Five Things Every Chief Sales Officer (CSO) Needs to Know About CRM


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Most CSOs recognize the potential value CRM systems can deliver to their organization. Where they get into trouble is knowing what it takes to turn that potential into a reality.

CRM vendors show you what is possible, not probable

I have sat through many a CRM vendor demonstration. Most have it down cold. They walk you through scenario after scenario, weaving in a great narrative of how much time you will save, how your costs of sales will go down, and how new sales will skyrocket.

What they don’t tell you is that without a lot of work with your people – not your technology – you have very little chance of it actually happening in your organization. I have seen many failed CRM implementations and precisely zero of them were due to technical issues alone.

*You* need to devote time getting people to use the system

Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions of CRM systems is that if you build a great, intuitive system, and then train people on the technology, then your staff will use it.

The reality is quite the opposite. If you want to get your people to use the system – and use it consistently – you will need to spend a lot of your own time driving effective adoption of the system. You will need to set clear expectations for acceptable system use.

You will need to make sure they have the tools and information they need to use the system.

You will need to monitor the results (read: YOU will need to login the system yourself to make sure everything is entered correctly).

And the hardest of all, you will need to hold people accountable if they don’t do as you require.

When people don’t use the system, it costs you

One of the hardest things for CSOs is to penalize sales reps that close deals (especially the big ones), but refuse to use internal systems. But remember, every time your sales reps are not using the system, it costs you. Your total cost of sales goes up. It takes more of YOUR scarce executive time because you are now forced to spend extra effort managing deals that users have not entered into the system. This is time you could spend driving other sales or supporting your other sales reps.

Adjust incentive plans to drive adoption

CRM systems only deliver their potential if they are consistently and effectively used by ALL users. What matters is not just how well they do their jobs (read: hitting their numbers) but how well they actually do their jobs (read: using the CRM system as required).

To maximize CRM adoption, you need to adjust your incentive plans to include a requirement that the system is used consistently, effectively, accurately, and within prescribed time frames.

Hold people accountable and reward results

When people mess up – and they will – YOU need to hold them accountable. This may mean a lot of tough conversations. In some cases, it may mean there is turnover in your organization. But ultimately, if you don’t hold people accountable and enforce your CRM adoption policies, YOU will not be successful.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jason Whitehead
Jason Whitehead is CEO of Tri Tuns, LLC, an organizational effectiveness consultancy specializing in driving and sustaining effective user adoption of IT systems. He works at the intersection of technology, process, culture and people to help clients actually achieved measurable business benefits from their technology investments.


  1. What’s missing from the list is ensuring that one outcome of the project is that people’s jobs are made better, more productive, and satisfying (or don’t become less satisfying). That appears to be ‘off the radar,’ subsumed by the overarching management attitude ‘Use this, because I said so.’ I also question the efficacy of using incentive plans to encourage adoption. People are loathe to use something that’s ineffective and tedious, even when they’ve received a $500 bonus check along with a slap on the back. “Attaboy!” That might work in the short term, but it won’t prevent the project from being doomed.

    I have performed many IT project retrospectives, and a common theme among the failures is management that lost sight of who is to be served and ignored having high standards for the benefits that must accrue to users, not just to management. In over 30 years of working in IT, I have never experienced an implementation that achieved its planned financial results simply by enforcing conformance.


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