Hang around any conference about CRM or any of the Sales 2.0 tools and sooner or later the issue of compliance comes up. Compliance is basically code for, “How do we get the sales people to use this stuff?” Virtually every CRM system has standard reports for managers to look at compliance. They can monitor who logs on, for how long, how frequently they are using the system. Various techniques are used to increase utilization, improving compliance—some of the techniques border on the draconian.
It’s interesting, I seldom hear conversations about compliance in any other sense. Think about it for a moment, how often do you hear heated discussions about Outlook (or whatever email system you use) compliance? What about Word, PowerPoint, or Excel (Again, substitute your favorite product names)? When we want people to search for information on the web, we don’t talk about Google or Bing compliance. The first thing a new hire looks for is a computer with all the log-ons and id’s, they know they can’t do their job without these tools or a computer.
I think the issue is the value of these tools is obvious and critical to sales people. Most of us would struggle to exist without email. It’s a primary communication channel with customers, colleagues, and friends. A sales person would never fight the use of Word, PowerPoint, or Excel. They need them to do their jobs, they couldn’t imagine life without these tools.
Yet somehow, CRM and many of the related Sales 2.0 tools haven’t reached this point in the minds of sales people. Sales people don’t see the value, they don’t understand what’s in it for them, they don’t understand how it helps them sell more, improve their impact, make their lives easier.
Perhaps that’s the issue. Perhaps we should stop talking about compliance or even measuring it. Perhaps we should focus on the value these tools bring to sales professionals, training them so they understand the value. Once sales people learn how to leverage these tools to help them win more business and improve their impact, I suspect compliance won’t be an issue.
There are other areas in which compliance is an issue in sales—leveraging the sales process, managing the pipeline, developing and managing account and territory plans, and many other areas. I suspect wherever compliance is an issue that managers are concerned with, there is an underlying more important issue—the people don’t understand how whatever it is improves their effectiveness and impact.
Perhaps anywhere when we find ourselves concerned about compliance, we should look at the real issue instead.
Paul Meyer says
What separates CRM from MS Office tools is efficiency, immediacy, and flow. MS Office tools just work, they are responsive, effective, and the ROI is immediate and tangible. Many sales professionals feel the same about Goldmine and ACT as they do about their MS Office tools. (I think of Goldmine and ACT as really good contact management tool, not full fledged CRM.) On the other hand, take Goldmine or ACT away and replace it with MS Dynamics or the Oracle CRM module and the frustration begins.
I’ve had recent experience with both Oracle and MS Dynamics, and in both cases I found the tools are slow to respond, have poor user interfaces, and are very difficult to use overall. In a word, these tools lack “flow”. With MS Office, most of the operations become muscle memory but with CRM, it always require a re-think to accomplish most every task. Frankly, these tool are painful to use.
A good tool is intuitive, easy to use, and makes it’s value immediately known to the user. (The iPad “just works”!) Well designed tools do not require training classes to demonstrate their value – it’s intrinsically obvious. This is clearly not the case with the Oracles CRM module or MS Dynamics.
In today’s world, CRM client tools need to be platform agnostic. They should not require the use of outdated web browsers, specific operating systems or specific kinds of hardware. Give a sales person a CRM tool on an iPad that has “flow” and compliance is sure to follow!
David Brock says
Paul: I agree with many of your points on usability. Most of the major CRM systems are just plain archaic in their GUI’s, workflow, etc. They need to be made more user friendly, more intuitive, and available on any device/platform/browser.
At the same time, however, it’s not acceptable to use this as an excuse (at one time, I remember commplaining about MS Office. Part of the usability/flow was improved, partly, my improved skills in using the systems overcame a lot of the useability issues.
There is great value sales professionals can get out of the current systems. In our company, none of us can imagine doing our jobs without having these systems–despite the unfriendliness of the user interface. Management and vendors need to focus on the value sales people get from these systems, training them and making sure it helps them on a daily bais, so people use them.
Thanks for the great comment.
Chris Phillips says
We sales people do not “comply” and use CRM tools because they are time-consuming and terrible. I lead a small media sales team. We’ve invited years and significant money into trying first Salesforce and then Netsuite. Both are non-intuitive, difficult to train on and hard to use. They require ongoing maintenance and training even for very basic functionality.
