Monday, May 12, 2008

Empirical Evidence Builds

Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I have been very busy putting my theories into practice. Although I consider myself a general business consultant specializing in systems, I am finding the demand for CRM consulting is very high. When I sit down with a client to discover their business needs, CRM keeps rising to the top because every business needs CRM. There is simply no escaping the reality that many top business problems today can be solved by effective use of a CRM system. Interestingly, Project Management is higher on the list than I anticipated. I am now working with a program designed for small-to-mid sized businesses that incorporates project management into CRM. The program is Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager. In typical MS fashion, Outlook 2007 BCM is not without "issues." It is big, ram hungry, somewhat crash-prone and awkward at times. But this program that sells for under $200 as a stand alone, or comes standard in some Office packages, is surprisingly feature-rich. I have been using BCM myself for some time, and am increasingly impressed with the tools that have been included in this program. I am now implementing this program for six of my clients and the list is growing. But this blog is about "The CRM Dilemma" so I want to share some of the results I am getting in regards to using Outlook BCM as a PACT system.

Client #1
An industrial manufacturer that has a large customer base in a declining market. They had implemented Goldmine but had abandoned the program due to lack of usage by sales reps. I was asked to meet with the entire team to demo Outlook 2007 BCM. During my initial meeting with the business owner, he had shown me a cold call spread sheet he was implementing with his sales force to bring accountability to their daily activities. After explaining my CRM Dilemma research to him, he decided to accept my research and abandon his plan to add activity controls for his sales force. With his acceptance of my research, I was able to design my demo to focus on the following key business problems:

  • Knowing the right customers to target
  • Knowing when to target them
  • Knowing how to reach them
  • Knowing the right message for those customers
  • Knowing what is going on with your customers


  • Easily getting your message to customers
  • Gathering and viewing customer feedback
  • Linking customer communications to accounts and contacts
  • Managing projects internally
  • Easily communicating internally that which needs to be communicated, to advance the sale and excellence in customer service

When I presented my Outlook 2007 BCM demo, I also spoke of my research and the agreement by the business owner to not use the system to bring activity controls into the equation. As expected, the response from the sales reps to the demo was very positive. Being suspicious of such feedback, because I know from past experience that sales reps will not reveal their fears about CRM in front of their bosses, I met with each of them individually and as a group after the demo. I assured them our conversations would be kept confidential and I would not share their feedback with management. Although the fear of activity controls was still evident, they all stated that the demo I presented, along with assurances of the system being used for PACT only, gave them confidence the system would actually be a useful tool for them. I feel these conversations illustrate the following important points:

  1. Never assume the enthusiasm for CRM displayed by sales reps in a group setting, reveals what they are really feeling.
  2. The suspicion and fear of activity controls by sales reps is not overcome by words alone.
  3. PACT is much more acceptable to sales reps than traditional CRM

Over the next few days, I will post regarding the other implementations I am involved in.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Classic Example of CRM Failure

I was contacted by a company that has experienced "The CRM Dilemma" through what is now two full CRM implementations. After reading my research, this particular executive now understands why his sales force has been giving nothing more than "Lip service" to CRM, for several years. Each time the company has met with the sales force to determine the reasons behind their lack of CRM usage, sales reps have provided a long list of excuses.

Each time, changes and upgrades were made to accomodate the concerns expressed by the sales force. Extra training was provided, mobile devices for real-time CRM were purchased, system speed was upgraded, and additional data integration was done. The sales reps had all agreed that with these upgrades, CRM would be a "Great Tool" for them.

After the second launch, of the second CRM system was completed, executives anticipated finally having a 360 degree, collaborative view of their customer relationships. Unfortunately, despite all efforts and expenditures, CRM usage by sales reps, remained the same as
before - Zero.

After reading my research, this executive had several sales reps in the company read it and provide their opinions on it. Because the sales reps felt validated in their fear of activity controls, their response was to state that "The CRM Dilemma is bang on!"

Because the original intent of CRM at this company was not to control the activities of sales reps, my research has provided an avenue to finally get some value out of the system. I will be working with this company to determine the truth behind their CRM failures, and institue PACT for them. This company has decided there is enough value in CRM without using it for activity controls, that they are willing to make the additional investment to try to finally obtain some value from their CRM system.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't Fall On Your Sword - Steps to Introducing "The CRM Dilemma"

With the large number of readers this blog and my research have attracted, I can only assume some of you are preparing to "Spread the news" regarding my research.

Since I consider myself somewhat of an expert on this subject, please accept advice that I wish someone had given me.

  1. Be strategic and move slowly

  2. Don't try to go it alone

  3. Build a strong team of supporters

"The CRM Dilemma" can itself be threatening, particularly if the CRM initiative hasn't failed yet. A slow, strategic approach to this massive change in corporate mindset, is required.

Don't Try To Go It Alone

If you have accepted my research findings, you now know the quickest way to ensure your sales force will undermine your CRM initiative, is to have "Low Card" activity controls included in your implementation. If your CRM program is currently implemented, but sitting unused by your sales force, the job of introducing "The CRM Dilemma", and my PACT solution, become somewhat easier. I have now developed situational analysis templates and refined the presentation of my research findings to assist in gaining acceptance of this phenomenon. I will address post-implementation and pre-implementation individually.

