Category Archives for "CRM"

4 Insanely Unacceptable Reasons Salespeople Resist CRM

Resist CRM
Resist CRM

A well-planned and deployed Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can be the single most valuable resource for organizations looking to build a systematic, predictable and productive process for its sales force.

In recent years, things have somewhat improved, but numerous studies still show that on average 40-50% of salespeople still resist CRM. Consider data from recent survey by ZS Associates citing that 72% of sales leaders don’t believe their people are spending enough time in CRM.

To still have this size of a gap in adoption 30 years after the first CRM hit the market just doesn’t make sense! That first incarnation was ACT! by the way – launched in 1986, it was essentially a digital Rolodex. You would think embracing CRM is a “no-brainer” with all it has to offer in helping people manage their territories better and ultimately make more sales – yet, here we are.

In fairness, there are some perfectly understandable reasons why this continues to be problematic and the major ones are listed below.

Valid Reasons Salespeople May Resist CRM

  1. It hasn’t been designed, deployed and customized to make it as simple as possible to use
  2. It’s the wrong CRM for the business – usually because the right people weren’t included in the selection process
  3. The “executive” and/or senior sales leaders haven’t fully “bought into” CRM, so it never gets ingrained into the organizational or sale cultures – if the brass doesn’t care, salespeople won’t. For example, I recently heard a sales VP at a large company tell me “my reps only have to use the CRM if they are below plan – after that, I don’t care”
  4. The setup and flow of the CRM and its use, are misaligned with the sales methodology or other critical processes
  5. People haven’t been properly trained, or there is no on-going support and continued training – in this situation, there often isn’t a “champion” or owner driving the program

There are others you can read about here, but the points above are key fundamentals that need to be in place for CRM to succeed. For the most part, if the system has been carefully planned, set up with the user in mind and fully supported, the vast majority of salespeople will adopt – the exceptionally good ones will recognize CRM as a way to help them become even better.

Unacceptable, Lame and Over-Used Excuses!

Assuming the CRM “house” is in order, no salesperson worth the title should have a reason to make any of the following claims. If they are, I suspect it’s part of a larger issue. As you will see, I’m being a bit playful with this. But I know sales managers continue to get these excuses because I occasionally still hear them in my travels.

“I can’t learn it, it’s too complicated“

Learning any new technology can be a challenge, but once you figure it out, the journey often comes with some satisfaction from the accomplishment, plus a new marketable skill. Here are some of my favorite complaints about learning CRM, along with my responses – as brutally honest as some may seem. When the words “I can’t” are used, that often translates to “I don’t want to,” or “I’m not going to.”

  • “I’m not very not technical”
    Really? How is anyone without the ability to learn technology holding down a sales job or any job for that matter in 2016? Learning CRM is not rocket science if people make the effort. The irony is that the people using this excuse likely figured out how to use social media, a mobile device and MS Office suite all on their own. If they can master those marvels of technology, they can surely learn how to use a CRM.
  • “I’m too old to learn this”
    I didn’t want to go here, but maybe it’s time for these folks to think about playing more golf, buying an RV, or any other activities that will occupy their former work days.
  • “I don’t have time to learn anything new”
    They have to make the time! Either they are doing too many of the wrong things or their patches are way too fat and some should be given to their team-mates to help them cope with the time management problems. Learning is part of the job. Would these same people bow out of sales training because they don’t have time? Are they too busy to research prospects before calling on them?

This is an age when we must all continually learn or get left behind. Yes, it takes an open mind and commitment, but technology is not going away anytime soon!

“I don’t need a CRM because I’m already organized”

First off, if someone’s style of record keeping involves multiple versions of spreadsheets, sticky notes, or cocktail napkins, they are definitely not “already organized.”

If on the other hand, they honestly believe everything is fully under control at all times, congratulation them – that means they should have time to learn all about the new CRM. This is not just about staying organized in any case – it’s also about these important benefits:

  • building a historical base of information about your accounts, territory and all sales opportunities – which a company technically owns and would very much like to have for all the years to come.
  • leveraging the many other valuable features in today’s CRMs that go far beyond simply organizing prospects and clients. CRMs also helps people manage their sales cycles, communicate inside and outside the organization, access collateral and selling tools, store proposals, manage critical activities, automate repetitive tasks, receive notifications when something in the business changes, and much more.

