Today’s post is by Jason Jordan, a founding partner of Vantage Point Performance, a global sales management training and development firm focused on sales managers. Jason is a recognized thought leader in the domain of B2B sales and co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code.
I’m Admittedly Numb
I’ve been around sales forces my entire career, and I must shamefully admit that certain complaints are so common they fail to concern me any longer. It’s not that the issues aren’t real, nor are they trivial – I’ve just become numb to them. It’s like the check engine light on the dashboard of a classic car I own. The orange warning light used to command a lot of anxious attention until I realized there’s nothing I can do to keep it from returning. It’s just part of owning an old car – something will always be broken, and the orange light will always reappear. However, the car just keeps on running – check engine light and all.
That’s also how I feel about CRM adoption.
The Reason Is So Obvious
There are very few sales leaders I’ve encountered who didn’t complain about low CRM adoption. It’s the orange warning light on the sales dashboard that commands the anxious attention of sales leadership, sales operations, and sales consultants. It’s always on and it’s seemingly impossible to extinguish. However, sales forces just keep on running.
I think this particular issue has lost my interest because the answer is so obvious to me. It’s not that leadership chose the wrong CRM platform or that sales operations didn’t commit to driving adoption. It’s not that the implementation consultants did a poor job or that the salespeople were resistant. Well, those all could be contributing factors, but they’re not the obvious reason your sellers ignore CRM.
Your salespeople ignore your CRM tool for only one reason…Because they can.
When you read that statement, you might interpret it to mean you’re not being aggressive enough in your enforcement of CRM usage – that you need to make your sellers use CRM. That’s not what I mean at all. Decades of experience has shown there’s neither a carrot nor a stick big enough to drive universal CRM adoption. You truly cannot motivate all your salespeople to use CRM.
What I mean by that statement is much more literal…Salespeople are able to do their jobs without using CRM. So, they do.
I’d be willing to bet you don’t struggle with e-mail adoption in your sales force – every person uses it. I’d further wager that mobile phone adoption is 100 percent, without any carrot or stick being offered. In fact, if your company refused to pay for e-mail or mobile phones in your sales force, your salespeople would probably pay out of their own pockets to subscribe to those services, because they need e-mail and mobile phones to do their jobs. 100 percent utilization, 0 percent enforcement.
But what about CRM? How is it possible that your salespeople – perhaps even your best salespeople – can do their jobs without CRM? Why is it so easily avoidable?
The History and Future of CRM
In the answers to those questions lie the reality of CRM. CRM has historically been deployed as a reporting tool for sales management. Management can’t to its job without the reports CRM generates, but salespeople can surely do theirs. A salesperson’s job is to identify an opportunity, pursue that opportunity, and win the deal. In most sales forces, a salesperson can do those tasks without inputting data to a CRM screen. So, they do. And this brings us to the only viable answer to this decades-old issue of low CRM adoption:
You must make CRM indispensable to your sellers.
CRM needs to become so inextricably intertwined with your team’s activities that salespeople cannot possibly do their jobs without it. It needs to become like e-mail and mobile phones – a tool that actively facilitates the core tasks of identifying, pursuing, and winning deals. Rather than CRM being the orange warning light that flashes while the car keeps running, it needs to be the engine of the sales force without which no road can be traveled.
But with this insight comes a great challenge for sales leadership, operations, and consultants. CRM has to be designed from the ground up, not the top down. The first goal of every CRM design team should be to understand the natural selling motions of their salespeople and build CRM around them. Then CRM will become, foremost, an enabler of those activities and necessarily unavoidable. Salespeople will use CRM because it’s just a part of what they do – like sending e-mails and dialing phone numbers.
The added benefit of such an approach is that management’s reports then become an artifact of CRM’s true purpose – to make the salespeople better at selling. And the reports become more meaningful, since the system will capture the value-added activities that determine success or failure in the field. Ironically, building CRM primarily for the sellers will make it more powerful for sales management.
So, if I meet you at a conference, feel free to complain to me about your sales force’s woeful CRM adoption. Just be aware that my attention might be elsewhere…Like trying to decide where I’ll be driving my classic car the following weekend. Check engine light and all.