How Much Time Will Our CRM System Take From Me?


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I’m working with an organization implementing it’s first CRM system.  They’re both excited about the tool, but worried about it.

One of the managers just came to me, saying, “The people are worried.  As you know they’re already running full out.  They want to use the tool, but they’re worried about the time that it will take from their day.  How much time should the be spending on the CRM system each day?”

My knee jerk reaction was to provide one of my two standard responses, “It depends…..”  or “It takes what it takes, man up (or woman up as the case may be).”

But then I reflected on the question.  It’s a good question.  It’s one that I know concerns sales people and managers, but most don’t have the courage to ask.

The question also shows they haven’t figured out how to incorporate the tool into their work flow.  They think of using CRM as another task piled onto already packed, often unrealistic agendas.

So I thought about the response to this great question.  I don’t have the complete answer but here’s a start.

How much time does a sales person spend every day, every week planning their schedule–arranging meetings, sending invites, putting them into their calendar?  With CRM, it will take the same time, except you will be using the tools embedded in the CRM system to help do this.

Likewise, how much time to spend developing and updating your to do lists?  With CRM it will take the same amount of time–except the context of the to dos will be far more powerful.  They may be to dos and follow ups related to an opportunity, questions your customer might have, projects you are working on.  Since all of these can be associated with the opportunities, accounts, customers, questions, as you think about the context of the to dos, it’s all right in the system for you to refer to.  It’s not something you have to go look up separately to realize, “Oh, that’s why it’s on my to-do list.”

How much time do you spend thinking about and developing your deal strategies each week?  With CRM it will take you the same.  But with the added benefit, that most CRM systems add tools to help you think more deeply about deal and call strategies, help you be more consistent about what you are doing, provide the historical perspective, if you keep your notes up, leverage the capabilities of the systems, it will help improve the quality of your thinking on your next steps in moving a deal through the process.

How much time to you spend researching, finding the right materials, case studies, playbooks and other things to help you with a call or deal or to provide the customer information they are asking for.  First of all you have to remember all the stuff that you have.  Then you have to find out where it is–even if you have a shared drive, tools like SharePoint, and so forth, you still have to locate the stuff.  Most CRM systems have “Library” tools that manage this and make it easy for you.  Plus there are a lot of add ons to CRM that make it even easier to find the right piece (based on how others use and react to it) for the right customer at the right time.  So it’s a huge time saver.

How much time to you spend analyzing your pipeline, looking at your customers, accounts, and territory, figuring out what it takes to make your number, what you should be doing next?   Here’s where CRM starts becoming a real time multiplier.  Without a CRM system, you probably have the information spread across lots of documents, spread sheets, pieces of paper, vague memories or thoughts you tucked away in your brain, or, if you’re like me, lots of scribbled notes on Post It’s.

Here’s where the real power and “time savings” of CRM tools come into play.  It’s all in one place!  You don’t have to waste time trying to find the stuff.  On top of that, virtually every system has very powerful reporting and analysis tools that help you understand what’s happening, figure out what’s going on, see patterns in your performance or in your customers or territory.  These tools can help you see things that you might have been blind to in the past.

But there’s so much more.

How much time to you spend updating your pipeline’s each week?  With this particular customer, I know each sales person spend 30-60 minutes updating their pipelines each week.  It’s a mind numbing task of finding the right spreadsheet, updating the right fields, sometimes cutting/pasting from one spreadsheet to another.  It may be worse–looking back through your notes for the week, trying to remember what happened, thinking about what steps you’ve moved through in the sales process, and so on.  With CRM, the time drops to zero.  It does it for you, automatically in real time.  As long as you are keeping the deals you are working on updated in the CRM system, the pipeline is always updated.

So that brings up the ugly issue–I have to go in and update my CRM system, notes after all my calls and meetings.  That takes a whole lot of additional time transcribing things.  Well, Yes and No.  First of all, the vendors are taking a lot of this task away by providing rich capabilities on mobile devices.  But I’ll admit.  I’m still and old fashioned engineering notebook and pen person.  I like to write notes in my notebook.  It’s easier, never have to worry about power or wifi.

I take lots of notes during meetings.  Do I transcribe all of them to my CRM system?  Well No and Yes.  Most of the time, I write a few sentence summary into the opportunity record.  I do this as I’m thinking about the results of the meeting and adding the next steps, meetings, tasks and to dos I have to take to move the deal forward.  Sometimes, when there are lots of things that I really want to remember, all I do is take pictures of the right pages in my notebook and attach them to the opportunity.  Then I can always go back to the notes very easily.  How much time does that take?  Not a whole lot, and I’m in the system anyway using it to schedule the next steps.

Let’s get back to all those nuisance reports management asks of sales people.  How much time do you spend each week preparing a report to respond to whatever whim someone up the food chain has?  Well now you don’t have to do that.  Management can go into the system themselves, search, analyze, generate their own reports.  (Hopefully, management isn’t wasting your time by asking you to generate the report for them—that’s an entirely different problem!!)

I’ll stop here, you are getting the idea.  The thing new CRM users don’t understand–as well as so many who have really flawed implementations.  CRM is not something additional that we add to all the stuff we do every day.  It’s something that we integrate into our workflow–perhaps improving our workflow along the way.  It enables us to do the stuff we do every day–as well as the stuff we should be doing, but don’t, in the same amount of time (or less).

Not only does it help us become more efficient–use our time better.  Properly used, it helps us reflect, analyze, think, plan, and execute better–so it helps improve our effectiveness.

So how much time does CRM take us?  That’s really the wrong question, the right question is, “How do we integrate the tool into our workflow, improving our workflow, improving our impact and effectiveness?  That’s the real power of CRM–unfortunately, too many seem to have lost sight of that — or never understood it in the first place.

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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