Avoiding the “CRM Dilemma”

Note to reader: I recommend you read My History With CRM to better understand the history and research behind the “CRM Dilemma

Has managing your Sales Pipeline in CRM become little more than a pipedream?

Have you lost trust in reports drawn from your CRM solution?

You are probably experiencing what I have termed the “CRM Dilemma”. CRM users, driven by the unspoken fears associated with recording their daily activities – covertly and effectively work to defeat the system, thus quietly eliminating the perceived threat of “carrying the stick with which they will be beaten”.

The CRM Dilemma

To understand the CRM Dilemma, it’s important to start with three critical facts:

  1. Covert resistance actions taken by CRM users are rational, but cannot be verbally justified to their employer
  2. Overt resistance to the self-reporting of sales activities into CRM – can itself cast doubt on an employee’s work ethic, regardless of actual employee performance
  3. When salesperson activity reports exist, the data must and will be used to evaluate and compare the performance of each individual, even when the primary measure of performance remains monetary in nature (I.e. Total sales dollars)

“it is a strange dog that willingly carries the stick with which it will be beaten”

– Douglas G. Hartle

Most CRM solutions are designed to facilitate the capture and reporting of customer interactions (with employees) from two very distinct angles:

  1. “What the customer said during the interaction”
    • Call Centers are a great example where CRM works extremely well for recording customer feedback, and offering prompts and suggested solutions to the employee based on information provided by the customer
    • When CRM vendors share success stories, call centers are what they focus on

2. “What the employee did and said before, during, and after the customer interaction”

  • Let me say up front that I am a huge proponent of information sharing utilizing the full capabilities of CRM, and I truly believe CRM can offer sales professionals the tools they need to be more successful. Unfortunately, an accidental discovery on my part, followed by a lengthy research project uncovered the “CRM Dilemma”.
  • Douglas G. Hartle is quoted as saying “it is a strange dog that willingly carries the stick with which it is to be beaten.” Mr. Hartle was referring to Canadian governmental ministries reporting on their programs and outcomes to Parliamentarians, but the parallels to CRM failure rates is striking. Let’s be honest, the illusion of employee activity reporting and control (through self-reporting) has always been a selling feature for CRM and SFA (Sales Force Automation), but sales people have never accepted the premise.
  • Don’t get me wrong; you have every right to know what your employees are doing, and in CRM training sessions they will tell you all the ways it will help them in their jobs. Unfortunately, we also design and implement “carry the stick” features and policies in our CRM initiatives:
    • We often fail to enforce CRM usage for our top salespeople while putting pressure on struggling ones to record all their activities for “coaching purposes”
    • We design activity tick-boxes in CRM so salespeople can indicate they completed a certain task
    • We ask salespeople to record information that (in their minds) has no value in advancing the sale, but will clearly be used to evaluate their performance
  • The shock to me came when I realized how strong and coordinated the employee-driven movement to kill a CRM initiative can be, regardless of positive statements made by employees in training. Even sales managers can quietly join in upon realizing their performance is to be evaluated based on information their direct reports record in the CRM solution.
  • Most employers aren’t going to fire everyone for not entering their activities into CRM, and user incentives are typically not enough to encourage employees to “carry the stick”.

Getting Real Value from Your CRM Solution

Start by Acknowledging the Realities and Power of Employee Resistance to CRM

  1. Employee resistance to activity controls in CRM causes the majority of CRM failures
  2. Making CRM usage compelling for users requires complex automations that make their sales efforts easier, while reducing the focus on activity controls
  3. Tick boxes and other CRM elements designed solely for purpose of salesperson accountability should be avoided
  4. Focus more on effective sales planning than post activity reporting
  • If you tell your spouse you are going to mow the lawn on Saturday, he or she will have an expectation the lawn will get mowed, because you have announced your plan to do so. If you intend to mow the lawn, but want to avoid accountability in case something more fun comes along, you might not announce your commitment in advance.
  • There is little doubt that committing to a plan – increases the likelihood you will follow through
  • Understanding The CRM Dilemma, we know that given the choice, salespeople would postpone entering the details of a sales lead into CRM until he or she is confident the sale will go through
  • Alternatively, consider the following scenario where the sales lead is entered into CRM before being “pushed” to the salesperson
In the example above, the salesperson “owns” the lead and becomes accountable for the outcome. Depending on the sales cycle, CRM automations can be used to escalate, transfer, or highlight the lead after a certain period of inactivity

Check Out Our Planning, Automation, Communication Tool (PACT) for CRM