What to Consider when your Company Implements CRM

Why Salespeople Hate CRM

There’s a long running debate about the relative benefits of CRM (Customer Resource Management) software and whether helps or hinders a salesperson’s productivity. The debate is principally between the front line salespeople and field sales Managers on one side and Management on the other. We won’t discuss the individual applications here, but you’ll recognize the names; salesforce.com, Goldmine, ACT! By Sage, Syspro, etc. If you’re part of Management, the following may help you position CRM in a positive light, or at least understand some of the issues you will be facing. As a salesperson, you may want to read on to see the Management perspective on CRM so you can decide for yourself whether or not to resist.

Customer Resource Management or CRM software is simply a single place for a company to manage its relationships with its’ customers.  Normally this is a function handled by the Sales and Marketing part of the company, but there are some systems, like Syspro for example, that start out as inventory or accounting & operations applications, which delve into CRM as well. If you’ve never used a CRM app before, here are the basic functions:

  1. Capture customer information – whether met on the phone, via e-mail or at a trade show, you must record a specific set of information about your customer. This often includes and evaluation of their decision making powers.
  2. Record ongoing contact – each time you contact a customer or vice versa, some notes are taken. Record results of a phone call with action items to follow up. Schedule and record meeting notes.
  3. Schedule follow ups – the Contact information interfaces with or becomes your calendar to make following up more definite. Schedule phone calls to a certain set of customers every 3 weeks or 3 years.
  4. Create or record proposals and quotes – there are some CRMs that make you type in your totals separately, but there is the possibility of real, simple integration. A plug in software like Quotewerks can spare you a great deal of work in Excel and Word and help make quoting more uniform.

The debate between Sales and Management isn’t on the utility of these 4 basic functions. Every salesperson wants to have all of their customer’s information on hand, to make notes on what’s happened with that customer, know when they should call them next and an easy way to do quotes. Every Manager wants all those things done too!

The issue is that Management is typically not implementing CRM as a way to assist the salespeople with these things. Not even as a way to increase their individual sales. Most companies implement CRM to better track their salespeople’s activity and to have a tool to estimate future sales. There always seems to be tension between the sales and operations part of any company and CRM looks like an opportunity to answer Accounting’s age old question: “What do those salespeople do?”

I personally had some real difficulties implementing even a simple contact Management system using Microsoft’s Business Contact Manager, and in that situation the benefits were clear. We had 4 inside and 4 outside salespeople who were not aligned as customers went, so had to share information in multiple combinations with geographic reps overlapping vertical market salespeople. During a few frank discussions I uncovered the following objections: 

Job Security - if the salespeople record the meat of each conversation, transaction and proposal they would be more easily replaced. As a Manager, I was interested in being able to handle any customer inquiry during a salesperson’s absence. My goal was customer oriented, to have anyone be able to handle any customer, and that mandated knowing what the most recent contact was between our company and theirs. From my salespeople’s perspective that made them much more easily replaced. True.
Accountability – CRM gives any Manager a clear picture of how many calls, e-mail, quotes and meetings any of their staff has accomplished. A salesperson paid on commission will see recording details for someone else’s consumption as an incredible waste of time and just another reason to get yelled at. As a Manager, I wanted make sure that all of our customers were being followed up on properly and to try and develop standards based on the activities of our best salespeople so everyone might benefit.  The salespeople’s concerns were partially accurate.

Quote Tracking – While technically part of Accountability, this needs separate attention. From the salesperson’s perspective, having to put hard closing date estimates and % of probability-to-close is mandating some serious guesswork, then calling them to task when they guess incorrectly. It gives the Manager something else to bug them about, which in their eyes is not productive. True. Even as a sales Manager, when an individual quote was large enough to get upper management’s attention it became a nightmare of constant Q&A. On the positive side, you can’t really improve your closing ratio, identify issues with pricing or ensure you’re doing everything possible to support your salespeople if you don’t know what’s happening. Also, especially in a public company, forecasting is an absolute requirement and sales input in mandatory.

Trade Secrets - Salespeople are often competitive. Several of mine didn't want to share quite so much about how they organize their days, trips and handle their customers.

You probably don’t have a choice as to whether you will implement CRM in your organization, even as a sales Manager. Here are a few important things to make your initial implementation more successful from both sides of the boardroom:

  1. Determine how better opportunity & quote tracking will increase commissions. If you can translate probability of close with probability of commissions in the minds of you and/or your salespeople you’ll get buy-in.
  2. Training – if your company isn’t offering you good training, get it yourself. It’s very important that you spend as little time as possible on ramping up. The easier it is for you and your people to use, the less it will impede their sales activities early on. Everyone will have a better attitude.
  3. Set Expectations – Your salespeople need to know you expect them to use the new system, no questions. They also need to be clear on how you are going to use it to evaluate their performance. As a salesperson, you should get the same thing; a clear picture on how you’ll be evaluated. In some cases insisting on this will force management to consider it for the first time. Get them to write it down.

In the end, Salespeople hate CRM because it’s a change in how they do business. Be a good Manager and pay attention to them before and during implementation, keep their concerns in mind. Be a good salesperson and realize that interacting with your employer is equally important as interacting with your customers, embrace it early and it will contribute to your success.