Whodunnit? 4 Suspects in CRM Murder Mystery

Although it’s often mistakenly viewed as a technology, CRM is really a discipline — and it’s not a solo discipline, like a martial art or meditation. It’s a team discipline, one in which every customer-facing employee can make a contribution.

Whether those contributions are positive or negative depends on the teammates. In most cases where CRM is decreed to have “failed,” the cause isn’t the technology — it’s usually the failure of someone within the company important to the CRM process to commit to the concept.

The classic failure is from the top, at the start: A key C-level executive charged with overseeing the selection and deployment of CRM software doesn’t commit to it, leading to a lack of resources for a proper rollout and an attitude that use of the software is optional, splitting sales and marketing personnel into two camps: people who work with CRM and people who work in spite of CRM.

That’s a predictable and sadly common source of CRM problems, but there are others within organizations who can ruin CRM — sometimes, without realizing they’re doing it.

Let’s meet our suspects, shall we?

1. Sales Executives

Many times, CRM is brought in as a response to perceived problems in the sales process. There are times when a sales vice president or regional manager agrees to the idea of CRM as a response to a rough patch — but unless these executives really buy into CRM, it’s very likely that they won’t fully utilize it and instead will revert to old behaviors.

Then, even if the sales team is using the application religiously, the data CRM exposes that could be used to improve sales strategy goes unheeded. Once sales people realize their use of CRM has no effect beyond their desks, adoption will suffer. If the pattern continues, the CRM application can become a scapegoat when sales performance continues to languish.

2. Support Staff

They’re busy, busy, busy — and they’re a key part of your loyalty efforts. Just ask them! However, when people in support decide that in order to get their jobs done, they can treat entering information into CRM as optional, it sows the seeds of disaster.

Their firsthand intelligence about customers is critical — it can stop a sales person from calling to upsell a customer who’s just had a frustrating service experience, and in the same way it can signal sales when a customer may be a great opportunity for an upsell.

Omitting details from the customer record, intentionally or otherwise, can sow the seeds of dissatisfaction with CRM — and that can be contagious if not caught early enough.

3. Marketing Team

You really want to throw sales a curveball? Make contact with a potential customer, then fail to put that information in the customer record so that when salespeople call they have no knowledge of any relationship you’ve started to build.

The salesperson approaches the target as a cold call — but the prospect expects some degree of familiarity. It makes the salesperson seem out of the loop — and can damage the trust the potential customer has in your company.

After all, if sales and marketing aren’t talking to each other, then how likely is it that the lines of communication with the customer will be open and operational?

4. Sales People

The classic stooges for adoption failure, sales people bring it on themselves in many instances. It usually starts with a failure of leadership, and a failure to articulate how CRM can help each sales person make more money.

The successes of CRM users should be broadcast to the entire sales team to get them committed to adoption. Again, this is a team effort. Operating in secret — hiding deals, sandbagging until next quarter, misreporting on the funnel — not only is bad behavior, but also can make sales managers’ forecasting tasks next to impossible.

The sales manager who decides CRM can’t help with as elemental a task as forecasting may assume the CRM application is a bust.

All About Leadership

How do you keep these usual suspects from sabotaging your CRM efforts? The answer is leadership. First, your leaders in sales, support and marketing must be on board not just with CRM technology, but with the ideas that underpin CRM.

Next, they need to be able to articulate why every customer-facing member of the team needs to use CRM and record every important detail of customer relationships.

Finally, they need to incent their team members to use CRM religiously. Incentives work for salespeople — so why not incent other good behavior that helps you sell more?

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is director of content marketing at Relayware. Bucholtz is also a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 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 three books on World War II aviation.

1 Comment

  • Christopher

    Good article, however sales should use CRM and that’s that. Too much time is spent in blogs etc making the point that sales don’t use CRM, which only gives more fuel to this fire.

    Those companies who take it seriously define the mandatory items that are required and then make it part of the sales job.

    This comes from senior management, sales are properly instructed and it is part of the culture of the company



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