CRM Has Been Implemented, But Remains Unused

  • Review the original goals of the project with management
  • Focus on "High Card" benefits not being achieved (Customer feedback, planning tools, communications)
  • Gain agreement on the critical values that are missing because the system is not being used
  • Presentation of "The CRM Dilemma" research
  • Review the current CRM application with management, to identify "Low Card" activity recording elements
  • Present the PACT solution
  • Gain management agreement on the value of the components in PACT, versus CRM with activity controls
  • Gain agreement to conduct sales force workshop, to validate if "The CRM Dilemma" is in fact driving the lack of CRM usage
  • Conduct confidential, one-on-one interviews with sales reps and sales managers, that were involved in the original CRM implementation
  • Stress that the truth, not blame, is the goal of all interviews
  • Conduct one or more confidential focus group session(s) with sales reps, not involved in the original CRM implementation
  • Review the current CRM program with sales reps to identify "Low Card" reporting elements
  • Present and validate the PACT solution
  • Once the truth about "The CRM Dilemma" has been acknowledged by sales reps, the PACT solution can be reviewed honestly through the same lens.
  • Gain agreement on the value of the PACT solution
  • Discover and document sales planning informational requirements
  • Present aggregate interview results and PACT agreements to management
  • Plan the IT side of providing informational requirements of sales planning reports
  • Work towards relaunching CRM as PACT

The CRM Implementation Has Begun, But Not Been Completed

The same steps as above apply, but additional up-front work must be done to convince management of the inevitable failure of the program due to "The CRM Dilemma"

The CRM Implementation Has Not Begun

This one is tricky. Likely you are in a CRM consulting role, and you may be wondering how your clients will accept the inevitable failure of their CRM project. On the other hand, you will be the hero if you provide them with a valuable solution that will actually be used by the sales force. The best way to approach this I feel is to utilize me to present "The CRM Dilemma" research to clients. The question then will be:

"Do you think this will apply to your CRM implementation?" If they say no, you have done your honest due dilligence. If they say yes, once again you are the hero for saving what would have been an expensive disaster. At the very least, if the client feels "The CRM Dilemma" will not apply to them, you have opened the door to being brought back in to rescue them when their sales force is not using CRM.

As I said before, I have developed some great tools to assist you in bringing this new concept to businesses. With the high number of failed CRM initiatives out there, the opportunitity for success by "Taking the high road" is much larger, than ignoring this research and staying on the "Low road" to failure. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"The Patient Has Died" - A Pre-mortem

I read a great article in the September, 2007 issue of HBR. In the article, Gary Klein writes on the value of determining the death of a project, before it starts.

Prior to my research on "The CRM Dilemma", a pre-mortem on my CRM project, would not have included the certainty of death that my research revealed. I now know that activity controls are like a surgeon carrying the plague.
(The analogy carries on from here and although it might be "Over the top," I had a lot of fun writing it and I believe the points are valid - AH)

If the infection is allowed anywhere near the patient, the patient will die a painful death. For years, few have suspected this "Deadly surgeon" but has instead blamed other people and circumstances. Over and over the operation is performed using different techniques and people, but someone keeps inviting the "deadly surgeon" into the room. The patient rarely recovers after the operation and most often dies.

There are groups of upcoming patients that suspect the "deadly surgeon," but they are afraid to say anything because he is so well liked and accepted by the medical team. The "deadly surgeon" has become such a part of the medical team that they can't imagine the operation would work without him. Yet up to 80% or more of these operations fail and the patient dies because no one will take the "deadly surgeon" out of the room.

So what do you do once the finger has been pointed squarely at the "deadly surgeon"?

Are you willing to take responsibility for asking him to sit out of a few operations?

There are people that you report to that really like the "deadly surgeon" and what he brings to each operation. They may not be willing to accept his culpability in all those past patient deaths.

You may end up with a severance package, writing a blog, and changing careers if they would rather keep their "angel of death" in the operating room.

But isn't the overall health of the patient more important? Now that you know CRM will die if activity controls are allowed in, are you willing to force "Him" to sit out a few operations?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

CRM and The Law of Unintended Consequences

When a mechanism is installed in the world, things can happen as a result, that the original creator of the mechanism may not have intended. These consequences may also run completely contrary to the original intent of the mechanism. There are three basic reasons for this phenomenon:

  1. Exploitation - The mechanism is used for purposes other than was originally intended. (Examples: GPS for finding the nearest Starbucks, or fertilizer being used in bomb making)

  2. Avoidance - Because the mechanism exists, people change their behaviors (Examples: Tax avoidance strategies, driving habits in a GPS tracked vehicle)

  3. Culture Shift - The mechanism has created a cultural expectation and people come to expect things they otherwise would not expect (Example: Cell phones)

Here are a three classic examples:
  • Sophisticated alarms and immobilizers on vehicles, have resulted in more violent and dangerous carjackings, because the thieves needs to have keys directly from drivers in order to steal vehicles.
  • The popularity of cell phones has been putting pay-phone companies out of business, while forcing more people to get cell phones because of the shortage of available pay-phones.
  • Telephone systems adding prompts, ie: "For customer service, press 3" have resulted in less customer service communications being done over the phone
CRM is very interesting because it has had unintended consequences due Exploitation, Avoidance, and Culture Shift.


