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5 Painfully Common Ways Managers Sabotage CRM

By Christopher J. Bucholtz
Dec 8, 2009 4:00 AM PT

As anyone familiar with CRM knows, adoption is the key to whether you live or die by your CRM solution. You can make detailed plans, do arduous research, negotiate great deals, execute a deployment plan flawlessly -- and then see it all go for naught when your users fail to use the system.

5 Painfully Common Ways Managers Sabotage CRM

The reasons users shy away from using CRM are many and varied, and many of them have to do with the idiosyncratic ways that people work. Change is tough -- but not changing is much tougher, and managers need to motivate and guide workers through the transition from "the way we've always done it" to a CRM-centric approach to business.

While managers can lead their staffs to the full use of CRM, they can also set in motion events that lead to CRM failure. Just as CRM represents a change for the people in the trenches, it also means a change of thinking for management, and if that change doesn't happen at the upper echelons it can start a very unpleasant chain reaction.

Here are the five most common ways managers unwittingly wreck CRM adoption within their organizations.

  1. Highlight CRM as a sales manager's tool and ignore it as a sales representative's tool.

    The aggregation of sales data is one of CRM's most useful aspects, and it allows sales managers to manage better. However, emphasizing this to your sales staff without also pointing out how it makes their lives easier and more lucrative is a major de-motivator.

    While the manager is able to quickly and easily look at the data and use it to make decisions, that capability comes only when his reps are entering the data into the system. Unless managers emphasize the benefits the system brings to the reps, they're going to feel like they're trading time spent selling for time spent being their manager's data entry clerk.

  2. Turn CRM into sales' automated tattletale.

    Sales managers need to be able to spot negative trends before they become problems, but how they react to these trends can erode the sales staff's willingness to report on its actions within the CRM system.

    A heavy-handed response to something that CRM is revealing is likely to result in less enthusiastic use of the system. It's akin to reps exercising their Fifth Amendment rights -- why testify against yourself by entering data your manager will use against you?

  3. Feel compelled to use every feature.

    CRM systems are increasingly designed to be customizable, and that often means that they include many fields that may or may not be used. The worst thing that managers can do is to invent data types to be collected just to use all these fields. Some are too enamored by the possibilities of all this data, and others are convinced that using them all justifies their IT spend.

    The end result for the users is a cumbersome drudge through the system to input data they know they'll never use -- and a desire to never use the CRM system again.

  4. Hang on to pet processes at the expense of CRM.

    The opposite of a manager who's too enamored of technology is a manager who still wants to cling to some vestige of the way he's always worked -- and to accommodate that desire, he inflicts a needless work-around into how his staff uses the CRM system.

    Modern CRM solutions usually include some corollary to these processes that the manager has either not seen or is not trained on; refusing to adapt is selfish and an effective way to foment rebellion in your staff.

  5. Jealously guard their CRM turf inside the company.

    Because of how CRM enters into companies -- generally, through the sales organization -- there can be a tendency to see it as a salesforce automation tool first and everything else it offers last. Managers do their companies a disservice when they fend off efforts from marketing, support and other parts of the company hoping to integrate their activities with the CRM system.

    Instead of breaking down information silos, this attitude allows the CRM system to become another silo, preserves the curse of sales/marketing misalignment, calls into question the value of a CRM investment and allows CRM efforts to stagnate.


CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz has been a technology journalist for 15 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written two books on World War II aviation, and his next two are slated for publication in 2010.


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