Is Your CRM Helping Or Hindering You?

March 3, 2016 Richard Bayston

CRM is big business, in more than one sense. For starters, it’s a big industry in its own right: according to Gartner, we collectively spent $27.5bn on CRM software in 2015, and they expect to see that figure to rise to $37bn by 2017. And that money isn’t being wasted: it’s a business activity with high ROI. Nucleus Research found ROI for CRM hovered between $5.60 and $8.71 on the dollar.

It’s big business in another way too: CRM usage is concentrated in sales-oriented organizations and in larger organizations. 50% of small business don’t have one; 76% of sales teams do. If a business is big or taking steps to grow, it’s more likely to have a CRM. That by itself should tell you something, right?

And yet, it’s one of the most contentious topics in sales. In 2001, half of all CRM implementations were failures - and while we’ve had a decade and a half to get better at it, we’ve actually gotten worse. Maybe that’s because CRMs are getting worse - or maybe, we’re still carrying misapprehensions that are damaging bottom lines and hamstringing sales.

So assuming that you’re either using a CRM, or planning to get one, how do you stop it from being more techno-clutter standing between reps and their prospects, and instead turn it into a powerful tool for accelerating sales and growth?

Is Your CRM Driving You Forward - Or Holding You Back?

driving forward

Image Source: Road People Street Smartphone by SplitShire CC0 Pexels

Insightly’s been running some good ads for a while now. They feature an older lady, advising readers to ‘stop hitting your brother! … and get a CRM,’ making the point: you should know this already. As ads they’re inspired, no doubt. But once you’ve got a CRM, is there any guarantee that it’s going to help you? CRMs can be the problem. More than one sales manager can tell you of hours spent manually entering data, or of reps resentful of obligatory adoption of an unwieldy tool.

How do you find out whether the CRM you already have is helping or hindering your business’ goals?

Assess Your Internal Business Processes - So You Can Automate Them

CRM automates internal business processes. But if you don’t have well-documented internal sales process mapped out already, you can’t automate them. CRM is like autopilot: no use if you don’t have a plane. So start with your sales processes themselves.

If you already have business processes mapped out, that’s fine - you can switch to a tool that accommodates them or adjust the one you’re already using. Many CRMs, especially enterprise-level, sales-oriented systems are incredibly customizable. As long as you know what you want, you can probably have it with SalesForce, Microsoft Dynamics or SugarCRM, for instance.

If you don’t already have sales processes mapped out, it’s a slightly different question.

Implement a CRM without solid sales processes and you get a tool reps hate to use and managers don’t bother to look at. Sound familiar? That’s your CRM working against you, soaking up valuable selling time and adding to the unread clutter in managers’ inboxes. The good news is that if your sales processes are shaky, there’s never been a better time to put that right. The criteria to build effective sales processes are clearer and better-evidenced than ever before and a new echelon of sales operations professionals are available to create and monitor both the processes themselves and the tools used to automate them.

Assign Resources To Support CRM - Not Just During Implementation

CRM on its own won’t solve anything, and processes are user-dependent; the best sales strategy in the world will deliver exactly zero results if no one’s using it.

That’s where a lot of initial CRM adoptions fail. Sales staff and business owners alike perceive the CRM as a tool for doing… well, something or other, but you gotta have one, right? (Stop hitting your brother…) The idea is that the CRM will do something, all by itself. Obviously, that makes about as much sense as buying a lawnmower and wondering how the grass got so long. Did you use it? Same with your CRM.

Successful CRM implementation requires extensive support to make sure that the tool is picked up and used in an appropriate way without an inordinate amount of time being wasted learning on the fly. Without adequate support, sales people with a quota to meet will usually evolve an informal system of record keeping and success monitoring that bypasses the tool they don’t understand how to use. If people are counting their wins in Hershey bars and communicating on scraps of paper, all the money you spent on your CRM is wasted.

Again, this is an ongoing job that continues long after initial implementation and is often best performed by a dedicated sales ops section.

Provide Staff With Real CRM Training

The first people you need to sell to are your sales team. If they’re not buying your CRM, it’s not their fault. It’s yours. When you lead a horse to water, says Jason Jordan,

‘Your goal shouldn’t be to make the horse drink - it should be to make the horse thirsty.’