  • Credit card data from massive amounts of customers is stolen from a major retailer's database
  • An employee takes customer data when moving to a competitor
  • Data provided by a customer results in the customer being "Value classified" in no receiving a lower level of service than before the data was provided


  • Consumers not wishing to provide personal information, intentionally forgo "Loyalty Club" discounts provided by retailers.
  • Users avoid CRM due to fear of the information being used in performance measures
  • False email addresses are created in order to avoid providing an avenue to send marketing materials
  • Callers press "0" to avoid phone prompts and go directly to the switchboard

Culture Shift

  • Consumers expect their contact information to be transferred along with their call and remembered for the next time
  • The details of a transaction should be available long after the transaction is complete

None of the examples given above have been taken through their full progression. Avoidance is fascinating in that there is usually an escalation for each avoidance:

  • Retailers create larger pricing disparities for those refusing to join their "Loyalty club"
  • Fake email addresses, led to requiring email verification before the services are delivered.
  • Because people learned that pressing "0" on their phone, would connect them with the switchboard and avoid the prompts, companies disabled this feature, forcing the prompts to be used
  • Companies create performance measures for CRM users, that are based on CRM usage as a performance measure

Do you see the pattern here? That which was created to make things better, is perceived as making things worse, by those that were supposed to see an improvement. Avoidance of that which was created to improve service, leads to escalations, in order to force those that are avoiding the improvements, to accept that which they see as negative.

CRM was not created to become an instrument of fear for customers or employees.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Riddle Within The Logo

The game of Tic-Tac-Toe has been around since the 50s. In the logo to the right, the game that has begun cannot be won, only tied. In Tic-Tac-Toe, there are three possible outcomes; Win, Lose, or Draw. When both players understand the game however, there can only be draw, after draw, after draw. In this game, a draw is ok because it means you had the best possible outcome you could have.

I have taught many people the two moves seen in the logo. If I hand you a piece of paper with four lines and an X in the corner, if you do not put your O in the middle square, you will lose. So the best outcome of this game is to not expect to win, but to obtain the best possible outcome - A draw - With neither side winning or losing.

Winning is nice, but if you can't win, does that mean you don't play the game at all? In CRM, there is much more value in a "Draw" than in Tic-Tac-Toe.

The message of my research is that we need to fully understand the value in the "Draw" of PACT. CRM users, fully understand the game they are playing, and they know where to put their "O". If they are willing to play in a game that ends in a draw. Are we?

Lies, Damned Lies, and CRM Reports has just released a report by CSO Insights, on how to benchmark your sales force. This report is called the "Sales Performance Optimization Report."

A year ago, I would have read this report much differently. Through the lens of "The CRM Dilemma", it was like listening to Michael Scott from "The Office" speak his words of wisdom. I had tears rolling down my cheeks I was laughing so hard. The assumption is now that CRM is fast, mobile, and user friendly, sales reps will tell you every activity they are doing. This activity data can be used to evaluate their performance through the wonderful charts, graphs, and reports available in today's CRM. This is known as "Magical Thinking."

Does anyone really think that sales people will faithfully provide their activity data, so their performance can be optimized?

Talk about "Carrying the stick you will be beaten with!"

CSO Insights put a lot of work into this report. Like all CRM sales documents, they use the word "Can", like it is actually the word "Will."

Sales data from your ERP system is usually pretty reliable, so go ahead and make charts, graphs, and analytical reports to your heart's content. Why did we ever get the impression that sales reps would provide all this data that can be used against them? I am amazed now that I used to think they would, and I was a sales rep.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Invisible Precipice - User-Created Solutions to Combat Fear of Performance Measures in CRM

As I delve even further into my research, I am discovering yet more implications about the effect "The CRM Dilemma" may have on CRM users. There are two important things to remember whenever CRM users feel threatened by what they are asked to enter into CRM:
  1. One or more of them will figure out a way to avoid the threat
  2. The threat, and the user-created solution, will be shared amongst users, and any complicit managers
  3. For every accountability measure you come up with to combat user-created solutions, users will create several more

Indicators of these user-created solutions can be extremely subtle:

  • A pad of writing paper on every desk in a call center.
  • Increased usage of Gmail or Yahoo Mail by employees
  • A decrease in VPN usage by sales people

The fine line between users viewing CRM as a "Great tool", and CRM as "A threat that must be eliminated."

Every user-created solution to combat "The CRM Dilemma", is a slippery slope to total CRM failure within that user group. Here are some examples from an actual CRM implementation, to illustrate the point.

1) Call Center CRM

Call Center CRM viewed as a great tool by users (Spoken)

  • Recording customer feedback
  • Providing easy access to customer data
  • CRM linkage to phone system for customer information pop-ups

Call center CRM viewed as a threat by users:

  • Time-stamped input in CRM, may or is used in employee or departmental performance measures

Call center - User-created solutions to combat the threat:

  • Pads of paper may be used to record information prior to entry into CRM. There will be many excuses given as to why this "provides better service to customers".
  • By limiting "Real Time" usage of CRM, users negate any value in time-stamped data, so the threat is eliminated.

