June 13

Why don’t salespeople update the CRM?



I spoke with a potential client about her company’s lead management process.  When I asked about her CRM and how frequently sales team updates their database.  She replied flatly, “our sales team updates our CRM with varying degrees of commitment.”

I was reminded of experience last fall, when I spoke at MarketingSherpa’s Lead Generation Summit, I watched a presentation in which an audience member asked a great question.

She asked, “I’d like to do lead nurturing/lead generation on behalf of my salespeople but they don’t update our CRM – I don’t have the information I need – so I really can’t do anything to help them.  What do you suggest?”

I think it was Anne Holland, who then asked the entire audience, “How many of you [marketers] have a problem with sales not updating your CRM?” Nearly everyone (170+ people) raised their hands.

Why do you suppose (despite our best efforts) many salespeople seemingly avoid updating or skip updating contacts and notes in the database?

I wrote a few thoughts on the matter a while back, “Where Lead Generation meets the Bermuda Triangle.”

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About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Most (almost all) sales people avoid using CRM because they do not want their bosses to know what they are doing. Contrary to the common belief, what I have seen is that the ones who are good at sales love to use the CRM because it helps them keep track of their prospects. The ones that are not so good at being organized don’t like to use the CRM, because it makes them to get organized. It is all in the mind. I disagree with people telling that it take a long time to fill the data. In a day if you have a good meeting with 5 customers, then it takes about 15 minutes to fill the details in the CRM (unless you have never worked on a computer before). We ‘use’ vTigerCRM, and it takes about 2-3 minutes for me to fill the Account details, a couple of Contacts, and the Potential (requirements). If you are a little slow on the keyboard, it may take about 5 minutes per Account. I see sales guys spend at least 2 hours in a day smoking, messaging, and talking to their friends on the phone. It is all an attitude that says “Why should I do it?”

    I agree with the argument that CRM should not be forced but it has to be sold. We all know that it is much easier to sell something to a customer than to sell the same thing to your own team. We have to focus in BOLD alphabets how the CRM can help the sales guy and other team members.

  2. Full adoption is the key to a successful CRM. Forget whether or not documentation has a direct payoff for an individual, it’s necessary for the success of the entire company. After the investment, both time and money, a company makes to implement a CRM system, it should become a part of everyone’s job description.

  3. This is my favourite topic! Imagine if every sales rep had a personal assistant that took notes during all sales calls, by entering the details directly into CRM. The sales rep would enjoy this “Freedom to just sell” and welcome this service, right?
    Even if this crazy concept was economically feasible, most sales reps would resist it. In fact, my research has shown that the resistance by sales reps to having their activities recorded is the main reason CRM initiatives fail.
    If interested, please have a look at my blog on “The CRM Dilemma.”

  4. Brian,

    Great blog you have here…(first time visitor).

    Some great comments – but I like what Susan had to say… ” In my experience,when sales people resist using the database (whether a simple contact manager or CRM system) it is because the system ignored the actual sales process –either because it was developed in a vacuum without sales input, or through some figment of someone’s imagination, they thought they could just change the sales system, and the reps would start behaving/selling differently. Ha! Sales reps will use systems that help them sell. Do that –solve their sales problems as well as meet your data needs, and they will fill in the little boxes.”

    I have been involved in both a large scale CRM implementation and a small scale – doesn’t matter the size the same issue crops up. Anyone who is embarking on implementing a new crm or sales process had better get input from the people who will be using it. Get buy in, get buy in, get buy in. Make sure thay feel they are part of the development process and you are more likely to have compliance once the system is implemented.

    I will be back to the blog – keep posting.


  5. I sell CRM software and while I don’t want this to be a commercial, we designed it to be easy to use, first and foremost. After 8 years, it is still one of our guiding principles. Second, if the sales process is measured, and one component of the measurement is quality of data, and senior management uses the data in a CRM system, resistance to using the service will be diminished. If bosses don’t look at the information and hold people accountable, it doesn’t make any difference what you tell the sales force, they won’t be diligent about keeping things current.

