7 Reasons Salespeople Hate CRM
7 Reasons Salespeople Hate CRM
…and how to show them some CRM love
Spend any appreciable time working with CRM, and I guarantee you’ll hear this:
“Salespeople hate CRM.”
Often, we hear it from frustrated business owners, executives, or managers as the reason a CRM adoption failed. Other times, it’s given as a reason to ditch CRM or avoid implementing it in the first place.
Just as often, we hear it from the salespeople themselves, typically after a bad experience or two.
But we’ve noticed something when we talk to these frustrated salespeople:
They complain about the same stuff almost every time.
Most salespeople are much, much faster at doing what they’ve always done.
But that’s not always because their methods are intrinsically faster or more efficient.
While the complaints we hear from management about low salesperson CRM adoption typically center around the poor outcome itself, the complaints we hear from salespeople point to some very specific problems and prejudices.
Most of these problems are rooted in false assumptions by those salespeople, the people responsible for implementing or overseeing CRM, or both.
And they matter. A lot.
Salespeople are the front-line users of any worthwhile CRM system. If their objections aren’t addressed, the CRM implementation is likely to fail.
Fortunately, the most common salesperson objections to CRM aren’t actually native to CRM.
Better yet, they can all be prevented or solved through better planning, better communication, better training, and better implementation.
So let’s examine these objections one at a time, and look at what managers and salespeople alike should do to overcome each:
Objection 1: We get along fine with our current process
It’s entirely possible that you already have a process that works optimally for you and the rest of your team. And if that’s the case, great!
But do you?
Good process alone doesn’t close sales.
Good salespeople with good processes do.
48% of North American respondents to a 2017 survey by HubSpot claimed their sales teams struggle to convert prospects, 49% claim it has become more difficult to get any response at all from a prospect, and 70% listed conversion as their top priority in 2017.
In other words, half of you are not getting along fine with your current process. And even if you are, there’s a good chance you can do better.
And yet, the appeal to tradition is one of the most common objections we hear from salespeople.
It’s essentially an Uphill Both Ways argument: “Back in my day, bread cost a nickel, we walked to school barefoot in the snow, and we used standalone Excel spreadsheets and Outlook calendars, and I never heard anyone complaining!”
OK, I’ve never heard that last one exactly. But the logical core of the argument is there. There’s an unwillingness to change, and a belief that what once worked will continue to work, or at least work well enough to offset the difficulties of learning something new.
The trouble is, the sales landscape has changed dramatically in the past two decades, and those changes aren’t slowing down. It’s a lot like this brilliant Mitchell and Webb sketch about the advent of the Bronze Age: stone and spreadsheets may have worked well in the past, but they are not up to the challenges of the future.
Not wanting to learn new skills or adapt to changing circumstances is not a good reason to reject the potential benefits of a new CRM system. That’s how you stay in the Stone Age.
Objection 2: CRM is Big Brother
One of the big selling points of CRM, especially for managers, is visibility. CRM gives users and managers significant, real-time insight into the sales process.
That increased visibility can rub some salespeople the wrong way. Most salespeople are accustomed and attracted to a certain level of autonomy. They’re loners, Dottie. Rebels. For many, that’s a big part of the allure of sales in the first place!
It’s not surprising, then, that many salespeople hear “visibility” and translate it into “spying.” They picture a manager on their backs, questioning their every move, tracking their quotas in real time. They imagine micromanagement at best and “gotcha!” tactics at worst.
Unfortunately, this does happen sometimes. But it’s not a CRM problem. It’s a management problem.
Put simply, if your managers plan to use CRM simply to spy on their sales team, you should already be polishing up that résumé.
CRM is not meant to be a “gotcha!” system. It’s a way to centralize records and manage customer relationships. It’s a way to learn from your successes and failures and bring your sales processes in line with your customers. It’s a way to boost your sales and sales efficiency.
Good managers understand this. That said, well-meaning micromanagement can happen. It’s one of the reasons we tell salespeople to get involved in the CRM adoption and implementation process early on. It’s important to make sure your CRM system does more than simply record data for your managers.
Nevertheless, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with your manager knowing what you’re doing. In theory, the visibility provided by CRM should enable a manager to help you sell more and better.
But there is a big difference between offering insight or assistance and micromanaging or lurking. When managers misuse CRM, they become obstacles to their team’s well-being and success. Good managers remove obstacles; they don’t become obstacles. And used properly, CRM isn’t Big Brother, but a helping hand.
Objection 3: CRM is too complicated
My father was always in charge of setting up our A/V equipment when I was growing up. He was an engineer, so it seemed only natural that he’d be the one to keep everything in working order. I remember watching him spend hours running wires through walls and connecting the various components so that we could watch television and listen to the stereo in not one, but two rooms! It was super impressive.
The only trouble was, nobody else could get the damn thing to work properly. My father had very likely created an optimal set-up in terms of performance, but the UI was godawful. I grew to accept this as the nature of A/V systems. After all, it was the 80s and then the 90s, and VCR programming jokes were still a thing. And my father was an expert. Clearly, TVs and stereos and VCRs were just complicated.
And then I moved out, and got a job, and saved up for a TV and a stereo and hooked it all up in about 15 minutes. It wasn’t as pretty as my father’s setup, but it worked just as well, and it was a whole lot easier to use.
I learned a valuable lesson about UI that day.
CRM may not come in a can, but it also isn’t supposed to be brain surgery. A good CRM system needs to be user friendly. If your CRM is too complicated, you either need more or better training, your system is a bad fit, or it isn’t well implemented.
