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Analysts Are Optimistic About CRM – I’m Not.

Help me through this logic, please.

Help me through this logic, please.

Ann All (with ITBusinessEdge.com) posted an entry in her blog today about the optimistic outlook for CRM sales.  She wrote, “Datamonitor, KensingtonHouse, CSO Insights and Gartner are among the companies with an optimistic outlook on CRM.”  She then added AMR Research to the list.

I won’t dispute the prediction. 

What I will say is that progress is painfully slow with respect to CRM meeting the requirements of salespeople.  Help me through this logic, please: 

  • CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, right? 
  • Sales, Customer Care, Marketing and Finance managers all need their reports from the CRM system to do their jobs managing customers, right?
  • Who inputs a fair amount, if not most of the data?  Salespeople, right? 
  • They have to be prodded, threatened, incentivized and shamed into keeping their information up to date, right?
  • Follow me on this, please.  If the salespeople don’t sell anything, there aren’t going to be customers and customer relationships for a CRM system to manage, right?
  • So, why isn’t there anything in it for the salespeople?  In fact, don’t most of your salespeople use your company’s CRM system for little more than basic contact management? 
  • So why does the task of keeping the CRM system up to date at the expense of their selling time make any sense at all? 
  • Why don’t the CRM companies design systems help salespeople sell more?  Because salespeople aren’t their customers.  Management is.

What we need is more companies like White Springs and The TAS Group that understand the size and the impact of the CRM problem and are providing solutions.  And we also need CRM companies to start adding capabilities that will contribute to, rather than hinder, a sales person’s ability to sell.  When that happens I guess we should call it CRM 2.0.


5 Responses

  1. I totally agree. Systems need to focus on helping people improve success in their sales process whether it be the sales executvie or the sales managmer. The focus is on helping them make their targets by ensuring that they have a well qualified pipeline, be able to identify key opportunities, and anticipate issues that could arise to hinder progress towards the sale.
    Systems need to be intuitive. The sales person wants to be selling not filling in forms. Also he wants to see a value in using a system. If this is not happening then it is not worth doing. There is a new breed of software, ‘Sales Performance Management’ solutions that is focussing on sales.

  2. Dave,

    Ann All actually makes a point in her post, that the growth predictions have a lot to do with how the category is defined. If you consider all the new point solutions focusing more on the sales person’s effectiveness, rather than efficiency, the market might well be growing. The confusion comes from the fact, that the vendors of such solutions make a point that their systems are not CRM systems; which is correct.. Nevertheless as they are usually implemented as adjuncts to CRM systems, one can reasonably argue that from a market definition point of voew, they belong into the CRM space. It is though also very understandable why these vendors make this differentiation. CRM or should we be more precise and say the SFA portion of CRM systems still has a bad name partially for the reason you mention in your post . For fear that this might hamper their market success, they try to differentiate themselves. But at the same time, they will all also argue, that investing in their solutions wiil increase the return on the investment made into the initial CRM system. So they belong in the CRM space.

    Let me mention that I have no stakes with any CRM vendor nor vendors of point solutions such as the two you mention. before I tell you that I also disagree with your blaming the classical CRM vendors for the symptoms you mentioned.

    CRM systems are very configurable and the data requirements imposed to sales people in actual implementations are usually higher than what vendors have foreseen when you look at the out of the box version of their screens. Now who is responsible for this? The system integrators trying to please management and not understanding that sales people are a different species of users than call center agents or employees that have to work with ERP systems. How little integrators understand about sales becomes most obvious when you look at the sales processes they recommend and implement. The irony is that they usually do not only not help the sales people but even do not give good information to management.. Those integrators also have not understood that CRM vendors usually have included several frequently observed practices in their out of the box systems to avoid objections for not supporting certain practices. There are thus too many features for a given concrete application.This also plays nicely into the hands of IT departments (often the drivers of CRM implementations). They can not be blamed having invested in a systems lacking functionality. So in actual fact, if one really cares about supporting the sales people, one can actually reduce the amount of required data elements as proposed by the out of the box screens.. But this requires that selling is well understood and the processes are well defined.

    I helped revamp a CRM implementation with very low adoption rate, precisely for the facts you mentioned. We stripped out all but a few essential data elements that made sense to the sales people and helped them drive a buying cycle oriented sales process. Funny enough, the reports produced from these reduced data set, where also more meaningful to Sales Managers and Executives, usually the worst users of CRM systems.I therefore firmly believe that integrators have more responsibility for the current unsatisfactory situation.

