hundred dollar bills

The Hidden Costs of Expensive CRM

I recently had a chat with a colleague who took a sales job at a big, big company. We were chatting about why, after only 60 days, he was leaving. The money was great. The people were great. The stuff they sold, well that was great too.

CRM. Not so great. And it’s a fancy expensive CRM. And way more expensive than this employer knows…

Let’s forget about the expense of talent acquisition and onboarding. Let’s forget about the embarrassment of rolling out this new hire as the “next super great thing”. Forget about all of that. Let’s look at what the rest of the sales team might be doing during the time that could be spent actually trying to sell their product. Let’s look at what YOUR sales team might be doing during the time that could be spent selling YOUR product.

“Touching Opportunities.” Do you know what that means? Your managers and execs think it means that salespeople forget about big possible sales, and a CRM will gently remind them. They will dutifully send a note, make a call or visit, and update the CRM with the newest info!

In reality, what it means is that almost every salesperson reprimanded for not updating the pipeline will go into an opportunity and change a random data bit. Move a date. Change a state. Make something up. Waste time. A lot of time. Good salespeople have their own systems. Their own clocks and sense of timing. They know instinctively when to reach out. This is what makes them good. They will do it their way, and if told to enter data that doesn’t fit, the result is gibberish.

Most CRMs are set up as some sort of arbitration point or hearing room in which salespeople make their case to actually get paid. As all execs know, salespeople get paid more than they deserve, and the same CRM that helps them sell more is clearly set up to keep them from getting overpaid. If enough boxes are not checked and their influence on their customers is not clearly documented, their pay will decrease, even if sales increase. Good idea. Except for the fact that my colleague quit. Many of my colleagues have quit. I don’t know if you have social media. People quit. A LOT. It is very, very expensive when they do.

Managers and execs are sold “Dashboards” and “Real Time Data” by big CRM companies, with little explanation of how that data is going to get into their system and whether or not it will be accurate. Pipelines and funnels are just repositories of unproductive time spent creating fictional broken dreams. What’s even worse is, some companies take action on data coerced into their CRM.

The United States long ago decided that torture rarely produced accurate actionable information. They even agreed that “enhanced interrogation” provided the same lack of results. We don’t do it. It just doesn’t work. Except in business.

Routinely, employees are threatened with termination if more data is not entered into CRM. At one company, I heard, “We have $1 million into this thing. If you don’t use it, you are fired. Period.” How did that adoption go?

That $1 million quickly became $2 million. Decisions were made on ridiculous data. So how does a company get some useful data, enjoy productive salespeople, and actually USE CRM the right way? Here are a few very basic steps:

  1. Never ask for any data that is rarely viewed
    This is the biggest adoption killer in CRM. The very biggest. If there is a box to be checked or a drop-down to be selected that is clearly superfluous, it sends a clear message to your sales team that their time is not meaningful to management. It is infuriating to CRM users and is a feature in almost every single deployment.
  2. Words are useless data points
    We don’t pay our salespeople with words. We don’t use words in forecasts or charts. Words take a long time to enter and are mostly useless data that are not ever read. Don’t ask for words unless you are a thesaurus factory. Numbers, products, dates, and dollars are useful data points.
  3. Keyboards are faster than mice
    Measure clicks. See how many times your top producer is having to move a mouse and squint at the screen. See how many frustrating red “Required Field” asterisks slow down their work. Treat it like an assembly line. Remove any inefficiencies.
  4. Talk to your sales team
    I did say “Team.” Most refer to their sales department as a team, not an army. Salespeople are known as “talent” and not soldiers. CRM should not be an edict. Not a policy. It should truly be a tool to be shared by both management and salespeople alike. Let management explain why they are asking for certain data points, and how they use them. Let the sales team tell you what they would like the CRM to do. It’s easy. Don’t let the CRM company tell you what you want from CRM.
  5. If all else fails, call me
    Yeah. I started my first CRM on an Atari 540 ST (I didn’t have the money for a 1040). I made it help me sell stuff…and that was it. Now I have created a tool to help all salespeople sell stuff. I might even try to sell you something. It is what I do. And then you can see what my follow-up skills are like. Or maybe you won’t even notice and just find yourself with a lot of the stuff I sell. In any case, I will gladly chat about CRM strategy.