The bottom line is that CRM is a tool to help people think more strategically about their sales approach and then execute better – this leads to greater productivity and more sales. Who in their right mind doesn’t want that?

“I don’t have time because I’m too busy actually selling.”

This is one of my favorite themes and it can be for anything that a “busy” salesperson thinks is too administrative or a waste of time – this can include sales reports and meetings, 1-on-1s with managers, corporate meetings, call planning, follow-ups, submitting paperwork – well, you get the picture.

If someone honestly believes that using a tool to help them become more strategic and efficient is a waste of time, then maybe they’re right and should be out randomly knocking on doors until their knuckles bleed. But I think most would agree this is not the best approach.

For those with hundreds of accounts, how can they possibly manage them without things falling through the cracks? How can they run reports showing activities they need to focus on to keep sales cycles progressing? How can they share a pipeline report with a sales manager if they’re not updating CRM?

The fact is, all these things are fundamental components in the sales process and being strategic and prepared will produce far better results than just winging it. The time spent in CRM is vitally important and when used as it should be, the investments made upfront will actually provide more quality selling time soon after.

“This is for the company’s benefit, not mine”

Yes, the deep dark secret is out – Big Brother is watching every move. Deal with it! A salesperson essentially gets paid to run their own little business within a larger partner. To succeed, both parties need metrics, forecasts, pipeline reports and other pieces of information to make better decisions, learn and adjust. The company has every right to know what employees are doing and how. For anyone running a business, this makes perfect sense. So why is it so hard for some people to grasp?

No one should take it personally – if they’re doing their job, there’s nothing to fear. If the quota is getting knocked out of the park, the CRM, or any other reporting tool becomes suddenly becomes a best friend when others are looking at the data. It’s not like sales managers everywhere had an epiphany one morning and suddenly wanted to know how things are going. Keeping tabs on sales people happened long before CRMs came to be. The difference is that the tracking is far easier and more useful than ever before. You stragglers out there need to understand that CRM can help you increase your income. When you win – so does the company. They are not out to get you!

Many salespeople will tell you they love CRM and can’t imagine working without it. Others will accept it, use it as intended, but not necessarily like it. For those still digging in their heels and making a conscious decision to resist CRM, it’s time to suck it up and get with the program. If someone finds CRM that difficult to use, they should make suggestions to improve it and ask for more help. As the saying goes – they need to become part of the solution!

CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation

CRM Best Practices
CRM Best Practices

For most companies today, their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is the primary tool for managing sales and marketing information.

A forecast from Gartner estimates the CRM market was worth $27.5 billion worldwide in 2015 and anticipates it rising to $37 billion by 2017. This year, Gartner expects Enterprise CRM will outpace ERP sales for the first time in history. As compelling as the story is for CRM, it’s not an easy road for some – especially if adoption is a struggle. Getting sales and others on board is often cultural or process challenge rather than issues with the CRM itself. Fortunately, research shows that adoption numbers are turning a corner as companies get better at deploying and managing their CRMs.

I have always been a huge CRM fan because I’ve experienced first-hand the many advantages. Of course, I’ve seen the “belly flops” in my travels as well. Through it all, I’ve learned much about how to make CRM add real value to a business, In this article, I’ll share six highly foundational and strategic tips that can help your CRM project get off to a great start. These are essential if you want to succeed and create a solid ROI – or any for that matter.

Shown below is an overview of the key benefits and capabilities sales and marketing should expect from their CRM if it’s done right. I’ve included a separate marketing automation system, which is an optional but integral part of an “ideal” scenario. Most CRMs these days include some level of automation built in, but they’re not as robust as standalone applications.

