“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.



Quit whining about the tools you wish you had

Sales is a profession. Like all professionals, tools are required. When I ask salespeople about tools of the trade, I often hear: “My laptop stinks, it’s slow.” “Can you believe our company still gives out Blackberrys?” “I don’t get anything from marketing.” “My Sales Leader is too cheap to buy lists for leads.” “I hate having to go back to the office for wi-fi.” “When will they upgrade…” “Whah, whah, whah….”

It’s time to quit whining. Here’s why:

I was reminded of a valuable lesson this weekend.

I sat in a hair stylists’ chair and watched her prepare to engage in her craft. We’ll call her ‘Misty’, mostly because I didn’t ask if I could use her as an example in this post.  Misty opened a drawer and there was a showcase of the most beautiful haircutting tools I had ever seen. Chrome and steel so shiny it seemed to brighten the room a bit when she pulled the drawer open. As I tuned in to what she pulled out, the quality was obvious. There were no kinks in the cords, they were smooth and tangle free. The scissors opened and closed with a whisper, not the grinding sound of my scissors at home. The clippers looked heavy and well-built. They made a relaxing hum as they buzzed by my ear. Even her combs looked like they were made of better plastic somehow.

Here is what prompted my checking out her stuff. When I sat down, there was an exchange between Misty and the stylist in the next cubicle that ended with Misty politely reminding her coworker to never touch her “tools”. That word struck me- “Tools”? Her tools? So I asked, ‘doesn’t the company provide you with stuff’? Seems like they’d have a vested interest in making sure the stylists had what they needed. She scoffed. “In this business I am not going to depend on company hand me downs. I want to know what I’m working with. I want the best tools I can afford.” That really struck me. So, I began the inquisition: “How much for a good pair of shears?” (not scissors, I’m told) About $120 plus sharpening a couple of times a year. “How about the clippers?” $300 for those shiny ones but she’s saving for a better pair. The conversation continued for the next 7-8 minutes. If I had more hair, I could have continued the interrogation for as long as she tolerated it. I was fascinated. I’ll have to thank Misty next time I see her.

A quick internet search revealed that Misty isn’t alone. Almost every stylist buys their own tools and carries them to and from their place of duty. They spend a range of $500-2000 on tools and maintenance. The average stylist in the U.S. makes $26k a year. High end might be $45k.

There are very few tools a good salesperson needs to be successful. A good laptop, robust internet service, a dependable mobile device, tools to organize communications and customer info, lead gen, and a great pair of comfortable shoes.

In most cases, we work at companies that provide these items. (except the shoes, of course) However, keep in mind that they are purchased for the ‘average’ salesperson, or worse yet, they are purchased with the average employee in mind and the purchasing department hopes that salespeople will make them work.

Is that good enough?  It isn’t for Misty. So, why do you tolerate it? What can you do about it?

My advice is to first give thought to the tools of your craft and figure out what will truly help you succeed. There are lots of things that would be nice to have, but those are often distracting shiny objects. I’d start first on the core items that you can’t function without. Do they work properly? Are they up to date? Will they serve you tomorrow and next week, next month, next year? Does your technology match or outpace your ideal customer’s?

Next, I’d start looking for things that will help with efficiency and productivity. What tools of the trade could you have that would provide at least a 10x return in efficiency or productivity? Mobility, lead generation, and organization/time management tools come to mind.

Now that you have a list of needed items and specs that meet your needs, ask for them. Start with sales leadership, consult with IT, marketing, and purchasing, or anyone else that makes the decisions. Also, make this discussion part of your annual review process. You’re going to ask for a raise, right?  You also ought to be asking to be outfitted with the best tools for your craft. Make that part of your negotiations.

Now, here’s the deal…you’re going to hear “No” a lot. But you’re used to that, right? You’re in sales! You won’t be phased by that. Ask again, be prepared to show your case. You know the drill.

If you get stonewalled, blocked by red tape, restrained by budget, etc. Well, now you have a choice to make. You know what tools you need, you know how they will help you, you know that average tools won’t cut it, and you have set a benchmark for the standard tools of your trade.

You can whine about it or you can arm yourself with the best tools for your trade. The things that will help you become an expert in your craft. Buy them yourself. Get control of your tools. Carry them with you wherever you go. Set aside a budget each year for updates and upgrades. Invest in yourself and your craft.

Laptop too slow? Go buy a good Lenovo, Mac, or HP. Invest in the best. Want more leads? Subscribe to a service, join a networking group, or pay to upgrade your social media presence. Want faster wi-fi? Get a new device or pay for faster service for your office.

Sales is a profession. Like all professionals, tools are required. Do not rely on others to provide you the tools purchased for average reps. Quit whining, take a page out of Misty’s book and ensure you have the best tools you can afford. Get an arsenal of tools you can depend on that will give you a cutting edge.

Feel free to reach out if you need help to determine the best tools.

(PS- This article was written on a MacBook Pro that I used personal funds to purchase years ago. You will rarely see me without it. It is one of my most powerful tools and it serves me well. My company issued HP laptop is left at work and gets little use.)


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Ideas, comments, and questions are always welcomed! Happy Selling!