Why sales reps don’t use CRM and what you can do about it.

I read an article the other day about why many sales reps do not use CRM systems, which cited the most common reason as the sales process did not match the buyer’s process.  This is a reason, but it’s one of many.  In my own experience helping hundreds of sales operations leaders, the top 5 reasons I find - are:

1.       Limited or no flexibility.  It’s impossible to automate the role of a sales rep.  If it was, robots would be selling.  The act of selling takes two humans – a buyer and a seller.  Every human is different.  They have different ways of doing things.  Different comfort levels and what works for one person may not work for another.  What works for a buyer might not work for the seller.  So, forcing everyone to follow the same exact procedures, actions and in some cases process, without some level of flexibility just does not work.  The best way to address this is to interview your sales team, find the areas that need flexibility and build those into your overall system requirements where it makes sense.  Here’s a good example – sales reps who have more of a hunter skill set than a farmer skill set being forced to do the same activities and follow the same rules of engagement.  They are two separate types of reps and forcing one model on the other will result in failure.

2.       Management.  Two issues here – management behaviors and compliance.  Over-bearing managers will crush your CRM adoption.  Constant backseat deal driving, forced deal commitment or managers stepping in to take over deals will cause sales reps to sandbag deals.  Reps will hide deals and activity by not entering them into your CRM system until they feel it is safe to do so.  The risk here is that if the deal is not in your CRM system, there is no record of it at all.  If that rep leaves your company, so does that deal.  The second issue is compliance.  Sales managers have to all be on the same page and stick to the plan.  If even one team deviates from the plan, the word will get out and anarchy will set in.  A final note here is to also ensure you have the right sales process.  Forcing a sales process on a sales team that just does not work will cause sales reps to develop their own work around to your system.

3.       Poor implementation.  During the rollout, the application was not set up and trained properly.  Poor configuration of the sales process and reports.  Too many fields that need to be populated based on the need for too much data (the right data and not big data).  Redundancy of data entry drives reps nuts. Keep data entry simple.  Over-configuration and over-complex process and procedures.  Nothing kills adoption faster than wasting sales people’s time.    Time is a valuable resource for every rep.  Asking them to do unnecessary administrative work that takes time away from selling will only get you the following statement “What do you want me to be doing, entering data all day long or selling?” Only and I mean only ask the sales reps to enter data that you truly need to run your business.  What you need to ensure is that the right opportunities are in the right stage, with the right close date with the right value.  If you can optimize that, few additional requirements really matter when it comes to managing a pipeline.

4.       Value.  The reps don’t see the payback.  If the system is not helping them close more deals faster, they will find another way to manage their book of business.  Oddly enough, just giving them a CRM system will not give them a payback.  You have to surround the system with additional value-added solutions that save them time.   Don’t guess at what your team needs.  Interview them and find out.  Pick the solutions that they want, not what you want or think they need.   There needs to be a balance between the needs of the organization and the needs of the reps.  You need data to run your company.  You need reps to enter that data.  Your CRM system should be designed to make the required data gathering for those reports to be as easy as possible.  Adding value to the reps ability to manage his or her pipeline is a good way to ensure you get the data.

5.       Lack of incentive.  Be the incentive forced compliance by management (do it or you are fired) or paid (follow the plan and get a salary lift or recognition), something needs to be in place.  I’m not a big fan of the stick method.  No one likes to get threatened.  I am a fan of pay for performance.  The little extra compensation or recognition for a job well done will go a long way to improving adoption.  I have seen companies create an awards program (both monetary and non-monetary) that provide monthly, quarterly and annual recognition.  This is where gamificaton can help.

Notice that I did not put a lot of blame on the sales rep.  Many of you might be thinking that I left “lazy” off of the list.  Most reps are not lazy.  For the most part they want to do the right thing – even those pesky top producers.  So do the right thing and get back to the basics.  Cut out the complexity.  Make it more flexible.  Listen to your reps and put value back into your CRM.  One thing is guaranteed, if your reps don’t see the value, you will not see the adoption and the return on your investment.