Experts explore why salespeople dislike CRM - and provide advice on how to get them to embrace it.
CRM and salespeople are in a love-hate relationship – in that CRM loves salespeople, but salespeople hate CRM.
One of the most common reasons cited by organisations for the failure of their CRM systems is a lack of adoption by the sales team. Data isn’t inputted. Records aren’t kept up to date. And the value of the whole system is subsequently undermined.
So why do so many salespeople take such a disliking to CRM?
Sean McPheat, MD of MTD Sales Training, believes that the challenge that organisations face is the very nature of the best itself – sales people love interacting with people, not with CRM programmes.
“Many sales people would rather make an additional ten calls per day or go out on another two prospect visits than update their records, especially as a lot of their commission is riding on the results that they achieve,” he explains. “Having said that, what the same sales people do not realise is that many of them miss out on following up with prospects, they forget crucial information and then using the data ongoing for marketing and farming purposes is a lot harder with incomplete or worse still, no records.
“’I’m getting bogged down with paperwork and admin when I should be out selling’ is a common complaint I hear all the time from sales people. Whether it’s the forms they need to complete or the entries onto a computer to fulfil a new piece of business or whether it’s entering updates into a CRM system, the salesperson at times does not seem to see past their commission cheque and the activity required to bump their salary up to the levels that they need.”
Helen Rutherford, director at training firm 2e2, agrees that some of it comes down to mindset.
“Sales people don’t like using it because they don’t see how using the system benefits them personally,” she says. “A lot of sales people work in isolation, and get commission for their own actions. If they make a sale it does impact the wider business of course, but sales is a competitive environment and people will generally see a sale as a personal success.
“With this in mind, it’s hard to justify the usefulness of entering information into a system that may enable someone else to capitalise on their hard work, and potentially lose them some commission. The best sales people are those who take pride in their work and have the competitive edge. The knock-on effect of hiring such people is that they’re unlikely to get the best out of CRM systems.”
There are other attitudes amongst salespeople that can cause CRM systems to come unglued. John Cheney, CEO of Workbooks, for instance, believes that too often CRM systems are viewed by salespeople as “a tool for managers to keep a close eye on their work” rather than a tool that enables them to be more successful. And Matt Garman, group commercial director at dhc, reports having often heard “I’ll get the sales and somebody else can sort that out”. “It is a laziness and unfortunately salespeople are often given more slack than other people in the firm,” he adds.
The damage of a failure
But while salespeople tend to get the blame, other factors also contribute to poor adoption in many cases. These include:
- A lack of IT/systems knowledge - “There are a lot of un-technical sales people out there, or not prepared to admit they don’t get it!” says Garman.
- Projects have been rolled out without consulting the users first - “CRM systems fail because the company has decided to invest in a new piece of technology (decision at Board meeting – ‘wouldn’t it be great to have a fantastic CRM system’) without engaging with the rest of the business.”
- Over-complicated systems - “If they have to go too far out of their way, different logon, different software, etc. then they just won’t use it.
Unfortunately, whatever the reason for poor adoption, the implications of a CRM failure can run far and wide. “The primary danger of a CRM adoption problem is that as a result of the system not being used and data not being inputted as it should, the data is of poor quality, is inaccurate and thus is not a useful tool for management and does not actively help the sales team,” says Cheney. “In cases such as these, a CRM solution is seen an expensive burden.”
Darron Walton, managing director of De Villiers Walton adds: “In a fast-paced sales environment, hours spent toiling over complex admin processes and pricing structures could mean a missed opportunity or target. Yet when sales and other CRM users bypass the system or add incorrect information, this can, in turn, contribute to an inaccurate picture of sales performance.”
So how can organisations ensure that CRM is warmly embraced by its salespeople? We asked a handful of experts for their advice on how to make CRM and sales the perfect couple.
Communicate clear objectives
“Communicate with your sales people as to why CRM is important to the company as a whole and to them as individuals,” advises McPheat. “Many salespeople just see CRM as a way to keep to score and something that marketing use to send out mailings. With proper objectives and a clear vision for the CRM system your sales team can increase their buy in from the word go. You need to sell the CRM system to the sales people! That does not include just a cascade. Telling is not selling! Instead you need to cover the business benefits and also the all-important question that each sales person will want answering ‘What’s in it for me?’”
Get buy-in from the sales team
“From experience, the best projects are company-wide decisions with buy in at all levels,” says Garman. “Leaders/directors need to lead and make sure they practice what they preach when it comes to implementation – all too often they make a call and then move on to the next meeting item without seeing it through.”
McPheat adds: “Ask [the sales team] for their input in designing the system from the outset if you can and make it as simple for them to use as possible. The system should be moulded around your sales process so at any stage your sales people know and understand where each of their prospects and clients are in the sales cycle. The people that are going to use it should be the ones to help shape what it looks like and to have an important say in what it should and could do.”
Change mindsets by explaining putting CRM in context for salespeople
“In order for CRM to work, employee mindsets have to change – however, businesses need to help with this,” says Rutherford. “Salespeople will understand the use of having a single repository of customer information. If such a system leads to happier customers, stronger relationships and, ultimately, more sales then sales teams should buy into it.”
Demonstrate the ROI
“Communicate any ‘wins' that you have with the system,” recommends McPheat. “Any deals that were won due to its deployment, any potential problems that were avoided or any data that you are now able to analyse and hence have made some process improvements off the back of it. All of these add fuel to the fire and make using the CRM a way of life and a ‘need to do’ rather than a ‘have to do’.”
Listen to feedback from your sales team
“Most businesses are highly dependent on their sales team for the capturing of key data needed to fulfil orders and to invoice, and hence salespeople are the key to successfully implementing a CRM system,” explains Cheney. “Listening to their needs and complaints then acting on their feedback is a sure way to encourage the adoption of a CRM system. You may find it helpful to liaise with your CRM provider, as they will be able to help you identify ways to make the software easier to adopt. It’s also worth ‘championing’ those salespeople who do adopt the system and offering them incentives.”
Ensure the management set an example
“Your sales directors and managers will play a major role in how CRM is adopted throughout your organisation,” emphasises McPheat. “Will it be seen as a ‘divide and rule’ system used for sales person bashing, checking up all the time and for nit picking? Or will the system be used as something that really adds value to the sales process and one that enables the sales managers and sales directors to mentor and coach their sales people to a greater level of performance?”
Keep CRM simple
“In our experience, the reason many sales users get frustrated with CRM is because it is too complex,” says Walton. “Often, they are forced to comply with data-intensive screens and complete mandatory fields that are not always specifically relevant to their everyday sales role. And when faced with adapting to a new system, users that do not have the time to learn how to use the system – or do not see the benefits of the new process in their day to day life - will reject the system, bypass the important fields or add false information.”
Garman adds: “The key is make it simple – after all 40% of activities recorded in a basic system is better than nothing in a fancy one. Don’t do too much too soon and make it manageable.”