May 4, 2016

The One Thing Everyone Gets Wrong about CRM

BY John Paul Narowski IN CRM Software 0 Comment

The One Thing Everyone Gets Wrong about CRM Image

I’m about to say the unthinkable – that a primitive, cell-toting spreadsheet can be just as effective as any million-dollar-a-month CRM.

“WHAT?” you say? “Aren’t you the founder of a CRM company? Blasphemy!

It really doesn’t matter if you use a spreadsheet, a Rolodex, or a complex CRM; without the right strategy, you won’t make it far. It’s the development of this overall strategy that most people miss. If you rush this journey by jump right into picking a CRM, you’ll end up with a lack of clarity that usually spirals into angry salespeople, unused products, and general chaos in the streets.

Let’s consider an all-too-typical story.

Meet Biff Jones.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 5.08.42 PM

He’s the sales manager at Goats-for-Pets LLC. He’s been tasked with finding a CRM. Why? He doesn’t really know, he’s just been told by his boss / wife / coach that he needs one. Biff is pressed for time, so he Googles “Best CRM for (Insert Industry Here)” and signs up for a trial for the first 5 he finds.
Before he has time to say “Jimmy Crickets,” he’s neck-deep in a powerful deluge of trial emails, all equally eager to close the deal.

The products are all starting to bleed together.

He’s getting 17 onboarding emails a day, all screaming for his attention.

Finally the trials expire and it’s time for a decision. On a tight deadline, he picks one, Russian-roulette style and sashays out an email out to the team, fingers crossed, whimpering, “Here’s our new CRM; use it.”

And that’s that.

Without any shared strategy, no one is communicating, and the CRM starts to resemble the Tower of Babel. Through sheer grit, a few salespeople manage to salvage the CRM and trudge on. Everyone else fades, like your favorite blue shirt when it was washed with that pesky generic detergent.

Soon, most people are back to notes on cocktail napkins. The red-faced manager is trying to get the team to use the system again, and can’t understand why this shiny new $500-a-month tool is gathering dust.
Eventually the company decides to cancel the CRM because no one is using it, and they start the whole process over. Rinse, repeat, and guess what happens about 6 months later … rinse, and repeat again!

Sound familiar?

You’re not alone – CRM initiatives currently have a 63% fail rate, according to a new study by Merkle Group Inc.

A major contributor to CRM failure is that companies skip the less glamorous planning phase and jump right into trialing software. We’d argue that trialing software doesn’t come into play until step three. After onboarding countless people to CRM, we’ve seen the same confusion and lack of clarity arise time and time again.

Based on this insight, we’ve developed a few steps that can be your lighthouse in the angry sea of CRM.

  • Understand your goals
  • Make the commitment
  • Pick the tool (hint: one is better than none)
  • Define your processes
  • Develop your personal CRM routine
  • Measure and optimize

Understand your Goals

Bring your whole team in, and discuss what you want to accomplish by having a CRM. Is it to increase referrals, close bigger deals, or just better organize your existing customers? Each of these might have very different implications when it comes to picking the right tool. There are a LOT of options out there, so having some criteria to narrow it down really helps.

This clarity on your CRM objectives will also help you measure success later!
Once you know what you are searching for, and BEFORE you start finding software, do some internal soul searching. How serious are you about making this CRM work? This is the single most important aspect of being successful with CRM.

Make the Commitment

I hear from people all the time, who are interested in CRM, but won’t commit. They are overworked, overwhelmed, and constantly dropping the ball, but haven’t made the firm commitment to change.
To be at the top of your game, you have to escape the rat race and invest your time in the right areas. It’s not just a commitment to use CRM regularly, it’s a commitment to growth, and being better than you were last year.

Make the commitment: Dive in and don’t look back. If you don’t make the commitment, do yourself a favor and stick to gmail chaos. You’ll just end up back there, a few months later, and a few hundred dollars poorer.

To do CRM right, you’re going to need to invest time, period. If you’re not committed, stop here.

If you’ve dug deep and decided enough is enough – then you can proceed to picking the right tool for the job.

Pick the Tool

So now you’re on a roll. You have clarity on your goals; you’re committed to kicking ass.