I know my sales team would embrase simple, clean tools that will help them do business better. So far, the best we’ve found is 37Signals’ Highrise. Unfortunately it lacks some features our business really requires — like assigning accounts to people. But it is nimble and fun to use.
You said “sales people don’t understand these tools help them sell more.” In my case, it isn’t that I don’t understand. I’ve spent months trying to make them help us sell more. Really, they just don’t work and are way more trouble than they are worth.
David Brock says
Chris: I empathize with the struggle you and your team have gone through. The GUI’s of so many of the major CRM systems are archaic and painful. Sometimes, however, I think sales people tend to use these as excuses for not leveraging the good things CRM systems can provide us. There are too many sales teams leveraging the same systems you mention and others, who are getting great value from the tools.
I think much of the issue is the attitudes we have with the systems. If focus on how we leverage the systems (inspite of the poor user interfaces), how we simplify what we do and how we leverage their power, then we can get tremendous improvements in our abilities to improve our productivity. Regards, Dave
John Stott says
Dave, you touch on a topic that is near and dear to me, and painful at the same time. I have lived and breathed the compliance issues, most specifically the entry of “junk” into the CRM to create the illusion of compliance. Frustrating beyond belief.
However, I fully believe that there are two major issues with CRM tools today:
1. CRM’s which are inflexible in adapting to a variety of similar, but different, businesses or industries – and therefore don’t really fit the business. The organizations sales process (if it has one) is not modeled in the CRM, but rather the CRM’s built in sales process is used for the business.
2. Not designing the CRM for either the customer served, or the group whose adoption is critical for success. The buyers process, which is not well identified in the CRM tool (or perhaps by the organization implementing the tool) doesn’t tie to the sales process, and so makes little sense to the users (inputters) of data – the very people whose buy-in is so necessary.
Fix both of those issues, and the compliance issues diminish, and the “whats in it for me” of the sales people gets a lot clearer.
David Brock says
John: Great input! The ability to incorporate the buying process into our CRM systems is very important and powerful. I haven’t seen any of the systems doing this well. I also tend to agree the systems need to be more adaptable to differing processes, industries, customer business models. Many of the systems have some capabilities for doing this, but it is very cumbersome or requires $1000’s in customization (that locks you in to certain approaches).
The vendors that provide these capabilities will certainly create greater value for sales professionals.
Jim Penney says
I agree with both David and your own comments re CRM. However,
the problem with many implementations is that Users expect the solution to their problems comes straight out of the box.
I have been associated with ACT! for since the initial release of ACT! 4 and have been impressed with the continued improvement in functionality and the effectiveness of the software in recent years. But there are also frustrations that the developers and manufacturers don’t always acknowledge.
The key to getting Sales Teams and Users generally on side and championing the solution is to understand what they really need to do their job with a minimum of effort and fuss. Simple steps to create their sales database, manage their schedule and their email/correspondence; keep in regular touch with their clients and ensure that they are concious of feedback to improve the customer relationship.
My approach is to seek a “Wish List” from them before we start , then design a structure that tailors the solution to their requirements in the knowledge that as they start using the system they will find their needs might change and they want more or less than they start with. Tailoring the solution means it is theirs to own and flexibility to implement change means that they feel they are not working with a tool that cannot change with the environment they work in.
ACT! is an inexpensive and very flexible platform from which to design and develop the solutions the sales team need. There are many Add-On packages that allow them to expand outside the square and not be confined by a fixed application.
David Brock says
Jim: You make an important point. Too many of the problems we have with CRM systems are less a result of the system, but more on the part of the implementation. We don’t have a good understanding of what we want to achieve with the systems, how the people should use the system to greatest value, and so forth. We just accept the “out of the box” defaults and fail to adapt the systems to what we want to do. Most systems have pretty easy ways to be adapted to how we want to use them. Some have great flexibility in being able to adapt to very specific workflows. Some have very rich add-on’s and app stores that allow us to further adapt the systems to our needs.
It’s important in each implementation to adapt the system to what we want to do, not change what we do to the system. Regards, DAve