CRMs For Sales Teams: Are They The Right Solution?

Gartner predicts the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) market will exceed $36.5 billion in 2017. And yet, at the same time, Gartner has been one of the leading sources for reports of high CRM failure rates since 2001.

Over the years, studies into CRM failure rates, from Gartner, Merkle Group, Forrester Research, AMR, Butler Group and the Economist Intelligence Unit, show range for failed implementation range from 18% to as high as 80%.

On average, CRM failure is usually above or around 50%, with studies in 2009 and 2014 reflecting figures over a decade. It is hard to ignore this amount of research into the effectiveness of a group of products and business solutions. CRM’s are not cheap. They require an upfront and ongoing financial commitment, plus an investment of time from managers, analysts and sales agents.

Market leaders can and do charge premium prices, for providing a range of ‘add on’ services, from customisation to meet a client’s needs, to training that customers often can’t manage without. Despite high hopes around CRM rollouts, achieving an ROI often proves more difficult for business leaders and directors and is never quantified by vendors in advance. This is especially frustrating, and costly when a CRM is positioned as a core tool for customer service, marketing and sales functions.

Field Sales Teams and CRMs: What Problem Are You Trying to Solve?

Although CRM failure rates are hard to ignore, we need to stop and think a moment about their purpose. There success and benefit in call centres are easy to understand, but they are then often forced in field sales to bring down the cost per user. Which is why we need to ask, are they the most suitable solution in a sales function?

Marketing teams and call centre managers love them. CRM’s can consolidate every customer interaction into a ‘single customer view,’ making it easier to sell products and services across multiple internal contacts.

Sales teams — inside and field — also manage customer relations; hence the widely held belief that they need CRM access. Most sales managers would say that isn’t the case, managing the customer is not their key issue; they don’t need a CRM, they aren’t designed for the challenges of managing field sales teams.

Sales managers are tasked to solve one problem. Just one: Hitting the sales number. Remembering that a sales manager can not manage the output — the sales number — he can only manage the input. Managers need practical ways to get the most from their team. Supporting, training and coaching their team to do better. In this context, here are a few questions managers need to know most days:

  • How many calls are my team making and what is the variance across the team?
  • How many meetings are they taking and how well — or not — are they going?
  • What’s the state of the pipeline and how likely — or not — are we going to secure the current deals on the table?
  • Are my team meeting the right people (decision makers, budget holders, etc.)?
  • Are they visiting the most profitable accounts often enough to ensure they keep buying from us?

Spotlighting The Key Problems

With a CRM, managers often end up buried in the CRM looking at individual customers, which — more often than not, in our experience — makes a sales manager less effective. Marketing and sales need different data. What works for one, doesn’t work for the other.

Sales managers, in particular, don’t need to know everything about each customer interaction from the call centre. The relevant insights come from their own team. Instead, they need actionable insights on how their team are performing, so they can provide the right support, training and coaching.

CRM’s aren’t able to provide these insights. Time is one of the key problems with trying to use a CRM as a sales management tool. It can take up to thirty minutes for a field sales agent to update a CRM after a meeting, which is one reason many refuse to use them or do it at the end of the week or month. Now imagine trying to wade through all those reports. Busy managers don’t have time. Assuming they review the data on a Friday, even if the customer visit data has been entered a whole week has been lost if they want/need field sales agents to take action — to see more customers, take some meetings or look for new opportunities.

As the saying goes, “You do not get a second go at the week that has just ended.” With the most relevant data, you could get a team back on track mid-week, instead of trying to course correct a week or two after an opportunity has flown past. We have numerous examples of sales manager getting key metrics on the number of meetings team members have taken. If they were meant to take 5 per day, but have only managed three, then by alerting them Tuesday night, they can still make up the numbers the next three days.

From a sales perspective, CRMs fail as a useful tool to increase revenue from a sales team. Managers need a spotlight on the problems they can solve, which means a way to improve the performance of their team.

Find out how you can get the data you need to manage your sales team:

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