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Why CRM Software is Like Sheet Music

A friend, Bill Herr, got me thinking one day when he said, "CRM Software is like handing a salesperson sheet music and expecting them to sing a few bars."   How true I echoed.  Considering I failed in my first implementation of a rudimentary CRM system by failing to properly train the salespeople, I understood what he meant.   Yes, they had a few hours of cursory training, but certainly not enough.   This was the mid-80's and I am still smarting from the experience. 

Why its important

    There is more to a CRM system than software. Its a way of life for the sales organization which is organized and run from the CRM system.  Poorly install a CRM system and you have chaos. 


From observing many companies, not much has changed.   The salespeople have the laptops/moble aps, but knowing how to use the most important piece of software the company can give them is still hit and miss.  I run into this failure when I call on clients in my consulting business and I hear of it from SLMA members.

"Huh, oh, yes, we got the software," the manager mumbles and looks at me side-ways.  "Do your salespeople use it,," I ask.   The answers range from no, to hell no, to kind of.   On occasion they are using it in the way it was intended, but that is more often the exception.    It doesn't have to be this way.  It can be solved the old-fashioned way with Leadership.  But before we apply the "L-Word" to the issue, lets start with some factual barriers.

  1.  Salespeople must be sold Unless you really sell them on the system, they think it is optional.  Salespeople approach all new processes and systems with a passive aggressive attitude.   Change is not their favorite word or activity.    If you do not explain to the salespeople why they must learn the software they will passively resist until they see if you are serious about enforcing usage.    In some cases they will aggressively resist, especially if item 5 below is detected.
  2. Corporate managers must use the system.   When salespeople detect lukewarm use of the system at corporate they will stop using it or use only small parts of it that help them personally. 
  3. Set it up based on your sales processes.  The CRM system for the salesperson's use must be based on their sales process.  Identify the steps to the sale and if it makes sense, they will go along with you.  The place to start?  Ask the salespeople first and check with them last before you go live.  I have seen company presidents create the sales steps and then it all had to be revamped six months later when the salespeople rejected the process.
  4. What's in it for them?  Salespeople must get more from CRM system than anyone else in the organization.  If the CRM program helps them sell, reduces paperwork, eliminates the dreaded spreadsheets, and has a superior calendaring system, etc., you may convince them to use it. 
  5. Integrate key sales functions.  If you can integrate your quota system, automatic phone dialing, etc., into the process, you will get more cooperation. 
  6. Sales Management.  You must have all levels of sales leadership buy into and use the program.   If this doesn't happen there will be CRM brownouts and blackouts and most of will be traced to lukewarm acceptance by sales management.   
  7. Enforcement.  You must enforce the usage of the program.  No exceptions.   This is where leadership enters.  Leadership for many is really another word for coaching.  Coach them into using it.
  8. The system must address the issues of sales lead management.   As strange as it may sound many systems are not configured to process and sales inquiries.  I have seen systems that were good contact management, had great pipeline reports, served the needs of customer service and still couldn't deliver a sales inquiry to the right salesperson; campaign reports were scanty to non-existent.  I have witnessed systems that cost millions and still could not deliver a sales inquiry, much less a qualified lead.
  9. Training.   Don't just toss the software at them and expect them to catch on.  

If you think you can take CRM software straight out of the box, install it and use it without customizing it, save your money.  

These are my opinions on CRM points of failure, what's your opinion? 

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