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

Building a Solid CRM Foundation

#1 Gain Executive Buy-In
A high-functioning CRM can produce impressive results, but It’s usually a big investment among many competing priorities. The fate of CRM success depends heavily on the level of executive support. This means your CEO can’t stand in front of the team a few months from now talking about your new CRM, and then ask “how do I sign into this darned thing?” The sales, marketing, IT and other leaders involved must share the same level of commitment, or your CRM project will likely not survive. Success will rely on your people and processes more than the technology. For the owner of the project, this means a great deal of executive communication and collaboration – before, during and after the decision has been made to proceed.

#2 Create a Plan
CRM is typically a large-scale corporate undertaking involving many complexities and stakeholders. Before you deploy it, be clear about what you want to achieve. Decide who will use it and how. Understand what the data mapping will be relative to other connected systems. Clearly define how you will deploy, test, train, support and improve your CRM over time. It sounds intuitive, but you would be surprised how many companies fail to do this adequately and then pay the price later. Be sure to think about how success should be measured. It’s also important to know the needs and concerns of your different user groups and then plan how you will address them to gain support.

#3 Build It for Users
CRM is designed to improve effectiveness and productivity, but that can only happen when your users see the benefits and embrace them. Don’t design or position the system as a management tool for “big brother” to keep watch. Don’t make it overly complicated either. If you do one or both of these, the CRM simply won’t fly, so stop now and save your money! Some ways to help this will be presented at another time. However, the key themes are: keep it relevant, keep it simple, and ensure it’s set up to help people do their jobs easier and better.

#4 Provide Training & Support
This is two-fold. First, the people responsible for CRM will need to be well trained – including the system itself, plus the customizations and processes you will use. Most vendors offer a “train the trainer” program. The core team could be internal, consultants, or a combination of both. Next, come the end-users. Make sure everyone understands the importance of CRM to the strategy and growth of the organization. Ensure each user is clear on the CRM’s use as it relates to their respective roles. Document your training for new people coming in and as a reference for existing users. It’s better still if you can create instructional click-by-click videos. Once training is complete, there will be questions, so be sure to offer responsive support to help get users up to speed as quickly as possible. This is crucial during the first few months.

#5 Mandate Adoption
This area is by far the one that “makes or breaks” CRM success. For sales, in particular, I would argue that CRM usage should be part of the job description and have some weight in performance appraisals. There simply can’t be exceptions. I once had a sales VP tell me “our reps only have to bother with CRM until they make their quotas – after that, they can do what they want.” How well do you think that CRM program worked? Adoption starts from the top and must be continually reinforced.

One of the best ways to get sales people using CRM is to stop the “spreadsheet madness” that comes with pipeline and forecast review meetings. Don’t accept any data not sitting in the CRM – period! I like the adage “if an opportunity isn’t in CRM, it doesn’t exist.” It’s best to review the data directly from your CRM on a projected screen in sales meetings and use custom views showing the key fields you need to see. People will be a little embarrassed in this situation if they haven’t come prepared, and the behavior should quickly change. If not, the Sales Manager may need to take a more aggressive stance. Again, 100% adoption must be enforced if your CRM is to deliver on it’s full potential. Successful sales people usually see the value in short order and take full advantage of it. But, if others don’t get with the program, understand why and fix it. It does take some time to learn a new system, so it’s best to have a pre-defined cut-off point if you’re moving into a new CRM. A few weeks to a month after training should be more than enough time in most cases.

#6 Communicate Results
Track, measure and communicate results and benefits shown from using CRM over time. Show how it’s impacting sales productivity, marketing campaigns, customer satisfaction, and service (if CRM is used for that purpose.) The more value you can show to senior management, the more support you will have. When you create a positive buzz from end-users, they get others excited about adoption as well. Ideally, in your planning phase, you have established some goals and metrics that you can track against in a meaningful way.

Hopefully, you have picked up a point or two here that helps. I’m coming at this from the B2B sales and marketing perspective and didn’t touch on the many powerful CRM capabilities around service, support, social media tracking, and help desk integration. For B2C and retail, CRM tends to be more focused on direct customer interaction and end-client experience. That said, these tips are applicable to any CRM implementation. They build the critical foundation needed for CRM to have the significant impact it can and should. In the next installment of the series, I’ll focus on ways to make CRM easier to use, better maintained, and explore added functionality to draw out further value.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and would love to hear your thoughts about CRM implementations or any experiences you can share. Please follow us on your favorite social feed and contact us if we can help in any way.

