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Why do salespeople hate CRM - and how can we help them love it?

22nd Nov 2016

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.”

Replies (7)

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By stevechol
21st Nov 2011 12:08

Parts of this document hit the nail on the head.  Successful adoption of any system is dependent on user buy-in and if you only use the system as a stick to beat people with then your new CRM system will not work at anything like it's potential.

Keeping it simple is key, build complexity and introduce features over time if need be but the first thing is getting everyone on board.

Ideally make sure that the training encompasses real world type scenarios in which the sales person (who is motivated mainly by money - usually) sees situations in which the CRM system helps them sell more and become more successful, maybe by making the salesperson aware through the contact history, that the company is looking at implementing $insertsolutionhere$ next month.  A piece of information recorded 12 months ago by someone diligently using the system as it is designed to be used. 

Our own CRM product, which I won't create spam by mentioning by name, is sold with the tagline: 'Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication' - which is a quote from Da Vinci.  Never a truer word was said.

-Steve Cholerton


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By npoulos
21st Nov 2011 19:45

Neil's synopsis is great.

Two things I believe still can be emphasized even further. One is understanding the functional requirements of the user community. The second has to do with data.

For the former, CRM systems now have grown to be capable of containing the proverbial "kitchen sink". We can build CRM Systems that are like an architectural Taj Mahal. The question is do we really want to just because we can? A dozen or so years ago, I and others, recommended that we limit the data to be collected, captured, and refreshed to that which would be used and was usable for the 1st 12 months of the roll-out. I have not found any truly great reasons to think we need to have fields for the color or prospects eyes or the names of their dogs.

As to functional requirements: whew! we seem to have abdicated our decision-making to the software vendors. Not that they don't have some wonderful offerings: many if not most do. The issue, for me has always been about what  CRM really and truly is:strategy. "Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a strategy based on customer focus, on customer knowledge, and on delighting the customer.  CRM is real-time, actionable, customer knowledge management. The best CRM approaches are holistic, involving all facets of your business and demonstrating accountability for results. CRM becomes a guiding philosophy and framework for doing business and includes:

•  differentiating and optimizing the customer experience 

•  building customer knowledge to provide value to both the customer and your business 

•  taking a portfolio management approach to customers – not every customer is worth keeping!

•  using “value “ as defined by the customer - at each point in the customer’s lifecycle and with all 

of your customer contacts 

CRM is the right, the fitting strategy for many: whether addressed as a customer portfolio management strategy, a resource allocation strategy, a way to optimize the return on our investment into our targeted customer groups, or a customer knowledge management strategy: the operative word is strategy: not software, not cloud - strategy. 

It is harder to think strategically; much easier to buy a package or cloud solution. Doing so, however, may not give you the outstanding results that well-thought out CRM & CXM can deliver when executed well.


-- Problem Solver, Chrysalis Marketing 414.324.2559 [email protected]; http:www.crmcompass.com "to live is to do battle with trolls in the vaults of heart and mind; to write, that is to hold domesdag over one's self." - Ibsen

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By User deleted
04th Jun 2012 02:51


Great article. My client (financial institution) was facing the same issue when we first roll out the Sales Management CRM, lack of buyin, inaccurate data, sales personals priority, etc had jeopadize our efforts in capturing relevant data for further analysis. In 2009, however, we had executed a new initialtive, code name TSS, which successfully see the improvement in CRM adoption by sales personal (1000+), and an immediate increase in closed sales rate within 3 months. 

Time fly, and today, in 2012, the TSS somehow has loss it traction, and again we are back to drawing room to analyse strategy to boost CRM adoption. From the statistics, we notice approximately 30 minutes/day are opportunity costs on each sales personal to enter sales info, and this has translated an 8 digist moneytories losses. From our analysis, in order to get Sales Personal adoption, whilst having good data and easy to use, efforts in information capturing should be kept to minimize, and best, automated and tightly integrated to the sales processes itself. This translate to a Product Catalogue solution, with integrated SFM capabilities, and intensive BI. The end result should be easy to use, intelligent in  recommending appropriate products mix and sales approach for field sales agent, and most important, in an appealing form to GenY sales Agent, selling to GenY customers.

The final product, is currently under development. Targetting to launch the solution by Jan 2013.

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By ashutoshkrm
29th Jul 2014 09:36

Great points everyone. How about including the fact that it is plain difficult to update all calls, emails and meetings.
We have been researching this area for the past seven years. Some more information of making it easy for people to update the crm.



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By kumars12
04th Dec 2014 13:55


Thank you, your article really made a notable impact in our sales management system. Yes our manager finally agreed to move-on with a alternative for CRM. Now i’m visiting my prospects with an ipad, just that.

We guys are long fighting for a simple system. Finally my management heard us and upgraded, totally digitized our company activities. There is this app that we sales guys use for our field sales called contalog(https://www.contalog.com). You can find a list of more useful tools in this forum - What are the best software tools for sales people(https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-best-software-tools-for-salespeople)

Hope it is Useful!. 



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By GarySmithGSP
21st Feb 2017 14:12

An excellent article with some interesting points.

In my experience there are 4 things that businesses have to do to drive salesperson adoption of CRM systems.

1. Create an advantage to using the system i.e. it has to be easier to do my job using the system than not using it.

2. Create a disadvantage to not using it. For example, I can only get approval to a pricing discount via the system.

3. Measure adoption (login rates are irrelevant here, other metrics are much more important.

4. Manage adoption. Use the metrics to apply a variety of management techniques.

I agree training is important. But too often training IS the user adoption strategy - in fact, it's a relatively small component.

I've written a blog post on the topic of salesperson user adoption for anyone that's interested! Any feedback very welcome

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By Paresh Thakor
22nd Feb 2017 05:36

Nice one Neil Davey.

Most of the sales people recognize CRM tool, as more work and tracking tool of their work.

You have mentioned some great point.

How can we effectively improvise the productivity of sales force?
There are two ways to increase your sales: improve the productivity of your sales force or hire more sales reps. It is not always necessary that the sales team hit their targets every time. However, if the team is consistently unable to perform or achieve their targets, then there is certainly something wrong. Either the sales targets are very high or the sales strategies are flawed. There may be several reasons why the sales team isn’t performing well. Here are a few ways which can help you improve the productivity of your sales force.

You can read more information at http://www.cygneto-apps.com/blog/effectively-improvise-productivity-sale...

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