CRM, The Biggest Sales Productivity Drain In 10 Years!


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Hold on, before you react to this title, take a moment to understand! Talking about CRM and its impact on productivity is a lightning rod for commenters. The comments will be split—those in wild agreement with the title, and those in disagreement–thinking I’m irresponsible.

But this blog post actually has nothing to do with CRM. It’s actually an experiment, I think I know the result, but I’ll report back to you in a couple of weeks. See, my blog is posted in many locations–on a number of social media sites, in a variety of LinkedIn groups, the title will inevitably be tweeted dozens of times.

What I’ll get is lots of comments and tweets, either pro or con. The commenters will read the title and immediately react. The comments will be profuse and detailed. The post will be exalted as the most insightful ever or lambasted. I may be declared “persona non grata” at Dreamforce in a few weeks. The comments will all be about the title, because many of the commenters will not take the time to read this post.

And all the comments will be wrong! They will be terribly inappropriate and misdirected. These respondents will be foolish. If you’ve gotten to this point in the article, you know it has nothing to with CRM. It’s about listening. It’s about understanding. It’s really about engaging our customers, people, and audiences.

See, what I’m trying to understand, and also trying to illustrate through this post, is that we have a problem with listening and understanding. We listen for “trigger words” or “trigger phrases” (apologies to Tibor Shanto and Craig Elias). We hear those trigger phrases, and immediately launch into our pitch or presenting our point of view.

For too many sales people, listening is not to understand, to drill down, to learn what the customer means. Instead, it’s selective, waiting for those phrases that enable us to switch from listening to presenting mode—afterall, isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Aren’t we supposed to be pitching and selling?

Too often, our questioning strategies are often structured to elicit certain responses, so that we can launch into our pitch.

We tend to look at information selectively–seeking not to understand, but as a platform to express our opinions. A few weeks ago, I got into an offline conversation with someone in the same LinkedIn group as me. He sent me a note, “Dave, your post has stimulated a huge discussion, but based on the comments, it would appear that 70% of the people haven’t read your article. What’s up?”

It’s true–many of the comments or tweets I see in various venues have nothing to do with the content of what I’ve written, but are only reactions to the title. Even when I politely respond, “You may have misunderstood, I was trying to say……,” people stay on their agenda. They don’t hear, but continue down the same path.

This is a huge problem. Not just in how we work with customers, but in how we listen to each other and our people. It’s a problem with how we consume news and react to the headlines.

If we really want to connect with our customers, our people, our communities, we need to understand. We need to stifle our knee jerk urges to respond. Instead, we need to probe, ask more questions, understand what is really being said. We need to challenge the person we are listening to. We need to push back to make sure we know what’s being said, what’s behind what’s being said, and why the person holds this particular position.

If we don’t, then our responses will be misguided. In the best case, we turn off the person we are “conversing with.” In the worst we look like fools.

Regardless of what you feel about CRM, the proper response to this title — if you are interested in this topic, is to probe, to drill down. Why am I taking this posistion? What are my arguments? How am I supporting this position? Is it well informed? Only when you understand my position and what’s driven it; can you respond in a meaningful and appropriate way.

In our companies and societies we have a tremendous problem with listenting, understanding, engaging. The sound bite is praised, speeches by our leaders (business or political) are nothing but linked sound bites. We don’t probe or dig deeper to understand. Our business and political leaders get this and exploit it. It’s used to manipulate opiniion, Media people, even bloggers like me, understand the power of the headliine. I hope it provokes someone to read, but unfortunately, too often it doesn’t.

I’ll report the results of my little experiment in a couple of weeks. I really hope I’m wrong about my prediction, but am certain that I am spot on.

Oh, I almost forgot. I can’t imagine a high performing sales professionl not leveraging tools like CRM and Sales 2.0 to the limit. But that’s another post.

For a free Whitepaper on Creating Effective Strategic Partnerships, email me with your full name and email address, I’ll be glad to send you a copy. Just send the request to: [email protected], ask for Creating Effective Strategic Partnerships

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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