Why Use CRM? A View from a Sales Guy in the Trenches


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Are you a Business Manager of an organisation that has invested heavily—you think far too heavily—in a CRM/SFA system and are having the devil’s own trouble getting the people to use it? Then this story may help open your eyes on why CRM is valuable to the sales professional and not just a management tool.

The pushback from people is relentless. Sales people reckon it is all too hard and argue vehemently that it gets in the way of selling by adding more administration, meaning less time in front of customers.

Your Customer Service people claim it is a drain on their time and impacts the number of queries they can resolve. Finance people say it gets in the way of chasing debtors. What a crock; the notes and the quality of those notes that you put into the CRM today are the irrefutable records with a time and a date stamp that you may be required to defend your job tomorrow.

CRM is far more than just a sales tool for Sales Managers to keep an eye on what their sales people are doing.

On the upside, some of the smart sales personnel will use the CRM as their own hunting ground for new prospects and new business, for them it is the best sales aid they have. Having their prospects in the CRM system at least means that they can’t be poached by other salespeople within the business.

Also, when your people don’t use the CRM properly it means that the collaborated intellectual property you hold in house regarding your customers and prospects is minimal, knowledge about the interactions is sketchy and there is no real relationship that is evident if anyone were to look in the CRM.

More than sales management tool

Like it or not, CRM is far more than just a sales tool for Sales Managers to keep an eye on what their sales people are doing. It is a repository for valuable information that gives you a look at the relationship you have with your customers, over time. The valuable information is the email correspondence, the contact information on who are the decision makers, influencers and in the activity records made during a telephone call or an appointment.

Customer service, finance and operations can also add important detail to the CRM, giving the account manager a snapshot of the account from day to day, on screen, or on an i-Pad or other mobile device.

There are many additional fields in the CRM to allow entry of and specific information such as birthdays and the ‘outside of work’ interests of strategic personnel within your customer’s and prospect’s organisation. If this information is used properly and sincerely it can take the relationship to a whole new level.

How I became a CRM super user to get off the bottom of the sales league ladder

So how does the business turn round this type of behaviour? What does the Sales Manager have to do to turn the CRM into a business tool which adds value to the business? I am a true subscriber to the following credo: “If it is not in the CRM, it didn’t happen.”

My sales career started in a Tier One telco and I had the worst territory in the world; well it was a coin toss between Doug, who had a predominantly rural territory, and me.

The expectation in sales is that a newbie has three months of target relief in which to build a pipeline that will begin to bear fruit on the first day of month four. If at the end of the fourth month the target is not met then a discussion happens and a verbal warning gets delivered to you with no punches pulled. The next month, if you don’t do your numbers it is a formal written warning; followed the next month by a second warning called third and final. In essence it is a six month cycle which is what should ring alarm bells with all employers when the sales person they are considering hiring has only been in their previous jobs for only six months.

My sales life was saved when the Sales Director tore down the territory walls and allowed everyone to hunt freely in any geographic or vertical area. The playing field was level, but there were rules, of course, which were built around the CRM. He came up with the 90 day Rule which stated that “If there is no activity on a prospect in 90 days and another sales person requests the account, it must be handed over.” Irrespective of whether quotations have been done if there is nothing in the CRM then no engagement is acknowledged. I became the Hunter based upon the rule “If it wasn’t in the CRM, it did not happen.” I went to town; I knew the CRM better than anybody in the business and hunted for business relentlessly. The 90 day rule for me was a “pearler” (Aussie slang for really good). It was also good for the business because you could no longer be a squatter and just sit on a pile of prospects, you now had to act, and add activity to the CRM.

My sales life was saved when the Sales Director tore down the territory walls and allowed everyone to hunt freely in any geographic or vertical area.

CRM was my saviour. Not only did it provide me the platform to mine gold it saved me on a number of occasions where claims had been made that certain project milestones had not been met: they sure had, they were in the CRM, time and date stamped. In addition to this it provided a collaborating tool so that I could see what the customer service personnel were talking to my clients about; it also gave me a look at the financials so that we could all see if there were any payment issues that did not line up with our finance policies.

One other significant thing happened that could have been catastrophic. In those days everything resided on my C:// drive and all emails in my Outlook Exchange folder. When my PC went to the blue screen of death it was not a total disaster because every important client email, proposal, record of telephone call and other significant note lived in CRM.

Rules of engagement

For the life of me I do not get that an organisation of any size does not rely heavily on their CRM. Of all of the systems I have used, I have discovered that top sales people who use the CRM properly will climb well above those who do not. The relationships they have with their clients are stronger and the intellectual property that exists within an account actually resides in the CRM for the good of the organisation. I have used plenty of CRM systems, some which take a full day of training because they are not intuitive but I found the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 to be the most sales savvy, easiest to use and easiest to collaborate. The world knows Microsoft conventions and the CRM sits in Outlook.

Mr Sales Manager, CRM is king, long live the king. In order to change behaviour you may need to review the rules of engagement. Change the rules so that the playing field becomes level; all of the sales people can hunt equally and fairly. It is my considered opinion that if a prospect has not had contact in the CRM in 90 days moving it towards an appointment or enhancing the relationship then it should be fair game for all. It is in the best interests of your organisation. Creating a “read only” view of all territories in the CRM will help to keep everyone honest.

CRM is the repository for Gold

My catch cry from my days in Telco which I still use today is “If it is not in the CRM, it didn’t happen.” This is closely aligned to my sales credo, “If you don’t hunt, you don’t eat.” Put both together and you have a powerful sales proposition.

So Mr Business Manager, CRM is not a whip to be used to thrash sales people but rather a way of harnessing, collaborating and mining information about your customers and prospects to build stronger relationships. CRM also provides your organisation with time and date stamped, historical notes detailing the length, breadth and depth of the relationship you have with your customers.

Bruce de Graaf, PHF AATC
Security Professional; Board Member - Sydney City Bomb Squad; Business Owner; Director of First Impressions; Past President of the Rotary Club of Crows Nest; Mentor Raise Foundation; Downhill Skateboard Racer; World Champion Football Player (World Masters Games 2009); CRM Super User


  1. Excellent ammunition for us “younger” professionals trying to convince Mr Business Manager!
    -Frustrated Sales Manager


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