2) Call Center Complaint Handling

CRM for Complaint Handling viewed as a great tool by users:

  • Intuitive solutions are provided based on user input
  • Easy access to solution documentation is provided
  • User is able to choose from a list of approved solutions provided to them in CRM.

CRM for Complaint Handling viewed as a threat by users:

  • Users are required to create and document their own solutions
  • User solutions may be deemed as right or wrong
  • Complaints that come in through the web or email will be particularly challenging if a user-created solution, must be provided to the customer, and the solution provided may be right or wrong.

Complaint handling - User-created solutions to combat the threat:

  • Because solutions will have to be validated before being documented, phoned-in complaints will either be kept outside of CRM (Paper), or delayed while conferring with others
  • Users may avoid responding in writing, choosing instead to phone the customer to avoid documentation. This is done "To provide better personalized service."

If CRM is not being used "Real Time" for customer complaint handling, it is little more than a costly drain on valuable resources. If there is a pad of paper on the desk, demanding it be removed will not work by the way. Quietly ignore most of what is said in the excuse category as well:

  • Ignore the excuses about system speed, when you know the page-load time is two seconds.
  • Ignore that if the system goes down during entry, the information will lost. Yes, it did happen a few times during the initial roll out!
  • Ignore that crap about the customer refusing to provide their name when they call in a complaint
  • Ignore the calls for more training after the deskside trainer has spent months working with users

You will not succeed in CRM, unless you understand the truth that comes out by the water cooler, in the breakroom, and at the bar after work on a Friday.

3) Linking customer emails to the customer record in CRM

Customer - linked emails viewed as a great tool by users:

  • Seamless integration within outlook
  • The user chooses which emails are "important enough" to be linked to the customer
  • Confidential emails are linked, but with limited viewing by other employees

Customer - linked emails viewed as a threat by users:

  • All customer emails are linked to the customer record
  • Negative emails regarding employees, may be recorded in the customer record, with access by all

User-created solutions to combat the threat:

  • Employees may use secondary email (Gmail) to avoid linking all their customer communications to the customer record
  • Company web mail client may see increased usage if it is not linked to CRM

These are just a few examples of how user perception is affected by the smallest details. Make no mistake, users will evaluate every angle of how their employer can turn any piece of data into a performance measure. Time-stamping of data entry will likely only be deemed a threat to users, if the corporate culture or management of a company lends to using such data. In this case, a policy (Before implementation) of never using TS data in performance measures, would ease user fears.

Unfortunately, policies and statements will not combat "The CRM Dilemma," when any reasonable person must assume that user- provided data in CRM, must at some time be used in performance measures.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

To all you CRM Developers out there....

I know "The CRM Dilemma" blog has a following from the Developer community. I would like to ask a favor of you. Please send a link to the page that has my basic research paper to some sales reps in your company. Here is the link:

I have gotten a lot of great feedback from the development community but I am lacking in feedback from the sales community.
Everything I have heard says that CRM sales reps don't use CRM to record their activities, any more than non-CRM sales rep do. I would very much appreciate hearing from more sales reps and sales managers. I am hoping I can rely on my readers to forward this link around. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Testing my PACT Solution

Unemployed no longer! I am in the process of joining a business consulting firm, and I am very excited about the possibilities. I received a call today from a company that is considering implementing CRM. They would like me to work with them to determine the viability of implementing a CRM solution for their company. This will be interesting for three reasons:
  • They don't yet know that I have authored "The CRM Dilemma"
  • Because I do not rely 100% of my income on CRM consulting, I can share my research with them, without concern about losing my livelihood if they choose not to implement CRM.
  • If they choose to go ahead and implement my PACT solution, it will be the perfect opportunity to test "True" user adoption when activity controls are removed from the equation.

I know that not everyone agrees with my conclusions on "The CRM Dilemma." Testing my hypothesis will give me the opportunity to build a case study on PACT versus CRM. The framework in the CRM application chosen (Assuming they go ahead) will be the same, but how the application is used will be entirely different from traditional CRM with activity controls.

Since understanding the customer is what most customers are really looking for, I have little doubt that my client will explore the opportunities in my PACT solution. As always, I will continue to honestly update this blog with my progress. If they choose to not implement CRM, or use another more "Compliant" CRM consultant, I will post that as well. I am not determined to be "Right" about "The CRM Dilemma," in fact, I wish I was wrong. But I think history has shown us that sales reps will work very hard to defeat CRM. If we can create a successful solution that will be used and accepted, simply by removing that which causes the greatest fear, why not give it a try?

If my PACT solution can provide the planning and communication tools that sales reps are looking for, not dreading, this company will have far greater quality information than can be found in most CRM applications today.

Wish me luck! Thank you for your continued interest in this blog. As always, I welcome your comments and emails.

Best Regards

Arne Huse

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The mystery of MY "CRM Dilemma"

Brad Wilson, the General Manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, was interviewed for the CRM Buyer Magazine.

In this article, he said two very interesting things on the subject of user adoption.

"CRM went through a period where there were a lot of inflated expectations that were not met," Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, told CRM Buyer. "The biggest problem for a lot of people was that the technology wasn't well suited for the people who were using it."

