“They Aren’t Using CRM!!!”

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The first time a sales manager made this statement to me, in frustration, was about 20 years ago. Since then, it’s become the common complaint I hear from managers (If I had a nickel for every time…….)

It’s what happens next that explains a large part of the problem, I always ask, “Let’s sign onto your CRM system and take a look at what’s going on…..”

You can probably guess what happens. These managers who expect their people to use CRM struggle in using CRM. If they are complaining about the lack of utilization, one would expect they can show the problems within the CRM system. For example, looking at opportunities–explaining what they would expect to see and aren’t. Or accounts, or leads, or….

One would expect them to look at pipeline reports, utilization reports, other reports within the CRM system. But they struggle themselves. Through their clumsiness, it’s clear they aren’t using CRM themselves.



“I have my sales ops team get me all the reports I need from CRM…..” “I don’t need to use CRM, it’s for my team, they aren’t using it!”

It’s not wonder we aren’t getting the value we could and should from the tools we’ve invested in. If managers aren’t using these tools themselves, how can we expect our people to use them?

Yet we mandate CRM compliance….

Some years ago, I faced the same issue with my own sales team. We had invested millions in a CRM system and related tools. We provided training, we set expectations for how these tools could improve their effectiveness and productivity.

But we made the decision to use CRM optional, each sales person could opt in or opt out.

So how did we get people using CRM, how did we get them to recognize the value they might get out of using the tools?

It turned out to be really simple. I used the tools, I did mandate that my management team use the tools. Our request was simple, “Every time we do a review, we will do it in the tool! Every deal review will be done looking at the opportunity in the CRM system. Every account review will be done in the system, every pipeline review and forecast review will be done in the system.”

Of course people grumbled, they were pissed off. They, initially, claimed, “You are making us do additional administrative work!”

But we maintained our position. “When we talk to you about what you are doing, we will use the tools and the data to support our conversations. You don’t have to use them, you only have to use them when we talk to you.”

Pretty quickly, the light bulbs started going on in the minds of the sales people. As we did opportunity reviews, we used the tools to structure our conversations, we could see what had happened, who was involved, the status of the deal, even some of the key issues.



We didn’t have to spend a lot of time in deal reviews understanding what had happened, we would look for that in the CRM system. Instead, we focused on coaching, “What do we do next, with who? How can we improve our positioning? How can we create more value? What if ……”

And when we completed the review, the sales person would record next steps as tasks or meetings in the CRM system. Helping them remember and execute what we had agreed on in the review.

It was the same with account reviews, pipeline reviews. We conducted the discussions leveraging the data in the systems. The followup as and next steps were recorded in the system. We no longer had to remember those, all we had to do was look in the system each morning. The next steps, follow ups, action plans were in my calendar and to do list. When I talked to a customer, I recorded a few summary notes in the system, the next steps and sent a message to the sales people (using Chatter or similar capabilities in other tools).

Every once in a while, a sales person would bring up another opportunity. I’d try to find it in CRM, “I can’t find it…..” Sales people started to realize, if it isn’t in the system, it isn’t real.

Of course, at least initially, a lot of the people thought I was the biggest jerk they’d ever met. “Why is Dave forcing us to use the system? Why is he making us do this extra work? Doesn’t he care about our performance and productivity?” Some of you may be thinking the same thing.

But then we have to confront this fundamental question: Why do we invest in these in the first place? Why are we spending the money?

If we aren’t investing in them to improve the effectiveness and productivity of our sales people, then we are wasting our money and their time!

If we, managers and leaders, aren’t using these same tools, leveraging the data and showing how use of these tools help improve their productivity and effectiveness, as well as our own, then we can have no expectation of them using them, themselves.

Of course the tools are a pain. It seems the leading CRM systems had Marquis de Sade as the user interface designer. Some of the more modern tools are much better. Of course most of them don’t provide the robust reporting we need, or some of the opportunity, account management, or prospecting functionality we want. But there are great complementary tools in most of their AppExchanges. And a lot of the more modern systems are taking these on.

But when we look at “compliance,” the first thing we need to assess is “How well are we as managers and leaders complying? Are we using the tools ourselves? Are we demonstrating how our people can use the tools to improve their personal productivity and performance?”



The problem with CRM compliance starts with us!

Afterword: This isn’t really an article about CRM. It’s an article about all the tools we use, automated or otherwise. It’s about our training, it’s about our programs, it’s about our processes. If we, as managers, aren’t using them, then we should have no expectation that our people should use them. The problem with utilization starts with our own behaviors and the examples we set.

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