The Ten Commandments of CRM according to Sales People

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems like Salesforce were designed for the sales force. So, why is it so hard to get sales people to use it?

The reason most sales professionals don’t like using CRM to manage their sales is their perception that we burden them with things they don’t need. If a sales pro has lips that move, a phone that works and a way to send email, they’ve pretty much got everything they need. Right?

But what about answers to questions like these:

  • How can I fix this customer issue?
  • How do I ensure this customer renews?
  • How will I get this contract signed?
  • How can I get a meeting with the CEO?
  • How do I arrange product delivery?
  • How will I hit my target this quarter?
  • How can I increase the value of my pipeline?

Sales professionals want to get things done. And fast. So if we can help them solve real problems quickly, they’ll be more inclined to use the CRM platform. But first we have to understand their complaints.

Why do Sales people moan about CRM?

I’ve been delivering CRM training to sales teams in a variety of industries for the last 16 years. As you know, sales people are usually highly driven, focused and eloquent. And they’re certainly not shy about sharing their disillusionment with CRM systems with me.

And I think I understand where they’re coming from. I’m probably the first person to complain when technology doesn’t deliver on its promises. I hate having to do the same thing twice. I don’t like things that are over-complicated. I find data entry dull! I too am searching for the perfect CRM.

So I get a buzz when I discover a new app that makes my life just a little bit simpler. And I get another buzz when I share that new find with others. (I love sharing technology tools that make our lives easier).

But when I train corporate users on a new CRM system, the CRM isn’t always ‘finished’. There’s often a long roadmap of releases to follow. The first release doesn’t usually deliver huge benefits, so I focus on teaching tips to get the best from what they’ve been given – until the rest of the CRM solution is delivered. Disappointingly, ‘the rest’ doesn’t always follow when it comes to large-scale, complex implementations.

Last week I was thinking about how I still hear the same complaints about CRM, even after all these years. CRM systems have significantly improved in the last decade, and we have hundreds to choose from. But the complaints still seem to be the same.

“CRM takes me away from what I do best. Selling.”
Translation: Don’t waste my time.
Sales don’t want to do data entry. They don’t want to be in a classroom learning about how to use CRM. They want to be in a customer’s office, closing a deal. They’re only interested in something if it truly helps them sell.

“CRM makes me focus on the one that got away. I’m focused on the next deal.”
Translation: Tell me something I don’t know.
Sales don’t need reports telling them how things are going. They already know. They don’t want to waste time telling management why they lost the deal. They want to get started on the next one.
Sales professionals just want time to do the work required to make the sale. They want help with streamlining processes, not recording what’s happened in the past.

“CRM is too complicated.”
Translation: It’s difficult. My attention span is far too short to work out that kind of stuff.
Sales usually feel that CRM only makes their life more complicated. Because of the emphasis on capturing more data, it often takes longer to get things done before it takes less time. So it’s understandable Sales don’t feel like it’s very easy to use.

“I don’t need a CRM. I can look after myself.”
Translation: I enjoy the victory of the sale. I don’t need software to help me sell.
Sales already have their own simple systems, like email and LinkedIn. They don’t need sophisticated tools to do their job. Other systems mean more effort without an obvious pay-off. CRM is too much hassle.

Sound familiar?

It’s no surprise, then, that sales users are still not adopting even the best-of-breed CRM systems, like Salesforce.

I know there are examples of success, especially among smaller organisations. But I’d still say it’s rare to see a salesperson drooling over CRM the way they do the latest iPhone.

The Ten Commandments of CRM according to Sales

It’s easy to reject these complaints and assume sales people are just lazy. Sure, we can refuse to pay commissions unless they keep their pipeline up-to-date. But what if there’s an essence of truth in their complaints? Listen carefully and you’ll notice that these complaints are just requests.

Perhaps it’s time for a CRM credo?

  1. Thou shalt demonstrate how CRM truly saves me time
    CRM needs to help you sell. We know that. But we probably make a lot of empty claims about how it will reduce the time it takes you to do your day job.If we really want to win the hearts of Sales, we must prove it to you. That means listening to your requirements, implementing and testing with you, and measuring the minutes we truly save you.
  2. Thou shalt provide me with valuable information
    CRM should make your life easier, by warning you of things that might go wrong or helping you predict future trends.
    You want:

    • Information that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to
    • Easier access to the information you need

    You want a system that informs you.

  3. Thou shalt give me clean data, not make me add it
    Dirty data is the silent killer in any CRM project. Too often legacy data is shoved from the incumbent CRM into the latest shiny one, so it’s a mess from the start.
    We must provide you with information that’s up-to-date, so you can provide a smooth service to your customers.
  4. Thou shalt provide a CRM app so simple even my Granny can use it
    Technology can make us feel stupid. You like being in control and knowing what you’re doing.
    We need to give you a CRM that’s as easy to use as sending an email.
  5. Thou shalt care about customers first, not internal collaboration
    All you care about are customers. If your sales teams weren’t collaborating before, a new CRM system won’t suddenly make them. Those people who network naturally will love Salesforce’s Chatter. Those who prefer to hide their gems of wisdom will continue to do so.
    We need to ensure that the CRM supports what your customer needs. That includes making key processes like renewals and contracts really easy for your customer.
  6. Thou shalt let me use the CRM wherever I am
    Most CRMs still work best in browser.
    We must provide you with a CRM solution that’s been designed specifically for mobile.
  7. Thou shalt show me pictures, not words
    You don’t have time for reading and pictures are easier to understand.
    We must display information graphically, with neat visual aids, so you can interpret information faster.
  8. Thou shalt show me the pertinent information first
    You don’t like being overloaded with information.
    We must provide you with only critical information when you first view a contact’s record for example. Then you can decide if you need to delve further into the details.
  9. Thou shalt give me lots of small gifts
    You want a CRM system that evolves and expands in line with your skills.
    We must provide you with penknife features that can solve real problems for you. We can help you:

    • Understand your stakeholder relationships
    • Access key internal data at the exact time you need it
    • Organise your travel
    • Plan your route
    • Find out the latest industry news for your customers
  10. Thou shalt train me at my convenience
    You hate attending training at quarter end. You don’t want to drive miles to a training venue.
    We must prioritise 1-2-1 training at a time and venue that suits you. Just Enough Training at the right time is better than too much training too soon. And we must keep providing continuous dedicated support in the formats that work best for you.

Which way now?

There are hundreds, even thousands of CRM solutions to choose from today. But many still fail to meet these basic needs of the standard sales professional.
What about your chosen CRM? How closely does it truly the meet the needs of your sales team? Which commandment could you concentrate on next to really start providing better answers to your Sales team’s questions? And what small gifts have you given to Sales recently?

Vanessa Hunt

Vanessa Hunt

Vanessa is Director at Vanessa Hunt Consulting. Her forte is helping businesses and non-profit organisations improve their sales and marketing. Educated at Exeter University and graduating in French and German, Vanessa has been a training consultant to many of the world's leading tech businesses, focusing more recently on helping organisations realise the value of their CRM platforms.