The only value of a CRM system is the quality of information in its databases. What good is information from the field that is a month old before it is reported? Of what help is information to a manager or to the organization when the manager doesn’t read reports regularly?
Here is a note sent from a manager to a sales rep:
Why are all these reports so old. There are no new reports that have been filed in this last batch. Not really any point filing reports this old; as Jim and I read them, we can’t really do anything with reports a month old. Are you this far behind on your call reports? Have you filed your more recent reports?”
Two things we might surmise from this statement: (1) the sales rep is not reporting his sales meeting information immediately or regularly, and (2) the sales manager isn’t reading reports anyway, as he doesn’t seem to notice the missing information until a month has gone by.
1. Sales reps who do not report immediately and regularly
Again, the problem is the quality of the CRM database. Sales reps who do not report immediately following a sales event are limiting severely the capability of the database to aggregate or accumulate information sufficient for a reader to see and understand patterns. The only information of any worth in a CRM database is that sufficiently accumulated to reveal patterns and trends. We have to have bulk, mass, accumulation from all sources of good information if we are to “see” (discern or detect) patterns. Therefore, it is imperative with a CRM system that the sales team understands its responsibility to create a continuous flow of good information into the CRM system databases. Regular reporting isn’t a merely trivial administrative activity that is forced onto the sales team. It is not something of choice. We need the sales reps to report because the entire CRM database depends on mass and accumulation for meaningful understanding, analysis, decision making, and action. A sales rep who withholds information for a month before reporting it doesn’t understand what is going on with a CRM system implementation. Once they understand, they contribute willingly and meaningfully.
2. Sales managers who do not read sales reports immediately and regularly
This is the most interesting issue with CRM sales team reporting – a manager who doesn’t read the reports coming in. Sales reps are quick to pick-up on this lack of attention by the manager, and they delay, procrastinate, and often fail to report at all, knowing there are no consequences for not reporting and no purpose for reporting at all. In many companies, because sales managers do not read the reports, the reporting function languishes and disappears. What is the consequence of this? What the sales manager doesn’t realize is that the quality of the CRM function for the entire organization depends heavily on the continuous inflow of accurate, current, and complete information from the field, from those closest to the customer relationship experience. By failing to pay attention to the reporting function, the sales manager – not the sales reps – is seriously compromising the value of the investment the company has made into its CRM program.
We encountered a sales rep who was writing this statement at the bottom of each of his daily sales reports: “If there is anybody out there reading this, please give me a call at (phone number).” For over a month, no one responded and he kept adding this statement to his reports. When we flagged this to senior management and they went checking with the sales manager, they found that the sales manager was so busy doing his own paperwork and tasks that he didn’t have time to read the sales reports and respond to them. He was fired on the spot because of his failure to understand organizational priorities.
We often ask, “If your most productive sales rep, the one bringing in the most revenue, won’t report his/her sales activity, would you fire him/her?” If the answer is yes, then the priorities of the organization towards its commitment to a quality CRM database are clear. If the answer is no, then the “tail is wagging the dog,” and revenue production ONLY is the activity of greatest interest in the organization and they should not have invested in CRM in the first place. Any simple activity tracking software would have worked better. Companies often have Lone Ranger hero sales people who “do their own thing” and seem to be successful in producing. If revenue only is the goal of management, then this is tolerated and even applauded. However, if long-term customer relationship and care management (CRM) is the goal of management, then this person needs to change or be let go. The CRM databases need this person’s sales meeting information, without exception, and the person should consider it his/her sales responsibility to report immediately and regularly.
The purpose of buying and implementing a CRM system is the quality of the databases that will result and the power that gives to everyone in the organization to see patterns in the data, to understanding more clearly what is going on, to apply meaningful analytics for clearer sense of pattern, to engage in fruitful decision making, and then to take proper action. With that goal in mind, it is easy to see why a sales rep who does not report any of his/her customer interactions for months on end, why a sales manager who doesn’t read the reports and only talks about the issue after months of non-reporting have gone by are serious constraints to a powerful and successful CRM system.