Is CRM hurting Sales? The answer might surprise you!
By Paul Shearstone
Begin with the premise: In today’s increasingly competitive global marketplace, CRM [Customer Relations Management]is essential for sales and corporate success. Add to that: The intent of CRM architects was and is, altruistic. CRM is designed to fulfill specific needs within the organization. But the elephant in the room here is, “Whose needs?”
Back in the 1990s when business was bad, and corporations were downsizing or as they laughingly put it, rightsizing, no one was safe from executive scrutiny and the corporate axe. With dwindling sales, sales management was an easy target. To survive in what was coined, ‘crises management’ one had to be able to demonstrate that they had a plan and/or were doing everything they could, to drive sales.
So, what did sales management do? Suddenly, sales reps had to fill out detailed micro-managed reports that monitored their every movement: The number of calls they made every day, the names of companies and customers they spoke to, what was discusses, how many phone calls / cold calls, et al. It was endless! The data, and the time necessary to complete the detailed minutiae, was ridiculous and often fictitious [made-up].
One could ask, who was served by this burdensome activity? The sales manager; who, when the corporate axe-holder showed up at his/her door, would survive because they could show reams and reams of data they hoped might do 3 things: 1) Demonstrate they had a plan and were working the plan, 2) Stand apart from other managers without a similar plan, and, 3) Their plan would send the axe-man down the hall to other managers – those without reams of ‘insurance’ data. Crises management – the way to survive! In hindsight, the irony was that burdening frontline sales reps with this reporting strategy actually drove sales down – demonstrably! Why?
With over 3 decades in successful frontline sales and, having a Masters degree in psychology, I can shed light on the empirical human factor that operates like a system-of-influence within the demands of professional sales and CRM.
Think about the behavioural attributes of the best sellers you have ever known. Outside of their innate people skills and high energy, what was it they did best, that garnered sales success? Their modus operandi was to ‘simplify’ everything. They were minimalists. But the question is, did they learn to be minimalists or, were they naturally [psychologically] wired to be minimalists?
I had the answer to this long before my psychotherapeutic training. In the late 70s, I was a national sales trainer and recruiter for a fortune 500 company. Every applicant had to take an aptitude test to determine whether they fit the traditional psychological sales success mould. I was trained to mark and measure the results of these tests that were surprisingly accurate. The fact is, there are ideal psychological profiles for almost every profession. I need only look at an individual’s profile graph and could say, “That’s an accountant, that’s a politician, that’s a scientist and ‘that’ is the perfect personality profile for a successful sales person.” All results – for the most part – as I said – were surprisingly accurate and beyond chance.
Within each profile there are detailed personality traits that exist on a spectrum that predict the adequate and sufficient fit of that individual within that discipline. For sales, high energy, above-average people skills, high need to control and dominate and high motivation to activate [get things done] are the essential components for ‘the right stuff’.
But they possess another strong personality trait. One in which they are not so strong. Detail!
In psychology we know every personality has its strengths and weaknesses. For accountants, doctors and lawyers, detail presents strongly within their unique personality traits. But rarely in the best sales people.
Sidebar: One of the challenges for those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hypertension Disorder [ADHD] is the inability to concentrate on ‘detail’.
You may find it interesting that psychological studies posit there is a disproportionate number of top sellers, business leaders/entrepreneurs [who often got their start in sales] who suffer from ADHD. In my case, I have ADHD and mild Dyslexia. Is it a coincidence that creative over-achievers like Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, John F. Kennedy, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, all suffer from ADHD? Despite their disorder, what were they all good at? They are minimalists. Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain something ‘simply’ then you don’t really know it”. The fact is, they possess the ability to take what for others in their profession is seen to be exceedingly complex, and make it look simple – minimize the detail. The same system-of-influence exists within the art and science of professional ‘successful’ selling. The question remains, however, do they do it because they want to or because they must?
Going back the question, whose needs is your CRM programme serving, you may find it’s not your frontline sellers but rather the ‘detail-oriented’ architects that crave data or the sellers of larger more complex [detailed] CRM solutions.
As a consistent top 1% seller in fortune 500 companies, I can unequivocally attest to the fact that too much of my professional face-to-face customer selling time [where sales are made] was sacrificed to filling out too many and unnecessary data reports. One could point out that computers have made CRM easier to monitor. I counter that with the logic in the early 1980s when I was selling photocopiers and network printers were introduced. It was believed that copier volumes should go down because computer printers would reduce the need for copying. The reality was, computers produced exponentially more data and printers produced exponentially more ‘originals’ that drove copier volumes and costs through the roof.
The Bottom Line:
CRM is essential and is here to stay. It is integral to sales and corporate success. There is no argument that too much of anything is bad. The danger with CRM is it is often designed to meet the needs of those who are detail oriented at the expense of those who are not – sellers… the lifeblood of any organization! So, how do you know if your CRM programme is right for you – is not hurting sales? Look at your sales, and then… ask your sellers!
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