Here’s How To Fix The Biggest Problem With Your CRM System

Customer Relationship Management systems are not accounting systems. CRM systems do not handle invoicing, receipts, payouts or payroll. If a CRM system is not used, a company will simply continue to operate. If an accounting system is not used, a business will not work. This is why so many of my clients complain that the main CRM challenge they have is getting people to use the system.

Here’s how to fix it.

Keep it simple at first.

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

Then make it all about reports.

A CRM system is nothing but a database. And good databases have good analytics. Get rid of your spreadsheets and replace them with just a few important reports. Start with a simple pipeline report that tracks each opportunity with details such as sales potential, probability of closing, expected closing date, last action, and next action. If your team comes together and steers their activities around a weekly pipeline report, you can see who isn’t getting data into the system… and address that problem. There are other good reports to consider. But focus on the pipeline first.

Train only the people who need the training.

My customers can be divided into three groups: the CRM experts, the CRM users and the CRM dummies. Leave the experts alone, help your users a little, and focus your training and support on the dummies. Because let’s face it: there are people who can pick up technologies and other people 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 jobs.

Provide support, training, and mentors to users and dummies alike. Assign your experts to guide your users and dummies. Have an internal administrator (or two) in charge of the database and your experts. Pay for their training and their support. Hire a third-party partner who specializes in the system to support your administrator. Like most problems in business, it’s an 80/20 issue. Your usage problem comes down to the 20 percent of people who don’t use the system. Focus on them.

Finally, you meet people half way.

We have one customer who distributes meat products. Their sales force is mostly made up of old men wearing hats and driving Buicks. Not exactly your tech demographic. But they’re good salespeople, but they weren’t exactly the powerful CRM users, if you get my point.

So what did my client do? They met their people half way. They set up a voicemail and asked their men along the way to leave messages about their sales calls, 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 salespeople were focused on sales, and their database was always up to date.

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