Flyswatter or Hammer?

“We cannot get our sales reps to use the CRM we are paying thousands of dollars per month to license.”

If you had a dollar for every time some version of that complaint were uttered, you could buy a lot of shares of  In some instances, the salespeople are in fact the culprits and need to change their workflow to use what can be a valuable tool to them and their organization.  However, I have seen way too many examples where a sales team was more than justified in its reluctance to capture the desired data in a CRM.  A couple of the more common causes of CRM aversion include:

1.       Over-engineering the CRM.  Particularly in larger organizations making a change in CRM systems or organizations adopting a full-fledged CRM for the first time, there is a tendency to ask too much of the system and thus of its daily users.  Often the specs and the workflow fall to the CRM Taskforce.  Made up of representatives from every imaginable functional group and often overpopulated with senior managers, everyone comes with their wish list.  After many meetings and hours of analysis, just about everything gets added regardless of how seldom useful or used those specifications will turn out to be.  The individuals doing the most work, however, are often left out of the key decision, overruled, and/or put in a position where it is hard to speak up.  The result is often an overly-cumbersome system that is so difficult to use effectively that it goes into disuse almost immediately.

2.       Under-utilizing the CRM.  There are few things more disheartening to a conscientious salesperson than to be asked to provide reports on something they have already taken the time to capture in the company’s CRM.  One of the more egregious examples I witnessed involved a weekly team sales call to discuss the team’s top 15 sales opportunities.  The run-up to these meetings routinely involved the team being asked to submit data that was captured in their CRM.  Strike 1.  Adding insult to injury, they had to submit these reports in formats that the CRM was not designed to deliver.  So that meant manual manipulation of the data.  Strike 2.  Finally, they were asked to cut and paste specific data into an ever-changing set of Word, Excel, and email formats.  Strike 3.  If management is not taking advantage of insight a CRM can provide (even after they designed the workflow), it sends a message to the sales team about the usefulness and value of such data.  It will not be long before those reps are no longer capturing key sales data within the tool.

Save your organization a lot of time, headaches, and wasted licensing fees by working backward when selecting a CRM, customizing it to your business, and/or developing or changing SOPs as they relate to the platform’s use.  Decide what your must haves are in terms of visibility into the sales process, pipeline analyses, sales projections, and other reporting and start there when establishing your CRM workflow.  If your CRM is not collectively saving your organization time while improving your sales results, I would be willing to bet a few months’ worth of licensing fees that it is not the fault of the tool.