I spoke today with a wonderful gentleman who is the CEO of a company that is actually much bigger than my typical client. I was introduced to him as a possible prospect for me to do a CRM software implementation, so when we got on the call I asked him all the usual questions about what they’re doing and currently using. We got about 10 minutes in to the call and I just said, “I hate to tell you this, but you don’t sound like one of my clients because frankly, I don’t think you need CRM software.”
As it turns out, they’ve been doing their work on spreadsheets and some other basic systems, but they were thinking of moving to CRM software for some valid reasons. They have been sold the gospel of CRM software by the vendors and consultants out there, as well as by the folks that have invested in them and are looking to flip this company. We also talked about the salespeople, what they are doing, how much they are delivering, their compensation plans and all of those details. However, one of the motivators for this deal was the fact that they are looking to create an exit in a fairly short time frame, like 7-9 months.
I told him that if he was trying to grow by 50% next year, looking in the next two year event horizon about how to transform his sales organization, or experiencing dramatic losses and needing to turn this thing around that yeah, we should talk. However, the best I can tell, he is simply trying to take some data that’s in one set of systems (an Excel spreadsheet, which works pretty darn well) and put it in another one because everybody says that it’s a cool thing to do. The bottom line is that there is no point for them to try to implement CRM software right now. It is disruptive, and we are going to upset the apple cart at a time that it really needs to remain stable.
It was a very amiable conversation, so I ended it by telling him, “Listen, let me know if you need anything between now and then, even if you just want to call to talk shop, I am happy to help. Off the record, if your investment guys come back and tell you they want that stuff in CRM software anyway because they need it as part of the sale package, then heck, we’ll come up with a quick and dirty way to put some lipstick on the pig. To the same point, if things change and the event horizon extends, we can definitely do this.”
For me this conversation is really less about whether somebody should or should not use CRM software, but rather how I felt getting off the call, which was great. I felt like I was able to live the value that I talk to people about all day long around being true to understanding your ideal target and your unique value proposition. It felt really great just to have an amazing conversation with an entrepreneur who is getting to the finish line with his company and to be very authentic by sharing what I believe is the right approach.
I wasn’t thinking “How do I win the deal?” or “What does this mean?” or “Could I use another client?” Instead, I was just talking to another business owner to leverage my far too many years of implementing this stuff across hundreds of clients to give what I believe was the absolute best advice. Simply put, I advised him that this is not something he needed to put himself, his company or his people through. It’s not easy and it’s not fun. Yes, it can bear great fruit, but it comes at a cost that he couldn’t afford if he wanted to sell his company in the next few months. Juxtaposing this conversation with the ones I have had throughout the week where I am actually deep in the throes of working with the team to get them across the hump, it actually felt really good to tell someone that he had the luxury of avoiding that painful journey for a change.
So if you’re a CEO doing something because someone is telling you to do it and you’re not sure if it’s the right thing, ask yourself, “Is there a purpose here? Is there a goal?” Nothing is as easy as it seems. Change requires effort and pain, so you better be clear about the desired outcome and know without a doubt that it’s going to benefit you and your people. If you’re a sales professional, trust that the universe is plentiful in clients and that there are more than enough customers to go around. You are able to do more by letting go of those that don’t need your services and freeing your time to go find those that truly can benefit from what you deliver. Speaking from experience, this leaves you with a pretty good feeling at the end of the day.
By Townsend Wardlaw