Recently, we were pitching a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to a firm. The Vice President of Sales informed us that they already had a CRM Solution in place and boasted of a feature that we’re not big on. Each time a sales team executive missed a scheduled appointment, an email got sent to the executive and his manager. If it got missed a second time, the manager’s reporting manager (the VP) also received an email.
This firm had 200 employees which included 80 salespeople and 4 sales managers. All the managers directly reported to the VP. VP was very proud of their CRM initiatives. Our conversation proceeded as follows.
“So the sales managers have about 20 sales executives reporting to them?” I asked. The VP nodded. “And all the managers report to you?” “Yes,” he said proudly. “So how many emails do your managers receive every day?” I asked. “How does that matter? The more emails they receive, the more the managers know that their executives are not working,” the VP said. “That’s a good point,” I said. “I would really like to understand how this feature has streamlined your sales process. Maybe we can implement it in our CRM tools as well.” The manager was delighted. He dialled the intercom and called a sales manager to join the meeting. With the VP’s permission, I proceeded to ask the manager a few questions. “How many of your sales executives miss appointments in a given day?” “Everyone does,” the manager said. “They overcommit the number of meetings they’ll make and miss at least two each day.” “Does this mean that you receive 40 email notifications from your CRM every day?” I asked. “More,” the manager said. “Because when executives miss appointments a second time, another email gets triggered.” “Wow! That must be a lot of emails,” I said. “How many of them do you take action over?” “Frankly, work is so much that all the managers have created folders where emails from the CRM go directly so that they don’t disturb us,” the manager said. “How many emails do you have in the folder right now?” I asked. “I stopped checking after 1,038,” the manager said. “And has it improved your sales follow up process?” “Frankly, even our sales executives have stopped checking these emails. Things are just the way they were.”
I didn’t ask the VP whether the emails were helping him review his subordinates better. I didn’t need to.
Why CRM Notifications Don’t Work
Most companies deploy CRM tools for the right reason – to make their business more efficient. But the problem arises when top management expects the CRM software to solve their problems on its own. User adoption is one of the most critical requirements for successfully implementing CRM.
Look. I understand that as a business you buy or hire a solution because you want to forget about a problem and move on to something else. But technology cannot solve your human problems, at least not right now.
CRM software is a facilitator that stores and analyzes data and gives you insights. It lets you take accurate decisions to strengthen your team’s sales performance. But you must open the dashboard and spend time understanding the reports. CRM system alone cannot drive business processes on its own.
What happens when we chronically experience a niggling back pain and don’t visit the doctor? Eventually, we become immune to the pain, apply a balm and carry on with our daily lives. The pain exists; we just ignore it.
We address the symptoms (the pain) by using a balm. But we fail to address the problem which can become worse if ignored for long.
The same way, CRM notifications about missed sales appointments address a symptom but not deeper problems.
Tips for Successful CRM Implementation
Research states that 65% of companies that use a CRM effectively meet or exceed their sales quotas. In our discussions with our clients, here’s what companies that are part of this 65% do well.
1. They look at the CRM dashboard consistently
As mentioned above, CRM software is useful only when it gets used properly. Sharp sales managers consistently use CRM dashboards to track the status of tasks assigned to their executives.
2 … and take necessary action
In the opening example, if managers had followed up with sales executives when they missed appointments, the executives might have taken the notifications more seriously and managers could have addressed problems. But when managers took no action, everyone took it easy and the notifications became a good-to-have feature.
Streamlined companies take decisive action based on reports on what’s working and what’s not. They conduct periodic sales reviews based on this data and keep their people accountable.
The CRM aligns with their KRAs
This is not optional; it’s mandatory.
CRM software should align with business goals. But many companies that deploy CRM tools get so attracted by the number of features they offer that they let the software run the business. This creates extra work for everyone without a clear reason why and leads to chaos.
Effective companies define KPIs for their people, ensure that their people know what’s expected, and use the CRM to track whether tasks needed to achieve those business goals are being carried out. A CRM system with properly aligned KRAs is the key for Sales Tracking.
CRM tools are facilitators. They support people to back up the work they do by quantifying it.
Hoping that CRM notifications and emails to solve your business problems is like hoping that just storing customer data will turn into sales. It’s useless without you and your people taking action.
Focus on doing a few important things over and over again. Do more of what works and eliminate what doesn’t.
What makes humans better than machines is our ability to make decisions and act on them. Let’s use it to the fullest before machines become better than us at even that.