CRM Implementation Frustration: Invest Wisely

It’s been a fast-paced couple of weeks. I have started three or four new clients in the last month, all of whom I am working with to deploy and, more importantly, getting their salespeople to use and integrate the CRM. I wanted to share some thoughts on this because a few recurring themes have emerged.

First and foremost is that I’ve come to the conclusion that CRM consultants as a whole are completely worthless. They come in and do a little bit of cursory “consulting,” by which I mean they gather basic requirements or whatever the client thinks they want. Then they set up the CRM, do some training and ride off into the sunset. They don’t actually understand sales process, how sales actually works, or how salespeople function. Their ineptitude is mind-boggling, and the amount of money that folks spend on these “CRM consultants” is absolutely shocking.

I recently worked with a company that spent $35,000 on a CRM implementation that was almost unusable. Everything was botched, from the user interface to how the accounts were loaded. At the same time, it is not entirely the consultants’ fault that the companies are wasting their investment. Why would an organization spend significant money to implement a CRM and then do almost nothing to train, motivate, and support their salespeople in the adoption of this new habit? It is astounding to me the lack of accountability that most organizations have over their salespeople, people who, by the way, have the potential to earn significant income and to whom companies are paying good money. I am really talking about the level to which the CEO, the founder, and the leadership even tries to hold them accountable because there seems to be an insecurity about actually sitting across from people and saying, “Okay, I need to know what you’re working on and the status of it.”

The next concept is really related to training salespeople during a CRM implementation, and I will start off by saying that I don’t believe it’s possible to be more diligent, structured and thorough in training a sales organization than the process I’ve put together. That’s not meant to be boasting or hubris; it’s both true and also a reflection on the fact that I’ve done this so many times that I have a process worked out that is designed to be extremely efficient. I provide very specific articles, templates, user guides, work guides, and cheat sheets. However, salespeople unfortunately often ignore what I provide; in fact, it’s almost as if they turn their brains off. I mean honestly, a salesperson is not a complicated tool. The way I set it up is very straightforward, and again, I provide lots of documentation. We get on a call, go through training, talk about the training, and I provide the supporting documents. Then we’ll pair out, and they’ll ask me a question like, “Well, where do I go to log a task?” or “What’s a difference between a task and an event?” They show up on the calls, but they don’t pay attention. Their brains are completely switched off.

Finally, it is a fact that the sales organization will absolutely resist a CRM implementation, and whether this is active resistance and a desire to not be held accountable or simply passive resistance is irrelevant. I’ve experienced both types; very aggressive and confrontational reactions as well as a sort of ignorance like, “Oh, I didn’t know we were supposed to do that,” despite training materials and follow up emails. It seems like it is almost genetically wired in these organizations to try to avoid the transition to an accountable state, and I can’t say I blame folks. If I am running around and can go on only one or two calls a day, one meeting, and make one or two outbound phone calls that both go to voicemail and still get paid, why wouldn’t I do that? As soon as I have to put it into a system where somebody can see it, the sales manager can ask questions like, “Hey, you logged three calls yesterday, what did you do the rest of the day?” Nobody likes that. It’s not comfortable for folks so of course they are going to resist that path.

I will say that I am continually amazed at the level of resistance and frankly outright insubordination that I end up experiencing when I am brought in to help bring this stuff into place. It is extremely common. It’s so common, in fact, that I expect that when I roll out a CRM implementation and talk about what we’re going to do, that three days later when we have our first follow up I know nothing will have been done, not a single task entered, and in some cases people won’t have even logged in. Then I know the litany of excuses will start. “I didn’t know how to do this, so I decided to do nothing,” which is in spite of the disclaimer I always give, which is, “This is the expectation. If for any reason you have any questions, I put my cell phone number on the home page of Salesforce in the messages section, so I invite people to call or text me,” and I do whatever is necessary to support them.

So, it’s just a reality that people don’t like moving to systems and process in general, and I would say it’s the reason that I have a vocation as a whole. Hopefully some of these insights at least make you feel better about why your own circumstances are challenging and why you may be frustrated with your CRM implementation. A lot of it is just really not something that can be fixed. It’s very disheartening to me to see companies that aren’t able to realize the value of technology to grow their business, so if you’re experiencing one or more of these frustrations and if there’s something I can do to help, you know where to find me.

By Townsend Wardlaw

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