    Finally, I agree with everyone about showing real returns. Find a good salesperson, give them the leads, have them become successful, and have them brag about the results.

  6. Let’s role play.

    Management: “Some of our sales people are really good and some are not so good. How can make the not so good ones as productive as the really good ones?”

    Management’s idea man (CFO?): “We measure their activity with CRM software. The metrics will tell us what good activity is.”

    Marketing: “Since we are getting CRM anyway, if we have the sales people enter key demographic data we can do our jobs better.”

    Product Manager: “If you can collect this additional information we can better determine what features to add to our future products.”

    CFO (idea man?): “With additional data we may get better forecasts and therefore I can do a better job of managing our cash flow.”

    Management Announcement” “OK team, we have this really cool application that is going to let us know who the really good sales people are and who the not so good sales people are. And if you fill in all the boxes, the marketing department, product managers, and the financial department (who we know are ALL really good at their jobs even though we don’t measure that) will have MORE data so they can be really, really better.”

    Common Sense:
    The really good sales people know who they need to talk to, where they are in the sales process (even if the company doesn’t have a sales process), why the prospect is going to buy, and who is going to sign the check. A “traditional” CRM system is NOT going to make the really good sales person more productive. The really good sales people are also probably generating their own leads.

    The not so good sales people don’t want you to know that they’re not so good. Just like the not so good marketing, production, financial, cleaning people don’t want you to know they don’t know what they’re doing.

    Hence, nothing good will come from the data in the CRM system anyway. The really good sales people will enter the minimum data required and the not so good sales people will “pad” their data with garbage.

    There are technologies that can make sales people more efffective, knowledgable, and professional (CRM/SFA are management tools not sales tools). But, in order for these to work, the foundation of a sound CRM system supported by a well designed sales process must be in place.

    New Role Play:

    CEO Announcement: “We have decided to implement a new CRM system to help us better communicate with our customers and prospects. We understand that an additional administrative load will be placed on our sales team. We have the best sales team in the world and I am sure they can handle the additional load. If you work diligently to be thorough and keep the data current, I promise our effort and investment to make you better and more professional sales people.

    I promise I will use the CRM system as a management tool to better interact with you, the life blood of our business, and help you be more effective, knowledgeable, and confident when representing our company value.

    I promise I will use the CRM system to focus more resources toward your success.

    I promise to never again ask you “What will you close this month?”, and instead I will be prepared to speak to you in terms of what resources you need to close your most immediate opportunities and advance your other opportunities through the sales process.

    I promise better collaboration between management, sales, marketing and customer service.

    And finally, I promise continuous improvement of the system, driven mostly by input from you, our customer-facing teams.”

  7. Great topic. And software adoption issues aren’t just the property of CRM and salespeople. Business software in general (from portfolio management, project management, business intelligence, etc.) has adoption issues.

    I would definitely agree that people inputting the data into the system have to see a benefit to them that’s tangible.

    In most cases the benefits of using a business application are closer to the top – managers, directors, executives – where they can view the data in an easy-to-digest format, measure things and evaluate overall company progress (in whatever the software is intended to measure). The users of the software, often those doing most of the heavy-lifting/data entry don’t necessarily see as much value, and so they’re not as eager to participate.

    And since it’s most often the higher level people gaining the most benefit, they need to put in some time, effort, money, etc. in order for the software implementation project to be a success. Don’t just throw the CRM tool at the salespeople and say “Use it.” Realize there’s going to be some process changes needed, which need to be handled properly and sometimes delicately. Realize that adoption isn’t guaranteed.

    In my experience having buy-in at the higher levels of the organization; one or two key executives that drive the implementation will help immensely. And having buy-in from one or two key people who will be using the software regularly as well. If one salesperson starts using it and sees value, others are going to jump onboard.

