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5 Reasons Salespeople Hate CRM

September 9, 2010 by in CRM, Yesware the Company

There is no typical salesperson. We can be quiet listeners, brash pontificators, insightful seers or boarish oafs. We can be large, small, tucked- in, or guerrilla. Every front-line salesperson is, however, united by one thing – a hatred of CRM software. Why is this? I’ll list five big reasons below.

1. CRM as Big Brother

As any salesperson knows, and CSO Insights research shows,CRM is really not about helping the salesperson sell – it’s about giving everyone else visibility into the sales pipeline and specific sales activities.  There is, of course, a real business requirement for visibility in any size enterprise. However, there is no real business reason for colleagues to know how many calls you made today, how quickly you responded to a certain email, or how much revenue you hope to bring in from prospect X in the next 12 months.

CSO Insights graph: benefits from CRM

Reported Benefits from CRM

Imagine for a moment what would happen to software engineers’ productivity if their keystrokes-per-hour rating, the number of lines of code they checked in, the number of bugs they individually caused, and the number of schedule slips they were responsible for, were common management meeting fodder. Revolution. Moreover, sales is already the most directly measured aspect of any company performance. Revenue is reported right on the top line.

2. Time Required to Update CRM

CRM deployments without the benefit of significant customization are split off in a completely separate workflow from the salespeople’s normal duties. Updating each customer record with every email, conversation, phone call, meeting, change in status, slip in schedule, revised proposal, canceled get-together, updated decision horizon, new timeline, additional team contact, new decision-maker and so on is not work that benefits the individual salesperson. So we don’t do it, except under threat of “no more leads” or “no bonus” or “stay in the crappy hotel” – all managerial “techniques” I’ve heard used to keep the CRM records up to date. One of our major design considerations with Yesware is to automate as much data entry, email filing, status updating, prospect team lists, etc. as we possibly can.

3. Forecasting Inaccuracy

If the primary benefit of CRM to the enterprise is sales pipeline visibility, it could at least calculate it properly. As David Brock from “Partners In EXCELLENCE” points out, most CRM systems calculate “Probability to Close” as a linear function of pipeline stage. Anyone who has carried a bag knows how wrong that is. A deal is not significantly more likely to close just because the prospect has decided to take a second meeting with you. Even worse, the easy availability of pipeline reports makes the “number of deals in the pipeline” metric much more easily measured and compared against than the “quality of the deals in the pipeline”. While careful estimations of pipeline revenue is crucial to business planning at all stages of a company’s life, the easy math/dashboard style charts provided directly to management, without discussions or qualifiers by the sales rep,  makes CRM sales forecasts seem much more real than they actually are.

4. The Forced Sharing of Contacts

The benefits that CRM promises to collaborative work environments – “Everyone will be able to help everyone else out on deals” – is more than outweighed by the risks that someone will inadvertently screw up a huge sale by surveying the prospect, calling to ask about another opportunity, or deciding that yours is the ideal person to call about a new job (true story). More troubling, companies believe that they “own” the contact because the contact’s information is in their CRM database. And because companies hold this belief, they underestimate the true value of the CRM entry – as a cipher for the salesperson’s relationship with the customer. Can she get them on the phone? Can she book a meeting with their execs on short notice? Can she get real, actionable feedback on the proposal’s reception? The implicit threat of a shared contacts database, “I will have someone else pick up right where you left off,” hangs over the head of every salesperson who uses CRM.

5. The Constraints of CRM

Anything that is systematized is constraining. CRM, for better and for worse, imposes processes on salespeople that reduces our freedom and increases the granularity with which we are measured. Suddenly, sales paperwork and record keeping is now generally controlled by the marketing department.  As Brian Fey, a CRM systems director in Michigan said:

Great sales people, how do I put this gently . . . well, they don’t walk past a lot of mirrors without stopping for a look, if you know what I mean . . . For the really good ones (i.e. I still refer to them as “fighter pilots”) — the idea that they’re beholding to a marketing person for even part of their livelihood can be a little hard to bear.

There are clearly sales benefits to CRM. Especially for salespeople who deal with long sales cycles and sell with big teams, the tracking and information sharing provided across an organization is invaluable. But for the majority of salespeople, the benefits are not balanced out by the costs imposed by most CRM systems. We’re designing Yesware to be different. Yesware is not CRM, it’s an email service that builds in the most important features of CRM and customizes them specifically for the individual salesperson. Yesware is not about management tracking calls-per-day. It’s about you, the salesperson, doing more deals faster. More on that to come.

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