Donald Rumsfeld’s CRM Advice


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Microsoft didn’t see the Internet coming, and now look what’s happened.

People think they know too much. But more often, we’re surprised not by the answer to a question, but by not even knowing the question existed in the first place.

Errol Morris has been provocatively exploring this issue in The New York Times. His inspiration: the famous observation by Donald Rumsfeld that the problem with military or political intelligence isn’t the known knowns (you can plan for those) or the known unknowns (someone knows the answer), but the unknown unknowns. In other words, you have to watch out for the things that you don’t even know that you don’t know.

CRM and Unknown Unknowns

In the CRM realm, we see this regularly. Recently, for example, I met with a prospective client that had invested $15 million over five years to build its new CRM system. The company was very focused on creating a 360-degree view of its customers, and provided sales reps with every conceivable account-related data point, across 45 different screens, with five tabs on each screen.

Unfortunately, whoever designed the system didn’t take into account that sales reps have to make about 50 telephone calls per day, and when they actually reach someone on the phone, have only about 15 seconds to make a connection and engage the customer or prospect. Having 45 screens doesn’t help. In fact, the system is useless.

Likewise, one of our high-technology clients spent lots of time generating marketing leads, which is a good thing. But the company neglected the handoff point, where the leads flow into the sales department. As a result, salespeople never used the leads, resulting in millions of wasted dollars.

Why We Fear the Unknown

According to Morris’s research, Rumsfeld’s observation — as well as the reaction to it — both have firm groundings in human psychology. Namely, we like matters to be black and white. Too much ambiguity makes people uncomfortable. Even hostile.

Perhaps that’s not surprising, since people tend to ignore what they don’t know they don’t know. As a result, we tend to chronically underestimate the downside or upside that these unknown unknowns pose.

The Internet, for example, has completely transformed society, arguably for the better. But some businesses were caught off guard by its arrival. Microsoft failed to embrace the Internet, tried to play catch-up, and failed. Since 2000, Microsoft’s stock price has decreased by 40%, while Google, the company that came to define the transformational power of the Internet has seen its stock price soar by 347%.

Find Out What You’re Missing

For both of the companies facing CRM challenges above, the problem was similar: not knowing the right questions to ask.

For example, talk to a VP of sales operations and ask what four or five components they think about for excelling at territory management, and maybe they’ll mention account planning or list management. But are they thinking about customer segmentation or cross-functional collaboration? In fact, to do well at territory management, you need to address each of those four underlying components.

To provide organizations with better perspective into the capabilities required to excel at CRM — for marketing, sales, or customer service — we built Innoveer’s CRM Excellence Framework. Our goal is to help organizations see what they do well, see what needs improving, and learn what they may be overlooking altogether.

Having this information helps ensure that you plan and build the right CRM program, as well as get the most bang for your buck. Indeed, if you need to build better territories — one of the five capabilities required for effective sales force management — and your organization already handles territory management quite well except for list management, then start there, because you’ll see the biggest improvement and bang for your buck.

So remember, when it comes to CRM planning, there are no stupid questions. Only the ones you didn’t know to ask.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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