CRM Best Practices: Make CRM Easier to Use & Increase Adoption

Making CRM Easier
Making CRM Easier

In a previous post called CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation, we walked through 6 crucial steps needed to get CRM off to a great start.

In the post, we outlined the key foundational components of CRM effectiveness. In this article, we’ll look at 8 practical and proven ways to make CRM easier to use.

Today’s CRMs are incredibly powerful and robust but this can be a double-edged sword. As with most software programs, vendors continually increase functionality, flexibility, customization and integration options. These are all good things, but they also add complexity and can make the system more difficult to learn and use.

The following ideas will help make CRM easier to use for both end-users and the people managing the system. Full adoption of CRM is critical and most times it’s an “all or nothing” proposition. Your CRM must be fully utilized if you want to standardize and simplify processes, have accurate reporting and ultimately increase sales.

Here’s a quick re-cap of the “foundational” tips that were presented in CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation:
1. Gain Executive Buy-In
2. Create a Plan
3. Build it for Users
4. Provide Training & Support
5. Mandate Adoption
6. Communicate Results

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

8 Tips for Making CRM Easier to Use

#1 Minimize Fields
When deploying CRM, people have a tendency to include fields that are rarely if ever used. People think “we might need this” but don’t stop to ask themselves “why.” In the planning phase, a good approach is to critically challenge every field you want to include. Why is it important? What purpose does it serve? Does it feed a measurement that needs reporting? If you don’t have a valid reason for a field, exclude it.

#2 Customize Page Layouts
Most CRMs allow you to define roles, permissions and page layouts based on different user groups. Use this feature when you set up your CRM. Only show fields that are relevant to each user type. For example, Marketing often creates custom fields to track awareness and engagement levels before opportunities convert. If people in the Service department use the CRM, they don’t need this data and likely don’t care about it. So don’t include it in their respective views of the system. This keeps their screens from being too distracting.

Another aspect of simplifying page layout involves “related lists.” Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities typically reside in distinct sections of the CRM and are often referred to as objects. These objects can contain data from other objects that sit under the main body of information. Often, the default includes a number of related lists that seldom get used. It’s best to take those off your page layouts if they’re not useful.

#3 Reduce Required Fields
The primary way to “force” a user to input specific data is with the dreaded “required field.” Some fields are absolutely a must, but think about your process and make sure you don’t have required fields that are not essential. Nothing annoys a user more than making them enter data they don’t think is relevant. If a field is important and should be required, a good start is explaining why it matters. Keeping required fields to a bare minimum helps productivity and reduces frustration.

#4 Simplify Lead Creation
When it comes to leads in CRM, most are early stage or not prospects at all. This is why CRMs typically use a separate lead database so you don’t clutter up your accounts with useless data. The idea is to create (or import) leads in a way that takes very little time. Keep your lead record simple! The company name, contact name, lead source, interest, industry, city, email, and phone number will generally do. If you import lists with full addresses and other information, that’s fine – but, don’t ask people to type it in. Once leads convert and there is substance to an opportunity, data will increasingly be added during the sales cycle.

#5 Use Automated Formatting
Most CRMs allow some degree of automation. It varies between products so to start you should invest time learning about your CRM’s capabilities specifically around: 1) Easing data entry by automatically formatting certain types of information and leveraging dependent picklists: and 2) Any other features that save keystrokes or unnecessary navigation.

#6 Simplify Field Names
Don’t confuse users with field names that differ from other internal systems. If your entire company refers to those who have bought your products as “clients,” don’t name the CRM field “customers”. Creating a corporate “standard naming convention” document is a great idea if you don’t have one already. The more familiar you make your field names in CRM, the better. If you use custom fields, make them intuitive, short and simple. Titles that are too long will make your reporting unwieldy.