"User adoption has been the biggest problem in CRM for the last 10 years," Wilson concluded.

What I find very interesting about these comments, is it seems like he is saying that technology has been responsible for poor user adoption.

Having been using CRM in various forms as a sales rep for many years, I don't think the user experience has changed that much but for a few notable exceptions:
  • CRM is generally faster in opening, navigation, and saving information
  • Better Outlook integration with CRM
  • Better field customizations

But all this needs to be kept in perspective. Back in the the early 90's, I was using Maximizer on my 486 laptop. It was slow and crashed sometimes, but it did integrate with Outlook. I think I had five custom fields at the time. But I have to say I LOVED Maximizer because it was brilliant for managing my customer contacts. This was back when it just took longer to do things with a computer. I was willing to wait and put up with crashes because it was such a great tool.

But when my boss asked me to print out my activities, I would say it took too long and the system was too slow. I continued to love and use Maximizer and he never did get thos reports.

Then I upgraded to ACT and I loved it even more because I could go mobile on my Palm Pilot with all my customer information. It was faster, crashed less often than Max, and integrated with Outlook even better.

But when my boss asked me to set it up, so my system would email my activities to him...Well, let's just say that never happened. I think I must have had good excuses and I was the top salesman. Besides, I was the only rep using such a system.

While I was a sales rep, I was also leading the Canadian implementation of MS CRM for our company. I started using MS CRM in my territory so I could demonstrate the value of using CRM to my fellow reps.

The original 1.2 version of MS CRM was a lot slower than my ACT was. Outlook Client was a nightmare to say the very least. I had Ten Digits on my Blackberry which worked well and offered real time access, so I used that quite a bit.

Remember, I was a sales rep that was leading the CRM initiative. I am seeing much of what I did back then, through the lens of "The CRM Dilemma." I found more and more that I wasn't using CRM as much as I had used ACT to manage my customers. I had created tick-boxes and drop-downs in CRM that I didn't like using as a sales rep. I told myself it was because the system was slow and not as intuitive as ACT. When I looked back at the notes and activities I recorded in CRM, I realized I had turned into a sales rep that was reluctant to use CRM. But it really was slower than the MS CRM of today and the Outlook integration really sucked as well. In hindsight, I believe I had fallen into the trap of "The CRM Dilemma." By the time we upgraded to 3.0, I was leading the North American implementation full time so I didn't get to test my theory.

In Maximizer and ACT, I used to record only what was important to me and my customers. I required no "Low Card" reporting from myself. I would never be held accountable for my entries so I had no fear of what I put into my system. As soon as someone asked me for the information, I had a list of excuses why I could not provide the information on my activities.

While the user interface has improved in most CRM applications, how "Fast and easy" does it have to be before sales reps will use it to record their activities? If my theory on "The CRM Dilemma" is wrong, sales reps will be willing to use the newer, faster, more intuitive CRM applications on the market today. I believe adoption of CRM by sales reps will continue to be dismal, unless the issue of activity controls is addressed. I have a theory that even if CRM was a "magical application" that merely required a rep to "Think" what he or she wanted to put into CRM, it still wouldn't have the adoption it deserves.

Sorry, but your CRM implementation is DOOMED!

"It is a rare dog that will carry the stick with which it is to be beaten." - Douglas Hartle

I was offered a very lucrative position as an independent CRM Consultant. I was told that my skills in dealing with the business side of CRM, are very valuable and sought after. I would work on behalf of CRM partners and manage the CRM implementation, as I had in my last corporate position.

BUT, there was a catch to this position. If the client asked for activity controls to be a part of CRM, I would have to keep my mouth shut about "The CRM Dilemma." I could "Suggest" they may want to reconsider activity controls, but I couldn't screw up the deal by telling them "Your CRM implementation is going to fail if you go ahead with activity controls."

But this would be the truth! Unless you are in a regulated industry, (Finance, law, medicine) where licenses are taken away for not recording customer interactions, CRM will fail if sales reps aren't using it. And sales reps will not use CRM if they are required to record their activities.

Since I am unemployed, I considered taking the position and relying on my persuasive nature to convince clients not to use activity controls. But I had to turn the position down, because everyone that is implementing CRM, wants activity controls. Activity controls are a natural extension of the capabilities of CRM. Why would you not want or expect sales reps to enter their activities into CRM? Until I discovered "The CRM Dilemma," I felt exactly the same way, and I am a sales rep!

Unfortunately, "The CRM Dilemma" is very real, yet unspoken, in all CRM implementations. CRM will fail if activity controls are part of the implementation. I hate this reality. It screwed up my career after I had discovered an area that I loved and was very successful at. I single handedly convinced my previous employer to implement CRM across North America. They spent a vast sum of money, the infrastructure is in place, the pilot markets are psyched, then I went and told them it wasn't going to work. Thanks allot Arne!!

