Because I write for salespeople, and most company CRMs (Customer Relationship Management software) cause B2B sales to drop. They take up too much of a salesperson’s time and try to manipulate their behavior through data management. All that most CRMs accomplish for sales teams is to get in the way of their productive sales activities. Most company CRMs stink. Actually, let me amend that claim for accuracy.
Most B2B sales CRMs Suck!
Most B2B sales CRMs suck up your time and energy and keep you from making effective sales calls. Clearside reports that salespeople only spend 35% of their time on “customer facing activities”. This is because CRMs can take up so much of your time and energy you don’t have much left for actual selling. You waste too much time checking boxes, entering data. Not much of which actually helps you sell. CRMs track your sales behavior, based on what salespeople enter. The CRM interprets your input as data. That data provides myriad reports for your managers. Your managers manage based on those reports.
CRMs make sales managers lazy. Sales Managers no longer manage based on sales-people. Lost is the importance of confidence, commitment, desire, determination. Abandoned is understanding sales conditions in the field. Gone is providing sales coaching on individual accounts to help win deals. Forgotten is how to work with clients as humans. Overlooked is sales as a function of meeting prospect’s needs. CRMs make it all about numbers. And reports.
Whenever in doubt, always look for the financial incentive. Law of the Hired Gun
CRMs are purchased by an executive team. And he who pays the piper calls the tune. Executive teams operate based on numbers. The more numbers to evaluate, the better. If there are more reports, even better. And with more data to produce more reports, the best. So the CRM that produces the most reports with the most data wins.
This is pure unadulterated hogwash.
The problem is, this leads to innacurate sales forecasting. The executive team that made the decision to purchase your B2B sales CRM receives bogus conclusions from bogus data. One sales colleague helped me a lot when I began the high-tech part of my sales career. He always made me laugh, and he closed more deals and bigger deals than I did. He was, without doubt, one of the best in-the-field, high-tech reps I’ve known. When he retired, he emailed the following note:
Early CRM solutions wanted to prove to management that X number of phone calls, direct mails, trade shows, mailers, con-calls, presentations, and quotes will deliver a sale every time. Sales managers were driven to activity, not results. Once management gets hooked on their CRM then you see the circle of lies begin. Sales reps lie to cover their asses on worthless activities. Sales managers present a rosy future based on # of activities…. Senior managers report to shareholders the bright and shining future…just look at all these (mindless) activities. What is flawed is that the information loaded into the CRM was based on good, solid sales activities. Yes, 30 proposals got 25 orders because the sales PROCESS and steps were solid. Now, you throw out those successful activities and replace them with mindless drills; the numbers start to lie. Example: “Look, VP Bob, last year we sold $5 million with 200 written proposals, with our new CRM we are SHOWING that we have X phone calls, X leads, X direct mails…based on this new info, we are about to have the best year ever!” Idiots. The only winner was the guy that sold them the CRM!”
That’s some pretty compelling anecdotal information.
What does the data show?
The Database Marketing Institute posted an article by Arthur Middleton Hughes titled, How Much Should You Spend on CRM? In his article Hughes provides a handy comparison chart. It shows the difference between sales “Before CRM” and “With CRM”. Here are key takeaways from those conclusions:
- Number of offers: 50,000,000 for both
- Conversion rate: 3.5% – for both
- Average Sale:- $57.15 – for both
- TOTAL SALES: Before CRM = $1,750,000 / With CRM = $1,890,000
- NET SALES (AFTER COST OF CRM): Before CRM = $100,012,500 With CRM = $ 98,513,500
- CRM costs $1,499,000 in net sales lost
The Bottom Line:
The CRM costs $1,499,000 in net sales lost
Unfortunately, nearly every sales organization currently employs a sophisticated and expensive CRM system. They practically run their sales teams and customer success teams with them.
What’s worse, CRM adoption is growing faster than any other enterprise software category with a 9.7% increase year-over-year.
In Hughes’ article he states:
Many companies have spent more than $20 million on the warehouse and another million or more on the software.
That’s a gang of lead, Harv. American businesses spend a ton of money on CRMs. When they invest that much, they insist on its use. Then its imposed usage causes your sales to drop. So what can you do?
How I beat a B2B sales CRM
Once, I returned to an organization of several hundred sales reps for a sales assignment. But nothing had changed since I left years before. They were still using the same old CRM mess they had when I left, five years before. The same one I used five years that I was there. It was an antiquated, clumsy, kludgy contraption – an outdated inventory management program – adapted to contain contact data and schedule call backs. PLUS – it ran on an old IBM AS/400 mainframe computer.
Know what’s really fun about an AS/400 mainframe computer that runs a series of desktop dumb terminals? When someone accidentally kicks a connection loose under their desk – about 50 computers on 5 sales teams – all crash. Regardless of all that fun, every data entry was like making a Rube Goldberg kinetic puzzle. I knew in advance I wasn’t going to harness myself to that Clydesdale every day. So I brought in my own laptop with my personal DVD edition of ACT! on it. No brag. Just fact. In 90 days I became the top #1 revenue producing rep in the company. The main reason is I simply made more calls and had more quality conversations than the other salespeople. Which often leads to more deals than the other salespeople. So while my colleagues entered useless data into their kludge-fest CRM, I was making calls. My sales sped like a Ferrari while their Model T CRM sputtered along. And believe me, there was a lot of internal grumbling from the top office on down through the ranks of Suits.
