought about.

13. "I've never needed a CRM before."

It’s hard to change the mind-set of a sales veteran, especially one who has built a good career using pen and paper (and a good memory). They’re at the stage where they are resistant to change and are set in their ways.

What can you do?

Excuse the phrase, but I believe you can teach an old dog new tricks. These salespeople have a huge wealth of tacit knowledge so you need that to be shared. What’s more, a seasoned veteran is more likely to see the true value in something when shown properly, especially if they’ve been suffering with a specific problem for years on end.

They may not have used CRM before but many others didn’t either. Today, the business landscape has changed and there’s a risk that non-users of CRM could become non-competitive if they continue to resist by forgetting to follow up with prospects or don’t have all the information at hand.

To help them get on board with CRM, you need to assist them every step of the way, introduce each activity gradually and sell the benefit of it to them. Never forget that salespeople have been trained to sell the benefit and not the product, so selling things to them like this will ring true.

Firstly, get them to just add their prospects into the system, then when they’re comfortable with this, introduce opportunities, then reporting and so on. Remove one big change with lots of smaller ones.

Conclusions - a little less hate can go a long way.

A CRM system is no longer a business want, but for any business that wants to thrive and not just survive, it’s a need. What’s also important is that the intended users see the true benefits of the CRM system even before it’s up and running.

There are clearly sales benefits, especially if sales cycles are long and you have a big team. Get CRM wrong and it could prove to be a costly mistake, not only by the price of the software but the hindrance it could have on your sales process. Get it right though and you’ll:

  • be able to store information online rather than in your head
  • speed up up your sales cycle by contacting the right people at the right time
  • keep everyone in the loop with more collaborative working
  • save time on follow-ups with timely alerts
  • automate admin tasks rather than writing them down on paper

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