Why can't we keep our CRM system updated?

The CRM system is there to help sales people manage their sales territory, right?

It keeps a track of their pipeline status, saves details about customers, allows them to put in reminders and next actions, requests resources from other departments and process orders from quote, to implementation, on to invoicing. Most importantly, at least from the sales person’s perspective, it calculates their commission payment.

However, along comes management and they see the CRM system as a way of keeping track of what is going on. It is turned into a de-facto financial system trying to mimic what is going to end up in the general ledger. Extra fields are now added, “expected close date”, “initial opportunity revenue”, “ongoing opportunity revenue”, “status step”, “deal probability” and more. Suddenly there is a full time administration job just to keep all the fields up to date. Often it is hard to be accurate, for example “opportunity revenue” may depend on which solution the customer ends up taking. Do you put in more than one opportunity to cover the different solutions on offer? This means we now have double or triple entries. However, you may have to do this because the CRM system is now used as a resource request process. The amount of effort required to keep the CRM system up to date and the challenges of multiple solutions makes it impossible to be accurate.

We end up trying to turn our sales people into admin people. Word of warning this is typically not a strength of sales people.

We now have the weekly, and towards the end of the quarter daily, forecast meeting where reports are generated by management from the CRM system and reviewed with the sales people. In these meetings sales management are wondering why the sales people cannot keep the CRM system accurate. While the sales people are sick and tired of all this admin and rely on their home grown spread sheets to keep track of their opportunities.

If management pushes too hard the games begin. Sales people start to manipulate the CRM system for two reasons, for self protection in the forecast meeting and to maximise their sales commission, sometimes known as “sand bagging”. To stop this management require more fields to be filled in and produce more reports to be reviewed. We now have bluebird and blackbird rules, “grandfathering” for territory changes, and many more case by case exceptions as our CRM system is now the full time management tool. Countering this the sales people start manipulating close dates, opportunity size, probabilities, and have some generic dummy opportunities as back up.

The end result is the CRM system no longer helps the sales people manage their territory, pipeline and customers. While management receive an inaccurate view of what is going on at the coal face.