So I remain unemployed and continue to crusade to finally bring success, to what we can actually achieve, not what we want to achieve.
  • To focus sales reps on planning their activities
  • Providing sales reps with all the information they require before a sales call
  • To enable sales reps to easily communicate "High Card" activities and information, after the sales call, that is attached to the Customer Record.
  • To encourage sales reps to record customer feedback by including them in access to cumulative feedback reports.
  • To provide a "Safe" process for sales reps, so they feel free to use the tools provided, without the need to defeat CRM due to fear of activity controls

Monday, March 3, 2008

The CRM Dilemma - Basic Research Paper

In order to assist the many readers of this blog, this post contains the basic elements of the CRM Dilemma and the PACT solution in one document. Additional information is found in my other posts. Each frame is this post can be opened by clicking on it.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

"The train wreck you can't look away from."

There has been a great deal of discussion about the contents of this blog. One individual complimented my site and my research, but likened it to "A train wreck that you can't look away from." He is experiencing the same response that I did when I discovered "The CRM Dilemma."

Once I discovered the existence of the CRM Dilemma, I knew the CRM implementation I was leading, would fail. Not because we were focusing on activity controls, but because we weren't focusing on removing all activity controls. At that moment, I knew I was looking at an impending train wreck, unless I could explain the CRM Dilemma so convincingly, that we would change the focus of our implementation. It didn't work! Thus the warning I provide about the danger of presenting "The CRM Dilemma" too early.

I have told friends that the moment I finished the presentation of my research, I knew I was finished.

If you believe this research, it becomes very difficult to look at an impending CRM implementation the same way. If "The CRM Dilemma" really is the answer to the CRM failure question, it means that I am a genius, that has discovered that which we really didn't want to know in the first place.

My discovery means that the CRM failure rate for sales reps could be far higher than has ever been reported.

I really look forward to implementing a PACT solution to prove or disprove the value I believe it can bring to a company. I know that removing activity controls from the equation, resolves the CRM Dilemma.

I continue to be amazed how many people are visiting this blog and I thank you for your emails. Please continue to share this blog with your collegues.

Best Regards
Arne Huse

Friday, February 29, 2008

24) 100% CRM Compliance

I discovered a web site where Charles Cohon claims to have 100% compliance in CRM usage by his sales reps. He says he accomplished this through a number of methods including all CRM input being done over the telephone, which is transcript by someone and entered into CRM. He also said he promised his reps, that NOTHING they enter, would ever be used against them.

I find this an interesting story as it really goes to what I have been saying about The CRM Dilemma. If Mr. Cohon has indeed achieved 100% compliance, I think it is much more about the promise of impunity, than the methodology. What I am advocating is to remove "Low Card" activities, which is what he must have done as well. There is little sense in gathering data you never intend to use. If you ask a rep to record how many calls they are making, why bother if you can never tell that person they aren't making enough calls?

The promise without action is useless to overcome "The CRM Dilemma," as I discovered in my own CRM implementation. I was employed by a company that did not in any way have a culture of accountability. The implementation of CRM was in no way designed to bring more accountability to our sales force. And yet, the moment sales reps saw "Activity type" drop downs and various "Tick boxes," they surmised (With good reason) that higher accountability was on the way with CRM.

Fortunately for them, they were very quickly able to abandon CRM and go on with their own private systems once again.

I can only assume that Mr. Cohon has a very small sales force with no other managers to louse up his promise of impunity. This is not the case at most companies and all it takes is one manager holding performance data, (that a sales rep has provided) up to the face of that sales rep. The news spreads like wildfire and the gaming would begin in earnest. Of course "The CRM Dilemma" rarely lets it get this far because there is no "Trust before distrust" when it comes to activity controls.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

23) The user view versus the company view

I came across a very interesting website for a GPS tracking system for vehicles called GPSMate.

This company has two products for sale. The first product is for individuals, the second is for companies. I am going to paste the details of each and then discuss the specific language used to target each audience. Both products are designed for the reporting of driving activities. I will change the font on the points for discussion to Bold Red.

What is BuddyTracker? BuddyTracker is an online service for GPS tracking and position sharing. offers buddy tracking and vehicle tracking services and many integrations to third party applications.
With BuddyTracker you can follow people and objects that have a GPS with an Internet connection. You can also share your own position by connecting your GPS to

Note: You are always in control as you decide if you want to be seen, and who you are visible to!

Product number 2 for companies VehicleTracker
GpsGate VehicleTracker is a web based vehicle tracking application. It is available both as a hosted solution at and as a server product. If you are looking for your own vehicle tracker installation have a look at our GpsGate Server here.

With VehicleTracker operators can follow their vehicles in real-time and display historical track information for selected vehicles. Track data can be exported in KML and CSV (Excel) formats for further processing.Access rights are defined for each operator for a set of vehicles and each operator has a personal account for security and flexibility reasons.You can also get read access to your database, the possibility to translate and re-brand your user interface as an option.

Fascinating language

I think this web site has done an excellent job of defining the view of CRM, from the perspective of the user and the company.

User Language: The term "Buddy" is a friendly term containing no element of threat. You can "Share your position" infers you have complete choice over this decision to again lower the threat level of this product. In case you don't quite believe this, there is a final, separate point, highlighted by an exclamation, that provides comfort in knowing that you can always turn the system off, and decide who sees where you are.

Company Language: We aren't tracking our "Buddies" (People) anymore, now we are tracking "Our vehicles".

