“CRM sucks!” Here are the top 3 reasons and what sales leaders can do about it:

CRM’s are being sold and bought to the tune of billions of dollars each year. An equal amount is spent trying to figure out how to get people to use them consistently. Let me save you and your organization a ton of money and a world of frustration. The reason your sales teams despise CRM, the reason your project leaders will get you to spend thousands of dollars to find root cause on low adoption, and the reasons your IT team and the business will treat each other like a soon to be divorced couple usually boil down to the same three items. I will give them to you for free and get you started on the path to fixing them. You might be asking “why would he do that?” It’s simple. I wish someone had done it for me.

Here goes:

  1. Sales Leaders and Executives aren’t fully on board. They either don’t understand their role or they don’t fulfill their role. When a high-ranking exec has their admin export data from CRM, create a pivot table in Excel, and then sends it to the sales leaders requesting answers on why something is happening they are killing the credibility of CRM. When leaders agree that CRM is how they will validate commissions for reps but then repeatedly approve exceptions for ‘special’ performers they destroy thousands of dollars in change management work that the company paid for. When sales managers ask reps for end of period reporting in excel or word docs prior to their 1-2-1’s they immediately damage their team’s adoption percentage.
  2. Purchasing or implementing a CRM without a defined sales process. CRM is designed to support a sales process, not change it or create it. Too often, companies set out on a CRM purchase before they have a defined sales process. This is a huge mistake. When this happens, everyone does double the work. The project team is doing double duty because not only must they worry about configuration, testing, launch, more testing, and adoption but now they have to draft a sales process and set up a system that controls the new changes rather than depending on sales management principles to do it. The end-user not only has to learn a new tool but now they have to learn a new common language and change the way they sell or report the sale. Each group is doing double the work. This is a recipe for disaster.
  3. Limited configuration, out of the box, or worse- minimum viable product. Any one of these is the equivalent of driving a Corvette with four deflated tires. Here’s what you get in this scenario: a system that sales managers love but sales reps hate. Managers love it because they get a very expensive policing tool that tricks them into feeling as though they are managing rep performance when actually they are monitoring activity levels, frustrating reps, and decreasing productivity as true objectives are lost. Sales reps are quick to pick up on this and resolve to touch CRM once or twice a week in order to stay off the naughty list. Quickly CRM gets a reputation as an administrative burden that offers no real value. Higher producing reps are relieved of this burden by managers that don’t know how to undo the mess and fear that the high functioning reps will blame missing target on additional administration or worse yet, they fear the reps will quit. This special treatment is observed and spoken about at the water cooler and is often followed by resentment and even lower adoption.

If you find yourself in or around a CRM implementation project, I would make it your mission to see that you avoid these three CRM killers. First and foremost, get yourself a great implementation partner, preferably one that has an excellent change management practice with references and case studies from you industry. Next, get educated. There are countless books, videos, and articles written on these three topics and how to avoid them. Please let me know if I can help or make any recommendations on either of these. Educating yourself and your team then partnering with a great consulting group will help but, unfortunately, it will not eliminate these three issues. These issue are almost completely internal, company issues.

Here’s what you can to do help avoid them:

  1. Execs and Leaders- Sponsorship of a CRM project is not the same as buying your kid’s tee-ball team their t-shirts. You don’t get to throw your name on it and sit on the sidelines to watch it play out. Executives and sales leaders have to get in the game. Show up to planning meetings, help make decisions early about fields, click counts, workflows, and account hierarchy. All of these will matter on game day. Lobby for a budget that includes communications, solid training, change management, and tools that will help reps and managers be more productive like a good marketing tool or a plug-in that will add insight into prospects. Once you go live, make CRM the system of record. If it didn’t happen in there, it didn’t happen. Eliminate excel reports and use dashboards or CRM reports to fuel meetings, customer and funnel reviews, and quarterly business reviews.
  2. The best tools support good process. Stop using tools to compensate for the things you wish your managers were doing. Look at the changes you want to make in your CRM environment. Do those changes reduce the number of steps a rep has to take while they nurture a lead or opportunity or do they increase the clicks, number of fields to fill out, and increase the internal complexity to win a deal? If you find that you are having conversations around how to force reps to fill out fields or you are trying to force them to take action steps and specific activities that they don’t do today, then you have a problem with your process. Adding these items will not help your process they will only hinder your adoption. Hit the pause button and get the right people in the room. Once the process is outlined, agreed upon, and communication is planned you can go back to system configuration. Make sure your processes are solid, understood, and managed. If that happens first, implementation will be easier and adoption numbers will ramp quicker.
  3. Limited configuration is code for “I don’t have or understand a sales process”. Out of the box deployment means ‘I way underestimated costs and can’t afford consulting, training,  or meetings needed to get the system set up to meet my company’s unique needs.’ And my favorite- MVP: Minimal Viable Product is usually code for sideline execs pushing for an unrealistic deadline coupled with an over-burdened IT team that can’t agree on prioritization with the business. Don’t let any of that happen. Not only does it indicate that CRM is low on the priority list but it leaves a system of little value for the sales reps. There are tons of tools that can be added in to make a reps job easier and make them more effective. There are workflows or plug-ins that allow reps to decrease the steps it takes to get, manage and qualify leads and shorten the overall sales cycle. Budget for these tools. Budget for both the cost and time to add these tools in the system. Pick one or two things that will help reps close deals, get leads, or operate more efficiently. Better yet, let the reps pick them. Let them get some skin in the game early and watch what it does for your adoption.

Today’s CRM systems are pretty awesome. I get blown away every time I watch a promo video or see a teaser about the next upgrade. The technology is advancing very quickly. CRM vendors are building these tools to connect to, enhance, or even replace finance systems, POS, social monitoring, lead gen, and even phone systems. With all this available it is not even a question of whether CRM can make us more effective. It surely can. It can better connect us to our customer, teams, and resources leading to longer customer relationships, faster deals, more productivity, and happier, more fulfilled staff. We have to get out of the way and let it do its thing, or better yet, enable it to do its thing.

Start by trying to remove these three obstacles. Get these right, and maybe, just maybe your CRM won’t suck.