CRM and Sales Force De-Automation

Is CRM software killing your company? Beware the curse known as company de-automation.

Salesforce CRM

CRM vendors speak of sales force automation and work flow improvements but they don’t explain how elusive they can be.

Often CRM becomes a company de-automation tool because critical customer data is mired deeper in silos and most of the sales team and service delivery team are cut off from any type of efficiency drivers.

In my opinion customer relationship tools are simply not good enough. They are hard to use and too expensive to roll out to enterprise users.

Plus the model is just plain silly. Customer relationships need to be managed people, and so do partner relationships, so do prospect relations, so do product delivery relations, so do suppliers relationships. Don’t they?

CRM Vendors Are Usually Good at One Service

It seems CRM vendors are really good at one thing, and not so good at others. Every company, even the smallest, has several service deliveries that are critical to success.

The customer lifecyle includes lead to product delivery to support. I look at a vendor that is good at lead management. Interestingly, one of the leaders states right on their web site that when the lead is closed, load the customer into CRM.

How about help desk CRM modules? I am sure they are laden with functionality on issues, cases, inventories, severity and so on, yet are weaklings when a sales forecast is needed. And then you have the revenue tools that are critical, like shipment and order information, and POS and commission reporting. Not many CRM provide this important link from sales opportunity to order, to shipment to payment.

Is a Single View into Your Customers a Myth?

Let’s take a walk with a salesman. This difficult job is only done by the stout of heart and agile of mind. Our virtual salesmen is Bill Commission, a Widget Company salesperson. Bill has been nurturing a large project for months, has endured, and is at the 6 inch line about to score. It is tough because execution must be perfect.

Our hero, Bill Commission, is walking from his car to the receptionist cheerfully whistling “Happy days are here again,” and he is promptly ushered in to see Mr. Vito, or very important top executive. The exec, grim faced, is seated behind his huge desk.

Bill, sensing deal killing vibes, can feel a drop of sweat starting to roll down his forehead. After all Bill Commission has already told everyone, including his boss, that this is a lock. And then the exec says, “Why is our Widget broken and your support desk has not even called us back?” Bill feels dread, if Bill had a single view into this important customer he may have avoided this.

The Single View into Your Customer Continued

Bill is tough and right back at it. After all he is a professional. He is visiting a customer and the customer gives him a PO! Terrific, Bill hurries back to the office to dutifully enter the order into the order entry system. He is relieved and now dials the help desk to kick some help desk butt over Mr. Vito’s Widget issue.

A couple of days later he receives an email from afar with bad news. His order is not accepted because the customer is on credit hold. Should Bill have known this before expending time and energy? Sure.

Enterprise Data is Mired in Silos

Most companies data is rigidly stuck in silos. Partner data is a mystery, customer support data is not accessible, and important financial data can not be distributed.

It is just logical that there is a better way. The the explosion of Internet applications and web services brings powerful, affordable technologies that can clear the data cob webs and motivate your company. Customer sales and service levels can aggressively ramped up affordably and quickly.

Has Traditional Sales Tools and CRM Really Helped Your Business?

The reality of expensive CRM is grim. The return on investment is vaporous as companies fight just to get the CRM to deploy and to work. Weeks and months go by, users lose interest that the ROI is slipping away.

I believe the CRM deployments have created a fancier silo of data even more deeply entrenched in the mire. The silo prevents customers, partners and the product service provider to collaborate an easy and affordable manner.

This CRM Situation is Pervasive across Enterprises and Industries

I know of one large tape manufacturer that services the packaging industry that deployed a well known enterprise CRM. This company sells through a network of world wide distributors of over 4,000. I met the VP of Sales at Pack Expo in Las Vegas and asked him how the CRM has helped. His answer was not surprising.

The complexity and lack of focused functionality which would enhance the business process. Getting a lead to the distributor and exchanging detailed prospect and customer information is now impossible. There is no way for the 4000 distributors to access the CRM affordably or easily. Critical data exchange from the customer facing team was cut. I asked the VP of Sales why is this? His frustrated reply, “ It’s just too hard to use and too expensive for our distributors.”

CRM has Disconnected the Sales Team

Most companies sell their products through some form of channel. Dealers, distributors, affiliates, and producers, all sell the competition’s products too. Mind share is aligned with the top money makers and with the companies that are easier to work with.

This type of sales partner will not sign into a difficult CRM to enter and edit data. Often the distributor, based on revenues, is much larger than the supplier and will not be told what system to use.

The expensive CRM deployment, bought to automate processes, has increased the barriers to the sales team. Technology should not make the silo stronger it should break down the walls.

Total Relationship Management is One Answer to Increased Service Levels

Why can’t the CRM tool be easily and affordable and extended across the organization and across the organization’s porters? It can, with what I call TRM – Total Relationship Management.

About the Author

Jim Romano is the founder and CEO of DataforceCRM, an online CRM, sales force automation, and lead management company.

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