They barked but they never bit. Because I single-handedly outsold entire divisions in the company. What managers love, and what I hate about CRMs is, well, everything about how they’re used. Today’s CRMs are relied upon by managers to babysit their sales teams. This leads to the lazy kind of management style cited by my friend earlier:
Look, VP Bob, last year we sold $5 million with 200 written proposals, with our new CRM we are SHOWING that we have X phone calls, X leads, X direct mails…based on this new info, we are about to have the best year ever!
I’ll bet your company’s CRM can produce a vast array of reports based on each different stage of the sales process. This granular data enables managers to put sales under a microscope and stick it with pins. I’m going to offer a slight suggestion about a bigger picture than micropscopic sales stages. It’s the one sales stage your managers ought to pay much more attention to. And Your Boss agrees. It’s called the …
Sales months are like football games. At kickoff everyone wants to feel the energy, enjoy the experience, enjoy the athleticism of the players. We like to figure out the strategy of the play calls made by the coaches. That kind of thing. That’s also when sales processes, meetings and reports are hot items – at the kickoff. Because for the first three quarters of the game, or the first three weeks of the month, there’s still plenty of time to produce a final outcome. In the last couple minutes of the game or the last couple days of the month, nobody cares about data and details. At that point it isn’t about how much finesse one team shows. Brilliant play calling is only appreciated if it scores or wins. And nobody cares about the checkboxes in your CRM or the numbers on a spread sheet. They care about deals. All anybody cares about at month’s end is – is that deal coming in today?
My modest proposal
Managers need to invest less time and attention on overpromoted sales CRMs and their data. Instead, they need to work with salespeople to improve and grow. Help them develop: sales skills company knowledge product knowledge self-confidence professional growth This creates a significant positive effect on the only numbers that actually count – the bottom line of sales and revenue at month’s end. When Suits and Managers do that, they don’t need to worry about reports to show how many deals should come in….. They’re too busy banking the profits from all the deals that do come in.
In his article for SalesPop! titled Sales Force Management and the Human Factor, Nikolas Kimla writes:
Sales management has come to realize that the best thing they can possibly do is to hire a competent sales force, acquaint them with successful methods utilized in selling the company’s products (i.e. the sales process) but then stand aside and let them get the job done.
In the next two Gonzo Selling! blogs (Part II and Part III), we provide two simple anti-CRM solutions. These enable you to sell! Sell!! SELL!!! Instead of enter, enter, enter data, data, data… If I were a sales manager today I would definitely employ the use of one of these solutions. They can improve your time to close over an overpriced and manipulative corporate B2B sales CRM.
Vast data vs. human ingenuity
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a brilliant book titled, Blink. He details numerous cases of contrast between being wrong with inordinate amounts of data, versus being right with intuitive expert insight. For example, he dissects a U.S. Pentagon war game in 2000 called, Millennial Challenge. They divided into two teams, Red Team and Blue Team.
…Blue Team was given greater intellectual resources than perhaps any army in history. Joint Forces Command devised something called the Operational Net Assessment, which was a formal decision-making tool that broke the enemy down into a series of systems – military, economic, social, political – and created a matrix showing how all those systems were interrelated and which of the links were more vulnerable. They were given an unprecedented amount of information and intelligence from every corner of the U.S. Government and a methodology that was logical and systematic and rational and rigorous. They had every toy in the Pentagon’s arsenal.
And the Red Team?
Red Team was commanded by a man (Paul Van Riper) who looked at a long-haired, unkempt, seat-of-the-pants commodities trader yelling and pushing and making a thousand instant decisions an hour and saw in him a soul mate. Van Riper was supposed to be cowed and overwhelmed in the face of a larger foe. But he was too much of a gunslinger for that… … When Red Team’s surprise attack was over, sixteen American ships lay at the bottom of the Persian Gulf. Had Millenium Challenge been a real war instead of just an exercise, twenty thousand American servicemen and women would have been killed before their own army had even fired a shot.
Gladwell accounts in detail Van Riper’s successful low-tech tactics that handed him such a decisive win – over the entire U.S. Pentagon. Van Riper said,
You know, you get caught up in forms, in matrixes, in computer programs, and it just draws you in. They were so focused on the mechanics and the process that they never looked at the problem holistically. In the act of tearing something apart, you lose its meaning.
“The Operational Net Assessment was a tool that was supposed to allow us to see all, know all,” Major General Dean Cash, one of the senior JFCOM officials involved in the war game, admitted afterward. “Well, obviously it failed.”
I highly recommend Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, especially for sales managers, execs and CEOs. The book is full of cases like this one, and every one is entertaining and enlightening. Paul Van Riper used a number of creative old time low-tech tactics to defeat the U.S. Pentagon. Because they work; they produce predictable, reliable results. You can learn equivalent low tech tactics for sales. Come back in the next couple of weeks for Part II and Part III! You’ll learn two contact managment and call back systems that help you beat your B2B sales CRM,
“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” W. Clement Stone
Please SHARE with your friends and colleagues
NEXT WEEK’s Gonzo Selling!
How To Beat Your B2B Sales CRM – Part II
Coming Soon: HIRED GUN III
Robert Danger Workman writes from his consistent track record of top-tier success in both outside and inside sales at different companies, in different industries, as a sales rep, sales manager, EVP, entrepreneur and owner of several companies. Four decades of in-the-field, face-to-face selling and leading winning sales organizations provides the background and experience prevalent in his HIRED GUN brand such as the best-selling and award winning book, HIRED GUN – You’re #1 and Somebody Hates it, and the new, HIRED GUN II – The Essential Guide for Top Salespeople.