How to Get People to Use Their CRM Systems

By Gene Marks, The Marks Group

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementations continue to fail at a rate almost as alarming as Hollywood divorce rates. Don’t believe me? As recently as 2009, Forrester Research showed a 47% failure rate on new CRM projects. People just don’t use them like they should. Many wind up not using them at all. What a shame.

Why does this happen? CRM systems have been around a long time. But they still fail. Charlie Sheen has a history of drug abuse and marital conflict. But he was earning $2 million an episode for a TV show – and now even more on a speaking tour. Some things are truly a mystery. But getting people to successfully use a CRM system doesn’t have to be.

To find out why, let’s take a look at Mitch Landon. He knows how to get his people to use his CRM system, without inflicting bodily harm, breaking any laws, or visiting Colorado.

Mitch is a perfect example of the perfect CRM client. He doesn’t beat his wife. He doesn’t do drugs. And he knows how to run a sales group. We all know clients like him – and when we stumble across one of them, we know that the project will be a success – for both his company and ours.

Let’s take a closer look at Mitch. He had just switched jobs when he gave us a call. At his last job, he used one of the CRM systems we sell. He’s not saying his system is the greatest CRM system in the universe. And he admits he used maybe 20% of the application’s capabilities. But no matter – he likes it, and he’s comfortable with it. So when he moved to a new position at a new company, his first order of business was putting in a tool that he could use. So he called us and ordered 10 licenses of the same software for his sales group.

And then he gave us orders. Very explicit orders.

Get the reports

The first thing he ordered was a few good reports. Mitch knows that all CRM systems, no matter how the software vendors hype them, are nothing more than glorified databases. And databases are all about the data. So when Mitch hired us, the first thing he did was give us four key reports he uses to run his sales group. These were reports detailing pipeline, historic activity, future activity, and incoming prospects. He (literally) drew out the reports on a piece of paper, being very explicit about the columns and rows. He told us to create these reports so that each week he could print them out from his CRM system.

For Mitch to do a good job, he knows he needs good data. He’s not an expert in using the system. And he doesn’t care if his salespeople are experts either. But if you want to keep working for Mitch, you better damned well do the data entry necessary so that he gets his weekly reports. Because if you don’t, and his reports are incomplete or inaccurate, there will be hell to pay. Telling us the reports he needed gave us, his outside CRM consultants, a very clear deliverable. We created fields to support the reports and trained his staff to do the data entry necessary to generate his reports. We didn’t waste the time on other bells and whistles. We focused on getting Mitch the data. And his salespeople got the message: Do the data entry so Mitch got his data.

Look at your leads

Next, Mitch turned to leads.

There are two things that every salesperson loves: A two-for-one drink special at a Vegas conference…and leads. For many companies, leads come in through their website or by phone or by referral. Mitch changed it so that all his company’s leads had to be funneled through his sales administrator. And then from there entered into his CRM system.

This served a couple of good purposes. For starters, by having a trained administrator, rather than a brain-dead salesperson (by the way…I’m a sales guy so I understand brain dead), enter in this valuable lead information from the beginning, Mitch was assured that key profile information would be correctly captured. But the biggest benefit was that the sales guy had to go into the system to get his leads. So not only was he required to do data entry for Mitch’s reports, but he needed to update, follow up, and track his leads in the same system too. So if you were a salesperson who worked for Mitch and you wanted leads so you could make sales, you got the message pretty quickly that the place to find them was in the CRM system.

Mitch also set up a few automated process alerts to ensure that if leads weren’t acknowledged (or had no activity) within 48 hours of being entered into the system, the salesperson would be visited late at night by a guy named Vinny. And then the lead would be reassigned to someone else (with a notification sent to Mitch). This stuff is simple to set up. And it struck terror into his salespeople’s hearts. Think they started using their CRM system then?

Don’t forget expenses

Mitch, like every good sales manager, knows that most salespeople (including me) are greedy bastards. At least the best ones are. Not only are they greedy about getting leads, but they also want to make sure that not a single dime unnecessarily comes out of their own pockets. That’s why expense reports are so important to them. So what does Mitch do? He requires them to enter their expenses through the CRM system.

Through a combination of user-defined fields and completing an “other” action, every time salespeople want to get reimbursed for anything out of pocket, they go through a process of entering the data into the system. And then they’re taught how to print out a prewritten report detailing those expenses so that they can submit it with documentation to accounting. Suddenly those salespeople who’ve made a career of paying their kids’ private school tuition via the IRS mileage reimbursement rule know that they won’t get their expense check unless they enter the data into the system. And voila! More people were using the system than ever before.

E-mail is also the tie in

Mitch wasn’t through. Most good CRM systems have their own e-mail clients and also a very deep integration with Microsoft Outlook. Even those salespeople who still wear hats and drive Cadillacs have come to realize that the Dodgers are not coming back to Brooklyn…and that email is an important part of doing business in this century.

So Mitch had his IT guys configure their CRM’s email and requires his sales group to use it. The bigger complainers, if justified, have been allowed to stay with Outlook. But this is only if all of their activities are being tracked in the CRM system. E-mail exchanges now show up on Mitch’s history reports. This way, Mitch can get a flavor of the conversations going back and forth between his salespeople and their customers. And if a salesperson is out of the office, the person responding to a prospect’s call has his history in the system. No one looks like a dope (at least not as much). So now that his salespeople are required to use their CRM’s email, they’re using the system a lot more.

It’s really the culture

Have you figured this out yet? It’s not the CRM system. It’s Mitch. It’s the culture.

Mitch is not a very patient man. He gets angry waiting in line at the supermarket. He doesn’t understand why it takes some people so long to make a right turn. He doesn’t like to wait until the end of the newscast to get tomorrow’s weather.

And he doesn’t have the time to listen to his salespeople gripe about the CRM system. He knows it’s not a perfect system – no system is. He understands that “user friendliness” is completely judgmental. He doesn’t want to discuss this. He just wants the company’s data entered into a shared database so that he can use that data to drive more sales. That’s what he’s been hired to do. That’s what he’s using his tool to do. Everything else is secondary.

The tone comes from the top. To work for Mitch, you have to buy into his system. If you don’t like it, says Mitch, then leave. He knows two facts: there are a million girls for Charlie Sheen to sleep to with. And there are a million salespeople who understand the value of a good CRM system. Those are the people that will use the system. And use it well. Those will be the people he hires.

And that’s how he gets everyone to use his CRM system.

Source: How Does Mitch Get His People To Use Their CRM System?
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7 thoughts on “How to Get People to Use Their CRM Systems”

  1. Finding a CRM that fits is way harder then it looks. Where should a small company go for help? What is the % of sale that should be reinvested into a CRM style IT.

  2. Hey Todd, read this article when you first posted it, and just today forwarded it to a colleague. Great insights to setting up effective CRM.

  3. Hey Todd – I’m upset I’m just seeing this article now. Would you say that a successful CRM implementation starts with the sales team and their preferences? I’d argue that it does because this is where revenue is coming from as well as the ability to make decisions on where to allocate resources based on data… so long as it’s entered properly.

  4. Great article. May I add that one of the major issues that CRM users are currently facing is ‘Data quality’. Basically, the quality of your data has a high influence on how well your CRM system will work. Poor data = poor CRM. Making sure your CRM data is clean and up-to-date is vital.

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