Here’s How To Fix The Number One Problem You Have With Your CRM System

Customer relationship management systems are not accounting systems. CRM systems do not do any accounting, cash receipts, payouts or payroll. Even if no CRM system is used, a company keeps going. If no accounting system is used, a business will not function. This is why so many of my clients complain that the biggest CRM challenge they face is getting people to use the system.

Here’s how to fix it.

At first, keep it simple.

Don’t make your CRM database too complex. Collapse the fields. Minimize data entry. Reduce your complex sales and service processes. The less you ask of your people, the easier it will be for them to do it. Think about it: what is the bare minimum of data you need to achieve your goals, and address that first. Maybe your users can evolve to do more. But for now keep it simple. You have plenty of time to make it more complex if you have a long-term perspective. But don’t ask too much too soon.

Next up is reports.

A CRM system is nothing more than a database. And good databases have good analytics. Get rid of your spreadsheets and replace them with just a few essential reports. Start with a simple pipeline report that tracks each opportunity with details like sales potential, likelihood of closing, estimated close date, last action, and next action. When your team meets and drives activity around a weekly pipeline report, you can see who’s not getting data into the system… and address that issue. There are other good reports to consider. But focus on the pipeline first.

Educate only those who need training.

My customers can be divided into three groups: the CRM experts, the CRM users and the CRM dummies. Leave the experts alone, give your users a little help, and focus your training and support on the dummies. Because let’s face it, there are people who can embrace technology and others who can’t hook up a TV. But just because the dummies aren’t good with technology doesn’t mean they aren’t good at their job.

Provide support, training and mentors for users and dummies. Task your experts with mentoring your users and dummies. Have an internal administrator (or two) who are responsible for the database and are your experts. Pay for their education and support. Hire an external partner who specializes in the system to support your administrator. Like most problems in business, it’s an 80/20 problem. Your usage problem will be limited to the 20 percent of people who don’t use the system. Focus on her.

Eventually you meet your people halfway.

We have a customer who sells sausage products. Their sales force consists mostly of old men wearing hats and driving Buicks. Not exactly your tech demographic. But they’re good salespeople, but they weren’t exactly the power CRM user types, if you know what I mean.

So what did my client do? They met their people halfway. They set up voicemail and asked their colleagues along the way to leave messages about their sales pitches, appointments, notes, and promotions. Then they had a part-time student enter that information into their CRM system. That’s meeting people halfway. And in the end, management got their reports, the sales reps focused on selling, and their database was always updated.

What I’ve learned about CRM implementations is that most companies bite off more than they can chew. They spend all their time designing complex systems that never get used. Most businesses — especially smaller businesses — can hardly share basic contact, calendar, and email information, let alone be responsible for maintaining a database. To fix the usage problem and get your people to adapt to your system, just go slow, take small steps, be patient and follow my advice above. You’ll be fine.

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