CRM Software and Indy Racing

I received a referral yesterday from a good friend and a past client, for which I was very appreciative. It was even nicer because the person I was referred to actually reached out proactively for help implementing their CRM software. They were moving for the first time to start to implement some tech on the sales and marketing side of their world, so I got a nice email from the CEO saying, “I created a file with what we’re looking for, and maybe it fits your skill set.”

I opened the file, and to be honest I was actually very impressed that they had some formal requirements and had taken the time to put pen to paper. One of the things I find quite often is that people talk about implementing CRM software or a new sales process, and although they use a lot of words in talk they really have no formal stuff. This, however, was interesting because I actually had a pre-glimpse of what they were thinking. As I read through the document what struck me was the simple fact that (and I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way) frankly, these folks have no understanding of the complexity required to accomplish a level of effort that they are looking to do.

They have an identified demographic of folks they target that they want to start to manage more proactively. They also want to integrate marketing and to send out emails. As soon as I started reading their file I literally had dozens of questions pop into my head. Not surprisingly, I am always a little hesitant when I deal with these things. I certainly don’t want to scare folks away from taking the leap into using technology to take their business to the next level. Yet at the same time, I really feel the need to let them know when they are pretty far out in front of the headlights.

This CEO talked about sales and marketing integration with content marketing, but it was clear from the contents of the file that these ideas were abstractions that contained few specifics. They didn’t understand how it all fit together and what was required. One of my favorite bullet points under the requirements sections other than being cloud-based was that the system needed to be intuitive and easy to use. I really wanted to just pop a quick email through saying there is no such thing as intuitive, easy-to-use technology. Technology requires process. It requires training. It requires reinforcement. It requires coaching. It requires management. There is no such thing as a set-it-and-forget-it technology infrastructure.

I kept wondering how I could relate this in a conversation and how I could help people understand the level of complexity because to somebody from the outside, well, it’s just stuff. They think they just need to do one simple thing to track contacts and that just because they’ve used Outlook before, they don’t need to take a class to learn how to send email. Then I thought of a parallel to auto-racing, specifically something like Indy car racing, which on the surface seems pretty simple. A person gets in a car; the car gets on the track; the car goes round and round the track; once in a while the car pulls off; other people scramble around to change tires and add fuel; then the car gets back on the track.

How complicated could it be? But if you pick just one element of the Indy car process, like the pit stop, and you break it down and study it, you realize how complicated it is, how intricate every individual’s role on the team is, and how coordinated their activities are. You also realize then how often and to what level they train and train again and practice and rehearse to get that seemingly simple process of changing some tires with a pneumatic lift and fueling a tank with a hose absolutely perfect and working in a way that maximizes efficiency. It’s kind of mind-boggling, right?

This is not something where someone just walks in there and is told, “Hey, you’ve changed a tire before, great! Here’s an air wrench. Just pop it on and pop it off.” Yet, this is how the vast majority of organizations I work with approach technology, and again, it frankly doesn’t matter if it’s CRM software or a marketing automation tool or an ERP. The company buys some technology based on a vendor telling them that it’s easy to use, then they throw somebody at it and kind of smack that person on the ass and say, “You should be able to figure it out.”

I had another recent situation with a client that I have worked with for a number of years and for whom I have implemented their CRM software, which quite frankly has not delivered on its value because the sales management has not been in place to drive utilization and accountability. They are on their second or third VP of Sales at this point, and each new person keeps hitting the wall and failing simply because the company is not making the leap from where they’ve been to where they need to be, and part of the reason is that the company has focused wholly on needing the VP of Sales to understand how to use the CRM software and to do the administration.

Recently, I had a mini-tantrum with my client because I was frustrated that they were yet again asking me to transfer the knowledge to a relatively new VP of Sales and let him do the admin stuff a couple months into this thing. I have done a bunch of reconfiguration and the system still isn’t being utilized, and I finally just broke down and told them to stop with this concept of  ‘My VP of Sales needs to know how to administer’ It’s not a useful skill. I understand you want to know how it’s done eventually, but you need to lead; you need to manage; you need to change behavior. You don’t need the driver to be in there turning wrenches and knowing every nook and cranny of the car. You need him to know how to drive.

Hire other people to turn the wrenches and work on the technical stuff (by the way, that’s me). I am not saying that to preserve my job or my income, by the way. I am doing it because I actually want the client to be successful, but they keep getting stuck in the implementation. A significant portion of their energy is mistakenly diverted to figuring out how to even use the technology because there is this underlying premise that it should be easy.

Implementing technology is never easy, and should not be treated as if it is. I have actually been part of 300 (or more) CRM implementations or makeovers where we’ve gone in and had to fix what’s happened before. This is not simple, and if it’s going to work right, it has to be implemented properly. People have to be trained and managed, and you can’t just set it and forget it. This is not a rotisserie chicken thrown in a crock-pot. It’s complex, business process software that’s going to require care, feeding, management, oversight, auditing, process compliance, and a dozen other components to make it work. That’s just unfortunately the reality of how complex business process software works.

So next time you’re looking at your CRM software frustrated that everybody can’t just figure it out, just accept that they can’t. This is not and iPhone with a calendar app. This is software, technology, business intelligence and workflow that is intended to optimize your business and make it run on a whole different level. It is the complex software algorithms that are used in a race car match, and those things take a lot of care and feeding if you want to cruise around the track at 220 miles an hour without smashing into the wall.

By Townsend Wardlaw

photo credit: seng1011 via photopin cc