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Executive Coaching – My Employees Won’t Use Their CRM!

The other day I had a conversation, and consequently an executive coaching opportunity, with the VP of Sales of a company for whom I had implemented their Salesforce.com instance a couple of years ago. Now that some things in their business have changed, they were asking me to come in to make some tweaks. The VP of Sales had a list of requests, most of which were pretty straightforward and simple, but the last one caught me a little by surprise. They said they wanted to integrate Salesforce with a CTI dialer so that salespeople could initiate calls right from the application.

This gave me pause for a moment because I knew a couple of things. First and foremost, they only have two salespeople. The second is they don’t currently do much prospecting at this point. They have very, very few activity records in their Salesforce, so I asked the VP of Sales what was up with the CTI dial-in because they are expensive and I wanted to know what the intent was. Her response caught me by surprise. She said, “I want to remove every excuse that they have not to use the CRM.” When I asked what she meant by that, she said, “Well, they’ve been saying that logging the calls represents an overhead administrative burden, and I want to make sure there are no excuses for them not to use it.” This bothered me on a number of different levels.

I’ve spoken before about general entitlement in society and what I find to be the very lackadaisical attitude in the workplace. In this case, we’re talking about salespeople, a profession based on the assumption you go out, you do a bunch of work, and then you get paid quite well. Then the company decides it must remove any possible excuse to follow the required process. The concept that somehow following process is optional and that it’s the organization’s job to make technology so brain dead that there’s no reason not to use it just floored me.

When I design and implement a CRM such as Salesforce, my primary focus is always on how to create efficiencies for the salespeople. One of the themes I reiterate is that a CRM allows you to manage vastly more concurrent conversations, prospects, accounts, and opportunities, and therefore make more money. Obviously, there’s going to be some administrative overhead. It’s sort of like saying, “I’ve got this calendar application and it allows me to manage time more efficiently, but gosh, why can’t my meetings just show up automatically?”

My typical client has had their CRM in place for anywhere from 2-5 years, and inevitably:

A)     The database is a mess

B)     The user interface is cluttered with fields nobody uses or understands

C)     Salespeople aren’t using it effectively, and

D)     There is a tremendous amount of untapped opportunity.

I’ll walk into the organizations where the salespeople are wringing their hands and moaning about how there aren’t enough leads, there’s no opportunity, they can’t make any money, and everything is so hard. Then I’ll pull a couple of reports, and find thousands (not hundreds) of unread leads, so I ask the salespeople, “What about these things over here?” Their reaction is usually, “Well, they came off the web, and we don’t know how qualified they are,” but nobody’s bothered to pick up the phone.

I honestly don’t know what happened over the past 10-20 years, and I hate to sound like an old curmudgeon, but I have a very low tolerance for that kind of attitude that somehow sales is this profession where you should get paid a commission for bringing in revenue without doing any of that messy, bothersome work.

I hope this is not the situation in your organization, but what I would say to the CEO’s and VP’s of Sales out there is that if it is, please stop putting up with it. Please stop telling yourself that it’s up to you and the company to make everything flawless, seamless, and frictionless for your people, and that somehow the reason your CRM isn’t working is because it’s just not easy enough to use. That’s just plain nonsense.

The bottom line is CRM is a very powerful tool to drive personal and organizational effectiveness, but like any piece of technology, it’s going to require work, discipline, and training. It’s never going to work perfectly. Heck, even applications on my X-Box or Netflix have issues and bugs, so what do you expect of a CRM? Despite bugs, I will say that Salesforce.com is a pretty slick piece of software and not all that complicated to use.

So, here’s your executive coaching tip of the day: Stop putting up with it, and start expecting people to use the technology you paid for. Take advantage of it, and if things aren’t perfect, figure it out and make it better rather than sitting back and letting your salespeople complain that “Oh, I just can’t use it. It’s too hard to use.”

By Townsend Wardlaw

photo credit: Justin Lowery via photopin cc