Health Fitness

Is CRM hurting sales? The answer might surprise you

Back in the 1990s, when business was bad and corporations were downsizing or, as they laugh, downsizing, no one was safe from executive scrutiny and the corporate axe. With winding sales, sales management was an easy target. To survive in what was coined ‘crisis management’, one had to be able to show that they had a plan and/or were doing everything they could to drive sales.

So what did sales management do? Suddenly, sales reps had to fill out detailed micromanaged reports that tracked their every move: the number of calls they made each day, the names of the companies and customers they spoke to, what was being discussed, how many calls they made. phone calls/cold calls, et al. It was endless! The data and the time required to complete the detailed minutiae were ridiculous and often fictitious. [made-up].

One might wonder, who served this burdensome activity? The sales manager; who, when the corporate ax holder showed up at their door, would survive because they could show lots and lots of data that they hoped could do 3 things: 1) Show that they had a plan and were working on the plan, 2) Stand apart from others managers without a similar plan, and, 3) His plan would send the ax across the aisle to other managers, those without lots of ‘insurance’ data. crisis management- the way to survive! In hindsight, the irony was that overloading front-line sales reps with this reporting strategy actually reduced sales—provably! Why?

With over 3 decades in successful front line sales and holding a master’s degree in psychology, I am able to shed light on the empirical human factor that operates as an influence system within the demands of professional sales and CRM.

Think of the behavioral attributes of the best salespeople you’ve ever met. Outside of your innate people skills and high energy, what did you do best that made you successful in sales? His modus operandi was to ‘simplify’ everything. They were minimalists. But the question is, did they learn to be minimalists or were they naturally [psychologically] wired to be minimalist?

I had the answer to this long before my psychotherapeutic training. In the late 1970s, I was a national sales trainer and recruiter for a Fortune 500 company. All applicants had to take an aptitude test to determine if they fit the traditional mold of psychological success in sales. I was trained to mark and measure the results of these tests which were amazingly accurate. The fact is that there are ideal psychological profiles for almost every profession. I just need to look at an individual’s profile graph and I could say, “That’s an accountant, that’s a politician, that’s a scientist, and ‘that’ is the perfect personality profile for a successful salesperson.” All of the results, for the most part, as I said, were surprisingly accurate and beyond chance.

Within each profile are detailed personality traits that exist on a spectrum that predict adequate and sufficient fit of that individual within that discipline. For sales, high energy, above average interpersonal skills, high need to control and dominate, and high motivation to activate [get things done] they are the essential components for ‘the right stuff’.

But they possess another strong personality trait. One where they are not so strong. Retail sale!

In psychology we know that each personality has its strengths and weaknesses. For accountants, doctors, and lawyers, the details feature strongly within their unique personality traits. But rarely in the best sellers.

Sidebar: One of the challenges of those who suffer from Hypertensive Attention Deficit Disorder [ADHD] it is the inability to focus on the ‘detail’.

You may find it interesting that psychological studies posit that there are a disproportionate number of top salespeople, business leaders/entrepreneurs [who often got their start in sales] who suffers from ADHD. In my case, I have ADHD and mild Dyslexia. Is it a coincidence that great creative achievers like Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, John F. Kennedy, Will Smith, Jim Carrey suffer from ADHD? Despite their disorder, what were they all good at? They are minimalist. Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain something ‘just’ then you really don’t know.” The fact is that they have the ability to take what is considered extremely complex by others in their profession and make it seem simple: downplay the details. The same influence system exists within the art and science of “successful” professional selling. The question remains, however, do they do it because they want to or because they have to?

Coming back to the question, who does your CRM program need, you may find that it’s not your front-line salespeople but rather the ‘detail-oriented’ architects who crave data or the salespeople of larger, more complex products? [detailed] CRM solutions.

As one of the top 1% consistent salespeople in Fortune 500 companies, I can unequivocally attest to the fact that much of my professional time selling face-to-face with the customer [where sales are made] was sacrificed to fill in too many unnecessary data reports. It could be pointed out that computers have made CRM easier to monitor. I answer that with the logic of the early 1980s, when copiers were sold and network printers were introduced. It was believed that photocopier volumes should decrease because computer printers would reduce the need to copy. The reality was that computers produced exponentially more data and printers produced exponentially more ‘originals’ which drove copy volumes and costs through the roof.

The bottom line:

CRM is essential and is here to stay. It is integral to sales and corporate success. There is no argument that too much of anything is bad. The danger with CRM is that it is often designed to cater to the needs of those who are detail-oriented at the expense of those who are not: salespeople…the lifeblood of any organization! So how do you know if your CRM program is right for you? Isn’t that hurting sales? Look at your sales and then… ask your salespeople!

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