#7 Use Help Buttons
A great feature of most CRMs is that you can customize help buttons (usually a question mark symbol) to provide real-time instruction if people are not sure about a specific field. If you have this feature, use it. Obviously, you don’t need to explain what a zip code is, but if it’s a custom field, this is a perfect way to help users understand what the field is for and how to use it properly. For required fields, this is a good place to describe why a field is needed. This also makes training for your CRM easier and helps people get up to speed faster.

#8 Make it Mobile
Like websites and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications – it needs to be mobile. Many users work in the field – especially salespeople. If they can’t access their CRM data in a way that’s productive, that is a severe limitation. The good news is that virtually all SaaS-based CRMs offer a mobile app version of their software. If they don’t, or you’re considering a licensed CRM without strong mobile capabilities – stop now and save your money!


If you have built a good foundation, making your CRM easier to use is guaranteed to improve adoption and effectiveness. Ease-of-use is heavily impacted by simplicity, a clean interface, and relevance. Think about CRM from the user’s perspective and always challenge yourself in your set-up decisions. It’s been proven time and again that whether it’s a machine, a website, or a software application – positive user experience is often the difference between success and failure.

Please share any ideas, thoughts, or experiences you may have on this topic. Contact us if we can help with your CRM project, or point you in the right direction.

CASL and B2B Marketing – What You Need to Know!

CASL and B2B Marketing
CASL and B2B Marketing

Ever since Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation or CASL came into effect, it has been a source of fear and loathing for Canadian marketers relying on email to help fuel growth.

A common fallacy is that CASL applies mainly to Business-to-Consumer (B2C) companies.
Some believe the rules are more relaxed in a Business-to-Business (B2B) context, but this is not the case! With the risk of hefty fines, tarnished brand reputations, and future civil suits expected to increase, Canadian business operators cannot afford to ignore the rules.

CASL Basics

CASL (Bill C-28) passed into law in late 2010, to replace the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. The Law is Canada’s attempt to follow in the footsteps of similar European regulations and the far less rigid CAN-SP​​​​AM law in the US. All are meant to cut down on irrelevant or offensive commercial emails filling personal and business inboxes.

Automated website scraping programs make it easy to harvest huge numbers of email addresses without consent from their owners. CASL was meant to crack down on this, along with other related forms of intrusive and misleading marketing practices. The law is a direct response to Canadians fed up with spam. A 2015 survey by itracMARKETER found 54.5% of Canadians would consider legal suits under CASL for spam violations. Since it’s inception, CASL has been a phased-in approach. Enforcement began on July 1, 2014 and the final provisions went into effect on July 1, 2017.

Governing Bodies

The three agencies overseeing CASL include the Canadian Radio-Television and Communications Commission (CRTC), the Competition Bureau, and the Office of the Privacy Commission. Each jointly enforces different aspects of the law regarding Commercialized Electronic Messages (CEMs). A CEM, according to the CRTC, is any email or SMS message delivering text, images, voice or sound that promotes a product, service, property or person for the purpose of sales or subscriptions.

The rules for CEMs, according to the CRTC, apply to “all communications sent by Canadian companies to other Canadian businesses or messages routed through Canadian Servers.” In other words, CASL applies to any organization sending CEMs within Canada or from elsewhere but through servers located on Canadian soil. Canadian companies sending CEMs to the US or other countries will need to comply with privacy laws in those respective jurisdictions.

Legal Impact

Violating CASL is not good for business. Penalties start at $200 per violation and scale to a maximum of $1 million a day for individuals and $10 million a day for organizations. Given that online marketing campaigns can contain thousands of emails, CASL fines can rack up very quickly. Regulators have already levied hefty fines on several Canadian businesses for non-compliance. The biggest penalty to date was a $1.1 million fine handed down to Compu-Finder, a Quebec-based B2B company which at that time had accrued a quarter of the spam complaints received by the CRTC’s Spam Reporting Centre. The law also imposes liability on those who “permit” spam. So if you’re a CEO or manager, you may be responsible for any employee-related CASL violations that occur under your watch.