Now it’s time to apply these goals to the selection process. If you’ve decided that increasing referrals is your number one priority, then you want to look for a CRM that focuses there, like karmaCRM or Contactually. If you have the leads and want to increase your daily output capacity, you might pick a transactional selling tool like

You can see how having this clarity helps you dramatically reduce potential options, and allows you to refine your search to specifics.

Here are a few things to consider when picking a CRM:

  • How is their support?
    Do they respond quickly? Do you feel like they actually answer your questions, instead of responding with canned gobbledygook?
  • Do they have a mobile app?
    With so much of sales happening on the road, you want to make sure you can get to your data anywhere.
  • How much of the product will you actually … actually use
    They might have a ton of bells and whistles, but when it comes down to it, what features do you need, day in and day out? The more bloat, the more unlikely you’ll be to put this tool to effective use.
  • What integrations do they have?
    It’s important that you don’t have to change too much of how you do things already, in order to accommodate a CRM. The higher the friction, the lower the adoption.
  • How long have they been around?
    Do they have Capterra reviews, do they have a twitter following, have they published recent blog posts? CRM is a highly competitive market, and tools come and go with the wind. Make sure you’re buying into a product that’s here to stay

This phase can last a long time, so don’t be intimidated. It’s important you give trial periods time to breathe, so you can see how they align with your vision. Once you’ve found that alignment in a product, it’s time to craft processes to define how this thing will be used on a daily basis.

Define your Processes

Think through the workflow. How will the team interact with this product? Who’s going to do what, and what parts of the tool should we ignore? Be proactive and ensure everyone is using the tool the same way. You might consider nominating a process-oriented team member to help craft the CRM strategy.

We’ve seen entire teams passionately using in their CRM … in 30 very different ways.

Avoid building a CRM Slum; it’s not fun to clean up after.

Proactively ask your team these questions:

  • What does our sales process look like?
  • Will we use the system fields, or do we need to create our own?
  • What features will we use?
  • What features won’t we use? (Then, ideally, these can be hidden from view.)
  • If we’re using open tagging, can we agree in advance what tags to use?
  • How will lead assignment work?
  • Who’s going to be the CRM manager?
  • What integrations will we be using?

This process paves the way to how you as an individual will be using the platform. Despite what marketing jargon says about “automatic, automated, save time, shave time,” you still need to spend good ol’-fashioned human hours in your CRM to keep things clean-shaven and relevant.

Build a Personal CRM Routine

Beyond defining how you’ll use CRM in general, you should consider crafting your own personal CRM routine. True, the better CRMs will do a lot of heavy lifting for you, but you’re still going to have to talk with it, to maintain a relationship.

While this isn’t an exact science, here’s a general idea of how to invest your time with CRM:

  • Spend at least 15 minutes a day reviewing and updating the status of current leads.
  • Take a few hours a week nurturing relationships, sharing articles, sending emails and doing follow-up.
  • Once a week, do a full review to make sure people are in the right stages, new contacts are properly categorized, and your tasks are getting done.

By doing this, you learn to trust the data in your CRM. This trust becomes the foundation for growth as you start to have more relationships than you can keep straight all by yourself.

And you’re done, right? Now, the profits will start rolling in! No, don’t stop here. You’re doing great, but don’t get too complacent. You got to constantly measure, optimize, and push to stay ahead of the Joneses.

Measure and Optimize

By following these steps, you’ve definitely increased the likelihood of succeeding with your CRM initiative – See there, Biff! You’re not done, though; it’s not a one-time deal. Success requires constant review and optimization. Being the best is a constant effort, but at least you’ll start on the right foot. You might even consider a quarterly review of your CRM to see how it’s helping you get closer to your company goals.

You could look into what sort of internal features the CRM has for goal setting and measurement. Figure out ways to keep you and your team accountable.

What do you think?

Each step in this process is a great blue whale, and warrants its own deep dive. We’re going to be publishing separate posts on each of these topics, and eventually putting it all together in an eBook. I’d love to hear your experiences, and how we can improve the CRM adoption experience together.

Whew, there it is. We’d love to hear about your experience in embarking on the CRM journey. Did we miss a step?

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

Schedule a demo today... Find out why so many customers love us !

Schedule a demo
  Get expert sales tips straight to your inbox, and become a better salesperson. Subscribe to the Sales Blog below.