For "Security and flexibility reasons", our company can deny access to the the system by operators of our vehicles. The "Comfort language" here, is that we can keep people from turning off the ability to track our vehicles, or see the information we are recording.

Now, I know that GPS transmitters are used in trucks all over the world and these systems offer huge benefits. If I was a driver, on a highway, with a load of plasma TVs, it would also be comforting to know that my company knew where I was. I am also sure that in today's tight labor market, companies spend little time harassing drivers over frequent bathroom breaks. In companies that have chosen to monitor human behavior with GPS tracking, I wonder if drivers have employed "Gaming" techniques, but I have no concept of what they might be.

Users want to be able to avoid tracking, and companies are seen as wanting to enforce tracking, because users want to be able to avoid tracking.

22) Oh, what a tattered web we weave...

As I have written before, my discovery of "The CRM Dilemma" did not come from CRM. I was simply seeking answers on why my fellow sales people had lied to me, when they said they would use CRM. Because I am an INTJ, I knew the answer must be outside the boundaries of what I was being told.

As I said in my research, I began to discover the secret hidden within the aversion to activity controls (Knowing the steps someone takes to achieve a known outcome). I looked at sports stars, chess players, taxi drivers, doctors, and many other groups, to determine the lengths that people will go, in order to have their activities not be controlled.

Because I also ultimately want CRM to work because I believe in it, I looked at possible ways to force CRM users, to get past "The CRM Dilemma" and use it, despite their fears. Once again, to find the answer we look outside the realm of CRM itself.

As I considered my last post, I began to think about the amount of time and energy it would have taken, for my contractor friend to hide his activities and mistakes from our reporting capabilities. I would also like to consider methods that could be used to ensure accurate reporting by our contractor. Remember, although we know the true reason for the resistance to this reporting, it will never be stated by him. I would also like you to consider the amount of time, energy, and money, spent on each step.

Remember: The goal of the system deployed to this contractor is to increase efficiency and profits for both him and us. No where is it stated in our goal, that we wish to bring punitive actions against him, for inefficiency, or using too much lumber.

What the contractor would do:
First line of defense - Excuses
  • "It takes too long to record each cut"
  • "The laptop is impossible to keep clean in a construction environment"
  • "The software is too complicated"
  • "The software is too slow"
Our response:
Address the concerns and provide solutions
  • Move to a weatherproof, handheld device
  • "Always on" software
  • Provide additional training and job site support
Contractor step 2: Promise to try the new tools and provide feedback.

Contractor step 3: Let the gaming begin!
The contractor has convinced himself, that despite our assurances of the system being to his benefit, what we are really looking for are ways to measure HIM. He has arranged with another contractor friend on the same system, that they will share lumber when required, in order to improve "Their numbers." They have also figured out that if they buy a few boards with their own money, they can improve their odds of winning the yearly prize for the "Most efficient contractor." The award will more than compensate them for any lumber purchased. They have also agreed to split the prize money.
They are now maintaining a spread sheet to keep track of the lumber, but it is becoming more difficult to keep it all straight.

The reports aren't making any sense
We are finding discrepancies in the amount of cuts reported, versus the amount of lumber being used. Because we require accurate information in order to achieve or efficiency goals, we look for additional tools to ensure more accurate reporting of lumber and cuts.

New tools are required
We discover that a company has produced a new saw that will automatically records cuts made, and upload the information each day to our database . By adding RFID chips to all the lumber, we can get an accurate picture and decrease the effort by our contractors in providing the information. The new saws are purchased, our suppliers have agreed to add RFID chips to lumber, and our contractors are trained on the new system. The contractors say they like the fact that less effort is required to record the information.

The contractors have to step up their gaming efforts
The contractors continue their lumber swapping and side purchasing of lumber. Several of the contractors have been reporting problems with the new saws and have said they have to keep their old saws around, because they are reliable and trusted. One saw per job simply isn't enough anyways. With the new saws reporting cuts and the old ones not, reporting is now becoming even more eratic. The contractors have demanded they receive additional and better quality saws that they can rely on.

It isn't difficult to determine what is going to be the end result in this hypothetical situation. The bottom line it seems, is there is not a snowball's chance in hell that the contractors are going to provide the information we are looking for. Each move by us will receive an effective counter-move by the contractors.
  • We will receive no pay back or benefit
  • The contractors will receive no benefit from the tools
  • From day one, the contractors had decided the new system was never designed to benefit them and it had to be defeated
  • Distrust on both sides will increase
  • An incredible amount of energy will be spent instead of focusing on building houses and making money
  • A huge amount of money will be spent by us, to address objections that were not really at the heart of the problem

In my last post, my contractor friend had said that if we could provide him with an effective Planning and Communication Tool, (PACT) it would be of true benefit to him. Since our original goal of efficiency and profits could be achieved, without monitoring lumber cuts, why would we not take activity controls out altogether?

21) Explaining my research to someone that has never heard of CRM

Last night, a friend of mine asked me to explain my research into "The CRM Dilemma." My friend builds houses for a living, rarely uses a computer, and has never heard of CRM. I used the following analogy:

We want to know how many cuts you are making each day, to ensure you are building houses efficiently. By understanding how many cuts you are making, we will be able to help you streamline some of the processes and help you make more profit by reducing waste.
Please begin to record each cut, the size of wood, and where the board is going.

