3 Reasons Your CRM Stinks—and What to Do About Them

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CRM systems are being bought and sold and 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 causes 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, launching, 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—worst of all—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 their targets 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 your industry. Next, get educated. There are countless books, videos, and articles written on these three topics and how to avoid them. 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:

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