CRM systems: Vision vs.Reality







Organizations and management understand well the need and importance on leveraging on CRM solutions especially with today’s big-data trend. They look forward to benefiting the luxury of taking decisions based on data driven analytics rather than guts and intuition. But what’s happening on the ground is a different story.

The 1980’s saw the emergence of database marketing, which was simply a practice of setting up customer information into one accessible place.  In the 1990’s companies began to improve on CRM by making it more of a two-way street.

CRM as it’s thought of today really began in the early years of this century. It is when CRM firms identified a real need in the market, the need for better way to continuously update the understanding of customer needs and behavior, so that they could evaluate not only concrete statistics, but information on the motivation and reactions of customers within and after the sales process.
I remember in 2004-2005 when my friend and I acquired a job within Oracle as CRM and HRMS functional consultants, we felt we are flying high in the sky. Definitely we did not envisage the cloud part but we were positive these systems are todays trend and the future’s must. Today we thought of sharing our on-ground insights collected from two corners, Maher as a Sales Manager @ Oracle CRM and myself as a consultant within HEED, a boutique sales management consulting firm.
1. Difficulty of engaging Salespeople to Input Data
This is one of the most common problems organizations face. It is even a famous habit of  top sales performers.
Although I consider myself, being an MIS graduate and a former sales engineer for ERP solutions, an ambassador for such IT solutions, I could still remember the difficulty and lack of discipline I faced to continuously feed data into the system in my sales career.
Management comes to argue with us, why we don’t have time. In fact, it’s not a matter of time, but the problem lies behind the different types of energy required for each task. The energy needed to be an active productive sales person on one hand and the other type of energy required to have the discipline for any kind of reporting or admin work on the other hand. This extremist mixture of energies stands as barriers behind engaging salespeople with those systems.
Further salespeople unfortunately might see that any data they provide to the system would end up used against them.

2. Sales Process and Lead Management System

Many organizations believe the CRM would include and/or put a sales process in place. They assume CRM would draw the  sales process, or at least clarify how to put a process in place. They end up having some kind of stages, statuses and steps within the CRM but those terminologies link differently and subjectively between one salesperson and another within the same organization.
This is because all stages, statuses and steps are not well defined and unified by a Lead Management System in advance.

3. Selecting the Right System

Most systems have lot of features, but we miss the point of validating the link of those features with a solid architectural foundation.
  1. Many systems have the feature of inputting the type and industry of the client, but a good CRM should allow us to fit in our customer segmentation and how our salesforce is mapped according to this segmentation. Such architectural concept is crucial.
  2. Many systems include the feature and flexibility of creating many stages and categorizing every opportunity with its stage and even allocating a % of progress to the stage. But good systems should have the architectural flexibility to design your sales process within, in order to trace the progress of every opportunity and forecasts accordingly.
As a salesperson I should be able to visualize the journey every opportunity in pipeline went through and what sales activities, efforts and resources were allocated to, per stage. Such link would allow me identify what next steps, time and tools are still required to move this opportunity further.

The Solution

CRM systems should be introduced as a tool that aid salespeople to develop their performance rather than just a tool for management to analyze data and forecast outcomes. This is easy said than applied especially in transactional sales. Thus, such induction should  not be made once but rather implanted in salespeople mindset by repeating the message throughout all weekly meeting and coaching sessions. Case studies should be used as a reference for the benefit of the CRM for sales people.

As per the mixture of energies, a good solution would be by applying casual Fridays where no meetings are allowed, but rather a day to do all necessary sales preparations (prospecting, offers, emails…) and finalize all bulk admin and reporting work.

IT is an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it. None of the good-to-great companies began their transformation with pioneering technology, yet they all became pioneers in the application technology once they grasped how it fits within.
The point here is never to rely on a CRM to draw or clarify for you how to do a sales process. In fact a good system is the one that allows to implement and fit in it your own Lead Management System and Sales Process and not vice versa.

Last but not least, compensation plans (rewards and penalties) should be revised to include the new objectives. The question remains in this regards, do we penalize our top performers if they are not inputting data properly, especially when it comes to small-size teams where those people are exceptional?

As Shakespeare said “The fault lies not in the system but in ourselves.” In ourselves, in building the foundation first, choosing the right CRM and implanting a culture before implementing a CRM system.

How We Could Help
HEED comes in to aid in building the foundation required and the structure needed in order to develop your sales performance and get use and benefit of your CRM.   Our engagements include executing the set plan that link together people, plan, processes and systems.
Whether you have a CRM system in place or you are in the process of implementing a system, HEED will assist you in developing the foundation which includes but not limited to, the Lead Management System, Sales Process and the objectives and milestones properly linked to the CRM.
If you are facing such challenges or any other uncertain sales challenges, and interested in optimizing your sales performance feel free to contact us, or directly respond to


Managing Partner
Founder of HEED, a sales management consulting firm focused on aiding companies to structure, transform or optimize their sales by integrating science into selling.

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