Sensitivity Training

CRM adoption is a real issue. One reason that clients bring me in is because they have challenges getting sales people to regularly input data or even perform consistent pipeline updates in CRM.  I want to share some insights I have gained from addressing this dilemma, because I find that the real reason for this issue is not well understood.

In my experience, the CRM adoption problem typically is framed as sales people versus management. On one hand, sales people feel that CRM is a management tool used to micromanage their activities. The other side of the coin is management’s perception of sales people not being accountable, lacking discipline, and the expectation that CRM input is a “job responsibility”. In other words, the sales team must be pressured to do something that management believes they won’t do voluntarily.

Now this is pressure!

The reality is that the problem is deeper than sales people’s perceptions of a conspiracy to handcuff them into doing management’s bidding.   Instead of using a push strategy, managers should consider changing their perceptions about how sales people actually benefit from effective CRM adoption. I believe that at the heart of good sales management practices is the simple idea that Managers should communicate positively to  motivate team members.

It’s time for sensitivity training.

Let’s stipulate to the idea that CRM really is a productivity tool and that sales people who  use CRM effectively are top performers. Instead of thinking enforcement, what’s wrong with the concept that sales people can use CRM as a tool to produce more revenue for their own benefit?  How about cultivating that attitude and communicating how CRM empowers your team members to be better, happier sales people?  Ironically, happier sales people require less accountability measures, and you get the information you need without the stress.

How is this done? Let’s take some specific examples of fundamental sales productivity concepts and explain what they mean in CRM terms.

Improving Prospecting

Sales people receive more sales leads for their prospecting efforts when potential marketing lead information is directly input into CRM from marketing campaigns and social media. It’s relatively easy to set this up – in fact most of the popular lead generation tools directly integrate with CRM products. Also, products like Hoovers and Jigsaw permit near instant creation of prospecting and campaign lists, as well as account and contact information. Your message is: we will help you create more opportunities for your pipeline using CRM.

Access to Resources

Sales people have better access to resources they need to manage sales cycles. In a world of team selling, it’s hard to conceive that some sales managers and senior executives have concerns about how and who sees sales opportunity information. In most B2B sales organizations, there are several people, ranging from product developers, to marketing, to customer service (who also use CRM), who don’t have direct visibility to sales opportunities. Providing CRM licenses to all of these stakeholders seems cost prohibitive.

To get around access issues, CRM vendors now sell Multi-tier licenses allow different levels of visibility into CRM information at a much lower cost. Social capabilities similar to popular social media products (like Facebook) permit low or no cost communications between licensed and non-licensed personnel. This enables greater dialogue between sales people and internal resources. Your message is: Your team and resources are all available to you via CRM – they are paying attention , and this is how we work together to close deals better and faster.

Management Oversight

Using CRM, sales people are able to operate with less management scrutiny to “advise” them on their pipeline and opportunities. There is always a tradeoff between pipeline visibility and sales activities, versus holding sales people accountable. This is one of the more overlooked capabilities of CRM to solve the oversight issue.

Most CRM tools provide for “accountability” fields and information. For example, just being able to communicate the next step for an opportunity using a field eliminates one or two manager phone calls per day to each rep. Also, social tools allow sales people to contribute updates about opportunities in ways that were unimaginable in previous generations of CRM. Your message is: we will pay attention to what you do in CRM and won’t pester you with “update” calls and “next step” calls if you communicate here.

Customer Communications

Sales people can use CRM to more quickly and effectively communicate with customers about meetings, tasks and sales deliverables (such as letters and proposals). Integration tools that synchronize data between office software (such as Microsoft Outlook) and CRM allow the sales person to schedule meetings and communicate with the customer without having to input data in both the office tool and CRM. Also, mobile CRM apps on tablets and cell phones can be used for updates instead of waiting to use a laptop or office computer. Your message is: we don’t want to make more work for you when you communicate about opportunities. You can use the means best suited to you and update CRM almost automatically.

Management Commitment

Now all the aforementioned  technology is great, but at the end of the day, it’s really about management’s willingness to positively communicate and promote to their sales people that CRM will make them successful. Conversely, if sales people properly input information as described above, you can produce reports in CRM as a byproduct of their inputs. Less work for you and for them. Nonetheless, sales people need to feel that they are doing it for their own good, not for the good of their managers.

What I have described above really works. If  you as the Sales Manager stand behind your sales people and help them become productive using the tool,  you will accelerate opportunities and grow revenues faster. There is no question that this is an “attitude adjustment”, but it’s worth it when your team makes their numbers.


Author: Terry Walsh

Terry Walsh is a Trusted Executive Advisor known for his work helping clients create and execute revenue growth strategies, organize and build sales teams, and implement CRM systems. He focuses on helping sales leaders achieve their potential in building and managing effective sales teams. Author of “99 Questions to Achieving Your Sales Goals” (Amazon), which outlines a road map for success in both individual sales and managing sales teams, implemented in dozens of clients. Terry's 25+ years’ experience and a proven track record help organizations build high-performing, well-managed sales teams that drive maximum revenue and create enduring customer relationships to exceed revenue, operational and strategic goals. Terry is currently a Partner with Funnel Metrics, LLC, a leading professional services firm that offers a unique suite of sales enablement and performance management solutions designed to help businesses improve revenue growth and predictability.a Previously, Terry worked as an executive sales leader for major companies including Culligan International, Cendant Corporation, Whitman-Hart/marchFIRST, Digital Equipment Corporation, and others. He has supported dozens of clients as a consultant, trainer and project leader to enable effective sales organizations.

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