    Very often, from what I’ve seen, people sell business software as “the answer”. Most often it’s not. It’s one tool, used amongst other tools (processes, other software, training, etc.) to get a desired result. Software adoption is a tricky and complicated subject, which I think is often overlooked until someone logs into their CRM tool and says, “Hey…where’s all the data?”

  8. Great comments everyone.

    Based on your comments, we can do the following:

    1. Get buy-in (what do they want)
    2. Demonstrate value – answer “what’s in it for me?”
    3. Value our sales team’s time – make it easy.
    4. Provide administrative support

    To increase the odds that our respective sales teams update our CRM or databases, what else can we do?

    I once heard a sales expert say, “if you want your sales team to change their behavior you need to show them how doing it your way will give them a 300% return (time, productivity, commissions, etc.) other wise they won’t change”

  9. In my experience,when sales people resist using the database (whether a simple contact manager or CRM system) it is because the system ignored the actual sales process –either because it was developed in a vacuum without sales input, or through some figment of someone’s imagination, they thought they could just change the sales system, and the reps would start behaving/selling differently. Ha! Sales reps will use systems that help them sell. Do that –solve their sales problems as well as meet your data needs, and they will fill in the little boxes.

  10. I like what Susan said. We use a lead management program that lets us create the workflow. Our sales people resist change. It is hard enough to get them to use a web based applicaiton to keep track of thier leads; but then trying to have them conform to some workflow designed by another company, or a company in a totally different industry, forget it.

    Our program allows us to design everything from the data we collect, status levels, actions, emails, the entire pipline matches exactly what we had been doing in Excel prior to implementing.

    Training is still critical, and there is no doubt a learning curve, but at least we’re not fighting an uphill battle. At a minimum, the sales people recognize being more organized by having leads in one place, always updated.

  11. Why don’t sales people update the CRM? One, it takes too much time. I had the wonderful learning experience last year of watching my marketing turned sales husband struggle with “filling in the little boxes.”

    He was under a great deal of pressure to meet a very tough quota. Spending hours filling in the CRM was not the best use of his time — according to him — not when he could be in face-to-face meetings or making calls.

    The company also wanted every single box to have a piece of information in it — even if the salesperson hadn’t yet met with the prospect. (Talk about waste of time.)

    You said it yourself in the article you referenced — marketing and sales are not aligned. You can’t just foist a CRM program on sales and expect it to work. It would be great if marketing actually asked for feedback from sales on how they want to use CRM, what information they need to do their jobs, and what works best in terms of “filling in the boxes.”

    Dianna Huff

  12. I like ted’s reply… Hire a low wage clerical person to do that…

    Or create a new internal position called “Internal Intelligence Manager”.

    Your CRM system should also easily identify those who deserve rewards.

    Rewards can be in the form of money, time off from work, perks, stocks, blah, blah , blah.

    People are selfish by nature, and pressed for time. Whatever you ask them to do should be rewarding.

    I am new to CRM. We are trying our sugarcrm and love it.

  13. As one who actually sells software to business clients, I think CRM has great potential, but dies where the rubber meets the road. Why ask the salesperson to update the forms? Hire a minimum wage clerical person for that.

  14. Hi Brian. Great topic. I think Chris hit the nail on the head. The more you can demonstrate to salespeople that using their CRM system will help them close sales, the more they’ll be interested in giving it a shot. It takes time but most salespeople understand results so if you can show them how better results come from better CRM use then I’d think you’d make some friends on the sales force.

  15. One thought is that it’s up to us as marketers to leverage the data in CRM to show obvious benefits to the salespeople. If they can see what they gain by contributing data, they are naturally going to support an effort that traditionally has been all stick and no carrot.

    As you can imagine I am a big supporter of on-their-behalf email. Drive your email communications that actually leverage CRM data both in content and the relationship of the salespeople.

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