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

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1. Note to 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, and 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 internal complexity? 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 and  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 overburdened 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.

Mark Winter is vice president of sales enablement for PeopleReady, a $2.5 billion staffing agency. He has three decades of sales, sales leadership, and sales support experience, balancing the art and science of sales with creating an easy buying experience for customers. Winter provides tools, resources, training, and technology to an ever changing team of salespeople so they can be as effective and efficient as possible. 

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