Not wanting to learn new skills or adapt to changing circumstances is not a good reason to reject the potential benefits of a new CRM system.
In either case, the solution is to get involved early.
If you let management or IT set up the system without input from sales, there’s no guarantee they’ll build a system that does what you need in a way that fits easily into your workflow.
They aren’t trying to make life difficult for you any more than my dad was for our family. But the results are the same.
If it’s a quality CRM system, then like my family’s stereo, the system isn’t the problem. The problem is the configuration of that system.
The problem is that sometimes people set tools up in a way that makes sense to them but not to the rest of us.
And the solution is to make your voice heard early and often during the setup process.
Objection 4: CRM will slow me down
It shouldn’t. The right CRM, well-implemented, will actually speed you up. But like with Objection 3, sometimes you have the wrong system, or a sub-optimal setup, or poor training. And when one or more of these problems is in play, CRM can slow you down.
But that is not because CRM is useless or bad or even intrinsically slow and clunky.
I am a disaster on wheels. More specifically, I am a disaster with wheels on or near my feet. Roller skates, roller blades, Heelys, skateboards, long boards, hoverboards: you name it, I am useless with it. I’m lucky to stay standing, let alone keep moving.
But give me room to run, and I am comparatively quick and graceful. I could literally run circles around the version of me trying to roller blade.
So does that mean running is faster than roller blading? Absolutely not.
I’m a much, much faster runner than I am a roller skater. But that’s because I’m a trained and coordinated runner, but an untrained and uncoordinated skater.
In the same way, most salespeople are much, much faster at doing what they’ve always done. What they are trained to do. But that’s not always because their methods are intrinsically faster or more efficient.
With the right training, you can leverage CRM as a tool to increase your productivity. You can, in essence, learn how to roller skate. The better you get at CRM or skating, the faster you will be, and it won’t take long at all to leave the joggers and spreadsheeters in your dust.
Once you’re comfortable with your new CRM, you can add automation to further increase your speed and efficiency, use mobile CRM to maintain productivity on the go, and even customize your system to fit your exact needs and preferences!
Objection 5: CRM makes sales impersonal
Badly scripted and/or automated interactions can be really bad. It’s not surprising, then, that many salespeople are skeptical of attempts to standardize or automate any part of the sales process, and many see CRM as doing exactly these things.
After all, salespeople understand the importance of every touchpoint with their customers and prospects. You understand the importance of the human touch to the sales process.
But when CRM automation is done right, you can deliver a more personal, professional, and reliable experience to your customers.
We like to think of CRM as an invisible personal assistant. CRM tracks your interactions and your schedule, keeps and files your notes, sets reminders—all the things a real personal assistant would do.
This can lead to impersonal interactions if your CRM is poorly set up (or your personal assistant is poorly trained), or if you don’t know what you’re doing with CRM (or you and your personal assistant don’t have a good workflow), or if your system (or assistant) is simply a bad fit.
But that doesn’t mean all CRM is always impersonal.
If you had an impersonal personal assistant, would you assume that all personal assistants are the same? I certainly hope not!
Objection 6: CRM is too constraining
Much like with Objection 2, a lot of this comes from who salespeople are. Many of the best salespeople are creative, ambitious, and ferociously independent. These are the sorts of qualities that attract people to sales in the first place, and then help you succeed once you get there.
Now some manager is telling you to use a system and throwing off your groove. That sort of thing often rankles the sales ranks, and can be doubly infuriating when it’s a top-down initiative that feels imposed.
But this is why it’s so important to get involved with your company’s CRM implementation right from the beginning.
There is nothing inherently wrong with creating sales processes. There is a whole lot wrong with creating bad sales processes. And there is also a whole lot wrong with overly rigid adherence to process.
A good sales process provides a baseline model for what to do at particular points in your customer and prospect interactions. But good process alone doesn’t close sales. Good salespeople with good processes do.
Part of your job, with or without CRM, is to understand your customers. What works for one won’t work for everyone, and good salespeople know that instinctively.
So just because your CRM is automatically set up to create a follow-up call X days after Y interaction doesn’t mean you have to do that for every customer. That’s a baseline.
Is the customer you’re working with annoyed by more than one call every couple of weeks? No problem. Cancel the extra stuff.
Does that customer need more hand-holding? Schedule more touchpoints.
Is that customer super responsive by email but impossible to get on the phone? Switch any phone calls to emails.
If your CRM system doesn’t offer you the flexibility you need, you likely have one or more of the following problems:
1.) You have the wrong CRM.
2.) Your CRM is poorly set up.
3.) Your managers are micromanaging.
All of these are real problems, but they are not the result of any fundamental flaws in CRM.
Objection 7: CRM helps others steal my leads and accounts
Not unless your CRM administrator screwed up.
Any CRM worth the name allows system administrators to create security roles. These roles determine (among other things) who can view and edit your leads, opportunities, and customer records.
CRM does improve data access and collaboration, but not by throwing data security out the window. For example, in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales, you can set up owner teams and access teams, and even grant or restrict access to records by business unit.
If your CRM security is properly set up, then access rights should be exactly the same as they were without CRM.
Access is easier provided a user has access rights. But if Steve isn’t supposed to see something, he’s not gonna see it, and he certainly won’t be able to steal it unless you have bigger problems with your CRM setup or corporate culture!
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David Marincic is Partner Experience Manager at Azamba. He also manages and edits Azamba publications and social media channels.
David believes in the importance of good planning, sound practice, effective communication, and continued education in order to get the most from any technology solution.