The parallel is that you shouldn’t set out to make your staff use your CRM, but to make them want to.

When you present staff with the new tool, apply sales techniques. Demonstrate value, handle objections, and be ‘user-centric’ - talk to staff in terms of the tool’s ability to deliver more time selling and more efficient, productive interactions.

Logan Consulting’s infographic provides a starting point for selling sales teams on CRM adoption. Done right, you should be trying to ‘shift the business challenge from getting users to log in, to providing users with irresistible and unavoidable functionality,’ Jordan continues.

crm infographic

Image Source: Increasing CRM Adoption by Logan Consulting CRM SoftwareBlog 


Get everything in one place so sales reps have whole-customer view when they stand up (they should stand up, apparently) to make calls. If you’re looking at a CRM that won’t integrate sales data, emails, content, chat, phone calls, social, and website data, stop and look somewhere else.

The death of outbound has been hugely exaggerated. Ever noticed cold calling has died more times than Sam and Dean in Supernatural? But inbound is going to get more important, and sales, marketing and customer services are going to have to get together to ace buyer-centric selling, especially in B2B. So CRM needs to be a place where a rep can easily find everything.

They also need to be able to see it. If your CRM returns reports that have to be run through third party visualization software, or reps have to call up a calculator and try to remember how to divide pi by the square root of whatever the heck it is that they’re looking at, it’s the wrong CRM. We process visual information a little faster than verbal or numerical, so get a CRM that visualizes what reps need to know in terms of data and shows it to them in a way they can intuitively understand.

Automate - And Accelerate

automate accelerate

Image Source: Application Field Automotive by KUKA Systems GmbH CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

From a rep’s point of view, CRM should go beyond what sheets can offer, and beyond automating basic functions. It should deliver insight and information from multiple sources right there on the screen, and it should remove nearly all clerical work from the rep’s shoulders. Reps shouldn’t have to ask themselves what’s next - their CRM should tell them. And they shouldn’t need to move prospects or accounts along the route to purchase and beyond either.

Some CRMs let users set up multiple sales stages themselves - Capsule, for instance; others, like the mighty Salesforce, do it for their users, automatically transitioning leads along the pipeline in preset ways.

CRM Delivers New Functions

I know, I spent a couple of paragraphs earlier talking about how if you don’t have processes in place already, blah blah blah. But here’s the good part: CRM shouldn’t just do what you were doing before, but a little better. It’s capable of a whole lot more than that.

We have a dual problem; some managers are falling down because their conception of CRM is that it will magically solve all their problems - even ones they’ve yet to identify themselves. Others view CRM as little more than a spreadsheet with highly advanced color coding. The reality is, yes, you need a structure in place that can identify what you actually want your CRM to do; a roadmap that plots out the course between prospects and evangelical repeat customers (no, it shouldn’t stop at initial purchase!). But you’re a salesperson, so you knew that already.

Where sales pros slip is they don’t fully exploit CRM’s potential to transfigure the way they do business. CRM is not simply a way to digitize what you already do.

Once you have data from multiple sources aggregated on one screen in front of sales reps, you’re making deep cuts in the biggest timewasters for reps: looking for content and looking for information on leads and prospects. But again, CRM has emergent capabilities. You can get into the half of their workday that reps routinely spend not selling, and you’re still not close to leveraging the business utility of a well-implemented CRM.

CRM can deliver the data you need to plot and follow multiple advanced sales cycles. What you really want is an evangelical repeat customer, not a single sale. That’s why it makes sense to coach reps to shoot for good deals, not lots of deals. But it’s also why you should be looking at the customers you already sold to. But I know you probably don’t - because 73% of companies have no process for re-engaging after the initial sale.

That’s like a hungry guy fishing catch and release; it just makes no sense when you already have data on these customers, already have permission to contact, already demonstrated value.

Re-selling, upselling, cross-selling and customer services all slot neatly into integrated sales processes - but you need something to take care of the clerical work, the remembering details, the flagging up conversations, and the crunching numbers. In ye olden times, that was called floors 3 through 12; now it’s called CRM, but only if you aggressively utilize the whole functionality of the tool you’ve chosen.

Featured Image Source: CRM Customer Relationship Management Concept. Customer Service and Relationship by Wright Studio Shutterstock 

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