There are five red flags that signal when a CRM system is more bother than it's worth. If your CRM system has two or more of these flags, your sales team is in big trouble:
- RED FLAG #1: Management must force people to use it. If management is putting pressure on reps--like threatening to withhold commissions--if they don't use the system, then the system isn't useful. Sales reps ALWAYS embrace technology that helps them sell (e.g. cell phones, email, IM, web conferencing) and always resist technology that wastes their time. If the reps don't immediately love the system, that system is crap.
- RED FLAG #2: It enforces a process that only works somewhere else. Most CRM systems come with out-of-the-box functionality based on the "best practices" of other companies. Unfortunately, what's "best practice" in one company can be "worst practice" in another. Your company is unique, so you need a CRM system that models what works for your company, not your competitors. For example, any company that's smaller than IBM, yet tries to sell exactly like IBM, is going to fail.
- RED FLAG #3: The CRM data is frequently in error. All too often the data that's in the CRM system came from old databases or was entered by folk who weren't concerned with accuracy. Once reps figure out that the CRM system can't provide reliable information, they're not going to trust anything inside it. CRM must be developed with some form of data cleaning and data verification, otherwise you'll eventually end up with a system that nobody can, or will use. Period.
- RED FLAG #4: There's an underground "real way" that things get done. I've seen cases where reps are 100% percent complaint with a CRM system--in the sense that they enter all the data that management is requesting--but have a completely different system for actually getting things done. (Usually, the sales manager's spreadsheet is the "real" CRM system.) If this is the case, the "official" CRM system is simply flushing productivity down the toilet.
- RED FLAG #5: The system isn't available all the time. Nothing is more demoralizing than a system that's not reliable. If a CRM system isn't stable enough to be available 24/7, or can't be accessed when reps are on the road, then the reps (who are nothing if not practical) will constant looking for (and inevitably find) other ways to get the job done and find out what they need to know.
Feel free to share your CRM experience. (Vendor sock-puppets post elsewhere, please!)