By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales training tipsDecades ago, while selling clients their first business computer systems, I learned a valuable lesson: Software is only as good as the data that’s entered. Inept or disengaged data entry staff could disrupt the entire system. There was a phrase used in our office — “With bad data, technology just speeds up the mess.”

It seems deep within our DNA to resist change. Our first impulse is to cling to the status quo. Implementing software within sales organizations such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a significant undertaking. One way to judge willingness to change is to think benefit vs. disruption from the perspective of different roles.

Take a step back and consider that CRM provides executives security of their sales data and at least the perception that they have control of their pipelines. CEO, CFO, VP of Marketing and VP of Sales realize high benefit with minimal disruption from implementing CRM. They are in the “happy quadrant.”

However, salespeople and IT are in the “unhappy quadrant.” They see little benefit but have to deal with major disruption. Meaning no disrespect to IT, a large part of their job is to deal with disruption and the torrent of user complaints when new systems are activated.

Sellers are another story. Implementing a new system that affects workflow and requires significant input appears to be a distraction from their primary responsibility of generating revenue. Should anyone be surprised that adoption is often a challenge?

Here are three reasons sellers may be skeptical or outright hostile when implementing new CRM software.

1) Salespeople ask or wonder WIIFM (What’s in if for me?)

There is a fair amount of potential benefit CRM can provide to salespeople, but few companies attempt to “sell” them on the upside of inputting data and having greater visibility.

For example, capturing historical close rates and applying them to current pipelines can allow sellers to project a sales cycle to determine if they have enough activity to be ahead of quota year-to-date. Sales managers can be more proactive in managing by exception and getting involved when milestones are missed or opportunities stall at a certain pipeline stage. For new salespeople, a central database of previous interactions their predecessor had with prospects and clients can jump-start up time during their first months in new territories.

The desired results of a CRM implementation are higher win rates, revenue, and commission — all positive outcomes for salespeople.

2) One size does not fit all transactions.

One of the first efforts in implementing CRM is to define pipeline milestones. This amounts to creating roadmaps of how sales cycles should progress. For companies that didn’t already have milestones in place, this is a major step. But the mistake many sales organizations make is only defining the steps in major opportunities.

That’s fine if companies only have large transactions, but the vast majority of vendors work on many different types of sales: add-on business, new accounts, renewals, professional services, maintenance, large accounts, etc. For anything but major sales, the defined milestones involve many more steps and input that realistically should be required.

When milestones aren’t a fit, sellers have valid complaints in not wanting to provide extraneous information. As soon as sellers aren’t using CRM for exceptions, there is a slippery slope that can put adoption and acceptance in jeopardy.

3) Entering CRM data is time consuming and doesn’t match deal flows.

When doing biz dev, as an example, organizations don’t need to know very much about top of the funnel activities. Initial contact attempts will result in calls and hopefully buying cycles. Alternatively, prospects won’t be interested or contact can’t be made. Just bare bones information is needed to start making contact attempts.

If opportunities develop, the number of stakeholders involved increases and more data needs to be entered. Many people setting up CRM systems fail to realize sellers are “just in time” data entry clerks. When demands for data exceed what sellers feel is necessary at the moment, they start skipping steps and may or may not catch up to them later in the sales cycle.

Just because the software contains fields doesn’t mean they should appear in the input screen a seller uses. It’s important to limit input only to information that will provide meaningful reports. Many companies fail to differentiate between “must have” and “nice to have” data. Sellers quickly lose the will to input data if they feel the information requested isn’t relevant.

In conclusion, many sellers are free spirits who like to do things their way. Moving forward, my hope is that some of the issues raised can be addressed so the acceptance and benefits realized from the monthly cost of CRM for each salesperson can increase.

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