The CRTC and Privacy Commission ultimately faulted Compu-Finder for: being negligent in its record-keeping; not using an adequate unsubscribe process, and sending promotions unrelated to the work of numerous recipients. For instance, Compu-Finder, which delivers lessons mostly in French in two Quebec cities, sent promotional CEMs to people thousands of miles away. One complainant reportedly included a government scientist receiving Compu-Finder emails about lessons on improving business profits.

The CASL Chill Effect

A key point of controversy over CASL concerns how it differs from its US counterpart CAN-SPAM – the latter is an “opt-out” system where users must indicate they no longer want to receive promotional emails. In contrast, CASL is “opt-in”, where marketers must acquire proper consent from potential recipients before clicking that send button. The onus is then on the sender to prove consent is granted or inferred.

CASL critics, including many marketing firms, consider this opt-in feature to be highly restrictive, putting Canadian business at a disadvantage. A major issue is that CASL contains few mechanisms for dealing with foreign parties sending spam into Canada from countries with weaker anti-spam laws, including the US. Critics also claim CASL’s severity creates a “chill effect” that especially hurts small-to-medium-sized companies who rely on eMail marketing as a cost-effective channel for lead generation.

The law has proven to be double-edged. Research published by the network security firm Cloudmark, for example, found that a year after CASL went into effect, Canadians received two-fifths (39%) less spam and over a quarter (29%) less email. This is a good thing when it concerns workplace productivity.

However, of the Canadian businesses surveyed, almost half said CASL had hampered their promotion efforts (39%) or had impeded their ability to compete with US companies (48%). Ten percent said they had stopped sending commercial emails entirely – while another 30% stated they had significantly paired down their email lists.

B2B Boundaries of CASL

CASL does contain several intentional caveats meant to lessen the burden for B2B marketers. These include exceptions for family members, friends, and a few other groups. The most salient of these exceptions are conditions regulators lump into a category called “implied consent.” In brief, implied consent includes conditions when:

  • Conspicuous Publication – email addresses are publically available in online directories, websites or trade magazines as examples.
  • Disclosure – an email address was provided – i.e. someone gave you their business card or email address.
  • Existing Business Relationship – there has been a transaction, inquiry, application or written contract for the purchase or barter of products, goods or services.
  • Non-Business Relationship – the recipients are members of your organization, or they provided volunteer work, a donation or gift.

These exceptions provide B2B eMail marketers a few situations exempt from CASL’s opt-in consent requirements. But they’re still open to some interpretation. In a January 2014 Privacy Bulletin, the Canadian law firm McMillan concluded a B2B business could use these exceptions as a rationale for cold emailing possible clients. The same bulletin also warned CASL’s implied consent rules contained many fuzzy spots that will take time for courts and regulators to iron out. In the interim, the firm recommended caution – a message many businesses have taken to heart in cutting back their email lists and campaigns.

Key CASL Take-Aways

  • CASL is just as important for B2B as it is for B2C.
  • The laws are here to stay and in another year they will be even more stringent.
  • On July 1, 2017, individuals and businesses will have the right to sue for CASL violations. Also, B2B email lists containing contacts with “implied consent” status will need review as some will no longer be eligible. Between now and then, companies need to clean up their email lists.
  • Canadian B2B marketers should familiarize themselves with CASL’s exceptions. An excellent resource about this is available on the CRTC website. It’s also worth visiting the Canadian Government’s page and Deloitte’s FAQ.
  • Carefully documented opt-in lists and record-keeping are also important aspects of CASL compliance.
  • B2B marketers must understand what the law considers “implied” vs. “expressed” consent (reference the links above for more information)

As bad as it may seem, there may be a bright spot with CASL. Adapting your B2B digital marketing strategy to CASL means moving away from mass mailing tactics towards highly personalized email campaigns focused on providing value. In other words, providing education and thought-leadership content to people who want it. With the right customized content, you generate better results more efficiently, because readers are more likely to be interested in what you have to say. At the end of the day, this all drives towards one of the most important tenets of marketing – relevance!

Disclaimer: Nothing stated in this article can, or should be considered as legal advice. The research and ideas presented come with interpretation and are intended to be purely informational.