    This is also the reason I am afraid, that the same things might happen again with the new more sales effectiveness oriented point solutions. Especially with the offerings of the two vendors you mentioned, I would be very careful. These two vendors actually try also to solve yet another adoption problem; those of Sales Methodologies. Will we really be able to kill two birds (low CRM adoption and low methodology adoption) with this one stone (solutions from the two vendors you mention)? I would not be so sure. Unless the introduction of their solutions is assisted by people being able to lead a change management process, understanding selling and being able to translate technology features in user benefits. The success further depends heavily on the capability to convince sales managers to adopt the new way of working – enabled by those solutions – in their daily management practice. Starting with the sales people, will end up being a wasted effort.


    Thanks for taking the time to post this comment.

    A few points:

    First, you wrote: "I also disagree with your blaming the classical CRM vendors for the symptoms you mentioned."

    I blame many of them because they set expectations past the point they can deliver. Here is a direct copy from Oracle/Siebel's website:

    Oracle's Siebel Sales applications maximize sales effectiveness in real time by accelerating the quote-to-cash process, aligning sales channels, increasing pipeline and win rates, and raising average transaction values.

    Then you wrote: "I would be very careful. These two vendors actually try also to solve yet another adoption problem; those of Sales Methodologies. "

    You're right about that! Again and again we see sales leadership investing in CRM because they think it will force them into a sales methodology and add a degree of discipline to their operation. It doesn't.

    The best CRM implementations we've seen are where there is a formal, pragmatic sales methodology (already in place) and that methodology and the constituent processes are modelled in the CRM application. That's the main reason why I highlighted the two vendors.

  3. Dave, you got it right on the first bullet. It’s about the customers.

    Customer relationship management is a program (not software) that should increase customer loyalty and your company’s profitability. Management’s job is to understand the customer, know who their best customers are and what they want so the organization can focus on delivering that to them.

    Then they have to communicate this to *you* and all customer facing resources so you are looking for the *right* prospects and saying/doing the right things. An important part of that process is giving ownership to you or your group in areas that make sense. It sounds like that hasn’t happened for you.

    “they have to be prodded, threatened, incentivized and shamed into keeping their information up to date, right?”
    (This is just poor leadership, which is where I’m going)

    People and Software are the vehicle for rolling out a CRM strategy. The people have to be on board, and the software needs to address the tactics that were derived from the strategy. After that, bells and whistles should be added if they make sense.

    But, if you are a *buy in* on the strategy (and data collection and analysis is part of a CRM strategy) and you have ownership of some sort, you shouldn’t be focused on some minor software issue.

    If you aren’t following a CRM strategy and the related tactics, you are a lone gun, which is where that leadership thing comes into play. And I can say from experience that the cost of developing some of the ideas I’ve heard from sales people would not be justified because sales people are either good or bad.

    Software won’t help a bad sales person (you and I both know some people aren’t trainable). A good corporate wide CRM strategy will help everyone at all levels. Not everyone is a superstar nor can most companies locate or afford an entire staff of them.

    Since your target audience is sales people, I understand our disagreement in focus. While I don’t disagree that having good tools is essential, having them all the way down the line is more important…starting at the top. After all, those are the folks that lose sleep at night when things aren’t going right (although some might deserve it!)

    If you don’t buy in on the customer relationship management as a strategy, you might be better off with a contact manager. I’m sure what you are looking for, but I doubt those deliver either.

  4. Mike,

    Most importantly, thanks for your time and effort in posting a comment.

    Just a few clarifications:

    1. I agree with you on the issue of CRM being a program. But it is also a tool, and when leadership forces salespeople to waste time inputting data when their is no benefit for them, I’m going to ask why.I’m not looking for any software.
    2. I wrote this post from my position as an impartial observer of sales performance improvement tools, programs, strategies and vendors.
    3. My target audience isn’t salespeople–it’s Sales Management and CSOs.

    Another point: I’m not “focused on some minor software issue.” There is plenty of research that proves sales productivity is low, as is CRM adoption among sales people. The fact is that most CRM software doesn’t assist a salesperson with winning business. That’s why they resist using it.

    Finally, to my assertion, “they have to be prodded, threatened, incentivized and shamed into keeping their information up to date, right?” you responded, “This is just poor leadership, which is where I’m going.” In one sense I agree with you. Leadership should never have invested in software that required salespeople to be data entry operators.

  5. Dave, my experience of CRM has been somewhat negative. As part of a project team in Asia, I perceived (and experienced) a lot of frustration when the sales team just did not have the time (or the buy-in) to dedicate something like 15% to 20% of their time collecting channel and customer data and entering it in a software program on a regular basis. This did not help their sales competency or the company’s relationship with their customers in any way. Many good sales people left the company for this reason. In retrospect, I feel that CRM is a good knowledge management tool but not one for the salesperson and therefore should be defined differently!

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