One of the most common complaints we hear from sales leadership teams is about the challenge with driving consistent usage of the company’s customer relationship management system (CRM). No matter the size of the organization, sales managers from across the globe share the same frustration.
“Our salespeople are treating the company CRM as a glorified rolodex.”
“We have invested in expensive technology and our salespeople still aren’t using it properly!”
Does this sound familiar?
At Venator, we have a saying, “You can’t coach what you can’t see, and you can’t manage what you don’t look at.” If we are going to encourage the sales team to use the CRM, first, we must drive management to use it as a coaching tool. All too often, we see companies attempt to make up for their lack of coaching culture by investing in CRM applications—thinking the more money they spend on administrators and consultants to customize reports and dashboards, the more they will optimize the sales team’s use of CRM. Although these intentions are good, it only causes confusion and frustration and creates a minimalist approach to entering data. At best, salespeople are inconsistent in their use and at worst, they refuse to use it altogether.
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Most companies are learning that technology does not fix foundational management issues. For sales management to show their commitment to the technology, it will require going far beyond reviewing activity dashboards, revenue reports, and exported pipeline spreadsheets. If sales managers are not engaged and reviewing weekly call notes, opportunities at all stages of the pipeline—as well as behavior patterns related to hunting and closing—then the organization would be better tracking opportunities in spreadsheets and paper call logs. A company CRM should be a tool for improving management coaching, not a band-aid for lack of it.
Here are four ways management can leverage CRM systems:
Communication is key – If we are going to solve the problem, we must evaluate how we are communicating with our sales team. For example, consider the typical email a manager sends to their team about their CRM usage. For most, the focus is on keeping the opportunity pipeline current—asking the team members to update their opportunities by the weekend so the manager can compile their reports. What message is this sending about the value of the CRM beyond opportunity tracking?
What if instead the email suggested that they update all meeting and call notes and new contacts found, as well as their opportunity pipeline with next steps in preparation for the weekly coaching session? The key to driving adoption of the CRM is to transform it from being a reporting technology to becoming a communication tool.
Repurpose your CRM – Instead of limiting the CRM to just a reporting tool, take a two-pronged approach to repurposing the CRM and turning it into a coaching, reviewing, and mentoring platform.
Fuse the sales process and CRM – Drive all the communication into the company CRM by integrating coaching tools into the system. You can use the ability in most applications to create custom forms, commonly referred to as CRM objects. These custom objects can include pre-call plans, deal debrief forms, account expansion plans, weekly sales plans, and large account targeting tools. These custom objects drive CRM engagement and adoption of the company sales process by adding structure to the communication between managers and their salespeople.
It is critical that these tools are not viewed as busy work. They are meant to help managers work with salespeople during team meetings and coaching sessions. By rolling up their sleeves and coming alongside their salespeople, management is leading by example and driving change from the top-down.
Taking the time to review the data – The second prong in repurposing the CRM is to use a scorecard when offering feedback and guidance. We see too many companies trying to drive compliance using a fear-based approach, reducing commission if the deal is not in the CRM. This tactic rarely works. Salespeople will carelessly add information at the last minute, simply to avoid penalty. When a manager is willing to take the time to fully review a salesperson’s account and contact activity, pipeline details, and all call notes from the week, it completely changes their level of engagement with their reps. Using a scorecard to give feedback on detailed information added to the CRM goes beyond glancing at the summary data generated by a report.
A manager can use a scorecard to offer feedback for three categories:
Compliance – Did the salesperson do what was expected and asked of them?
Accountability – Did the salesperson do what they said they would do?
Critical thinking – Did they use the company sales process and think through each step?
This approach will create a culture shift that significantly changes the function of the company CRM.
If we want our salespeople to stop minimizing what they put into the CRM, we need to maximize what we get out of it, and ultimately, how we use it.