Henry Thoreau in Walden talks about a gnat’s wing on the rail of a railroad track that derails a train. He felt that sometimes nature, despite how fragile it seems, has power to thwart our most sophisticated technologies. Remember the story of David and Goliath – a little guy with a single stone brings down the heavily armed techno-giant. Remember the “Butterfly Effect” in chaos science, where butterfly wings moving in Asia mean terrible storms soon in New England. Little things and the individual person sometimes can have a powerful impact on much larger things.
Despite all of our CRM sophistication and computer/web complexity, all it takes to derail the CRM purpose and investment is one, little, individual human to exercise his/her free will and say, “I’m not going to tell you. I don’t want to. I’m not going to do it.”
Spoken or just felt, the powerful decision to not participate – “I’m not going to do it” – stops the most powerful information gathering software. “I don’t have time.” “What’s it to me if management knows or doesn’t know?” “Who cares anyway?” “CRM is just another ‘fad’ that will pass just like all of the other fads management has foisted off on us.”
In an organization, the positive benefits of a vigorous, continuous flow of accurate, complete, and timely information from the field into the CRM databases are realized when analysis of those data by managers reveals patterns that lead to clearer understanding, mature decision making, and proper action. That is why we buy and implement CRM systems; the purpose is good and positive and worthy of support by all sales reps.
Why is it that, somewhere along the CRM implementation timeline, individuals “opt out”?
TWO KEYS TO SUCCESS. As far as the sales reps “opting in” to participation in the CRM system, we have found two keys to making a CRM system run smoothly for those who will use the information from the CRM databases and those who will enter information into the system:
1. PARTNERSHIP. Upper management and the sales team need to partner in the work of gathering and using intelligence from the field – tie the upper management information needs to the sales reps information gathering capability.
For example, the relationship between a military General in a battlespace and his spies (intelligence gathering specialists) is critical for winning the battle. The General has to know what information he would like to obtain, and he has to communicate that need to the spies, so they can look for that intelligence and bring it back. It is the PARTNERSHIP between the General and the spies that wins the battle. Both sides know they are important and that what they are doing is valued and essential to the other and to the overall mission
In far too many business organizations, the sales people have no idea what management wants to know in the customer, competition, and industry marketplace, and the top managers give no instructions, no feedback, no collaboration to let the sales reps know that what they are doing is essential. A total disconnect exists between the two, a gap that separates whatever is going on at the top floors from whatever is going on with the reps or “scouts” on the street. Forming a strong, vigorous partnership between management and the sales team, so the information gathering function is respected, has dignity, and stature for all partners, eliminates the “I don’t want to” attitude quickly and decisively. TOGETHER they are working to develop business intelligence and insight to guide their striving together towards mutually-beneficial success.
2. SIMPLE. INTUITIVE VOICE-BASED DATA ENTRY TOOLS. The reporting function must be simple and intuitive – mouth and phone. Management must focus on tools that make the sales reporting function easy, fast, and natural. Ironically, the attempts to use IT (high tech) solutions thwart the partnership goal because they trivialize sales rep intelligence and motivation. They are a very quick “turn off” and “opt out.”
What is needed from the sales rep is his/her best insight and observation – very human capabilities. What is needed is explanatory, voice-based information going into the CRM databases, not merely activity numbers, jots, tweets, twits, and thumbs. Smart phones, tablets, speech recognition, and other “technological” solutions make the sales reps into “dummies.” They “dumb down” or seek to eliminate the complex (some would argue “messy”) human thinking, intelligence, and insight gathering capability of the sales reps, which causes them to lose interest quickly in the CRM system.
These “high tech” solutions trivialize the data gathering activity and, thereby, demean the sales rep function. “All they want is a number. They don’t care what is really going on out here. They wouldn’t understand what is going on with the competitors and the failure of our latest products if I explained it to them. They don’t care. It is too hard. Marketing just takes everything so personally; they don’t want to hear about it. Stay down under the radar!”
It is the obliteration of responsibility for insight and explanatory information that is so dispiriting and disheartening to a customer-centric, needs-based selling person. They want to talk. They have a story to tell. They see things and want to explain them and get management’s attention. They want to tell management the decisions the customer is making, but the tools they are being given to do so are either keyboarding based or gadget based, such that they are difficult, time-consuming, trivial, or dysfunctional. They need straightforward, intuitive, and respected voice-based CRM data entry tools.
So — (1) PARTNER UP top management and the sales team so they are working closely together to employ CRM to achieve shared and worthy objectives, and (2) GIVE VOICE-BASED TOOLS to the sales team to make reporting simple and intuitive.
Give the sales team a reporting tool like voice-based CRM data entry that uses the telephone for data entry, human transcriptionists for intelligent and accurate processing, and powerful software to sync the data automatically into the CRM system. All the sales rep has to do is dial the number, put in the ID number, speak in the words of the sales meeting, hang up, and then go on about the customer care and selling activity – 2-5 minutes rather than hours, 98% accuracy rather than 20% with speech recognition (requiring serious and time-consuming editing). The supporting voice-based system, then, processes the words into digital and enters them into the CRM databases.
Now, the PARTNERSHIP is working – Management is getting “good” data; Sales reps are HAPPY AND WILLING.