"What if I make a mistake in cutting a board?" he asked.

I told him he should record that too, so we can help him minimize those mistakes in the future.

Then I asked my friend what he thought would happen.
Interestingly, he didn't talk about the time it would take to record each cut and how that would interfere with the amount of time he spent, actually building.

He was more concerned that he would feel very uncomfortable with having efficiency reports run on his activities. Although my friend is one of the most honest people I know, he said he would probably not record most errors he made. He said he would use the boards cut in error in other places (As he does now) but find ways to report it in such a way, that we wouldn't know it was actually a bad cut. I explained that this would mean the reports would not be valid and we would not be able to help him improve if he didn't tell the truth. He said he simply wasn't going to tell us every mistake he made, or every detail, so that we could figure out how many mistakes he made.
I had turned my highly skilled, honest friend into a gamer and a liar.

My friend now understands "The CRM Dilemma" perfectly!

PACT explained to my friend using the same analogy:
Instead of recording each cut, we want to help you plan your cuts, before you build a house. You can select from various reports that will provide each suggested cut, and also suggest where the end piece can be used. If a mistake cut is made, the software will allow you to search for the best place to put the board, without registering it as a bad cut. At the end of the project, you can evaluate how using this model improved your profit.

The software will also allow you to quickly pass "Next steps" onto your sub contractors so everyone will know what they need to do to complete the job.

My friend thought this was much better than monitoring his cuts and he said the second system is one he would actually use.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

19) What is said - How They read it

To follow, I will copy key benefits of CRM noted on two software-provider web sites. Following each key benefit, I will list what needs to happen to accomplish each benefit, and what your sales force is reading into these statements. If your CRM system sits unused, look to what is NOT being said as the true culprit.
I am in no way saying your company does not have the right to ask or require this information from your sales reps. I am trying to show how "The CRM Dilemma" causes reps to do everything in their power to defeat or circumvent CRM. To date, sales reps have been exceptional at avoiding "carrying the stick with which they are to be beaten."

MS CRM (What they say)

"Improve field-service performance"
"Microsoft tools for field service management allow you to track the activity and results of individual field representatives or teams, identify any issues, and increase performance. When managed with the help of Microsoft solutions, the delivery of field service, maintenance, or sales might yield even better results, and drive more income, than it does today."

What has to happen: Activities and results cannot be "Tracked" unless they are first recorded by field personnel. "Issues" cannot be identified unless the information is accurately provided.

What your sales people read but do not say:
Microsoft tools for field service management allow you to track my activities and my results. Identify any areas where I am not doing my job, and increase my performance through closer scrutiny . When I am managed with the help of Microsoft solutions, my delivery of field service, maintenance, or sales might yield even better results, and drive more income, than it does today. "If I don't provide the information about my activities, my activities can't be tracked."

"Are you neglecting any customers? Run a report to find out"
"To build lasting relationships, you must check in with leads, opportunities, and customers regularly. You can use the Neglected Accounts, Neglected Leads, and Neglected Cases default reports in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 to identify contacts, or you can create your own report using Microsoft Office Excel 2003."

What your sales people read, but do not say: If I am neglecting any customers, you can run a report in CRM to find out. "If I don't provide the information, these reports cannot be run against me." (What they say)

Territory management. With the territory management capabilities in Salesforce, you can easily define,
administer, analyze, and change sales territories to match your sales organization, no matter how complex it is or
how frequently it evolves.

What your sales people read, but do not say: If you want to strike fear in the hearts of your sales force, just mention the words "Territory realignment." "The CRM Dilemma" is epitomized in the words "administer, analyze, track, change, and define."

Opportunity management. Opportunity management enables sales teams to work together to close deals faster
by providing a single place for updating deal information, tracking opportunity milestones, and recording all
opportunity-related interactions
. Salesforce can be customized to fit your internal sales methodologies and
processes, making it easier for your managers to monitor their sales pipelines.

All these items are required to be recorded by the sales reps themselves. They do not just "Appear" in reports unless sales reps feel secure in entering the information. Since most of these points would be considered "Low Cards" by sales reps, the fear of providing this information overrides any perceived benefit in doing so.

Monday, February 25, 2008

18) Contact Management to CRM - Harder than you think!

I purchased my first computer back in 1994. It was a lightening fast, Toshiba 486 laptop. I believe I paid more for that Toshiba, than the Dell XPS 1330 I am typing this post on today.

I bought my laptop back in 1994 for one reason; to manage my customer relationships. I remember the day I spent loading Maximizer, using the nine floppy disks that I paid a small fortune for. I spent quite a bit of time entering all my customers into my Maximizer database. I installed Winfax, bought my first Palm Pilot and I was all set. Imagine, I could write a newsletter to my customers, push a button, and each of them would receive a personalized fax, with the newsletter. I became the star of the sales department and then I was asked to take over a senior territory. My sales manager, knowing that I had been keeping a database, asked me to share it with the new sales rep moving into my position. You'd have thought that he was asking for a kidney! This was my database, on my laptop. Of course I did the right thing, I printed a copy of my database, with the last five customer notes - Mr. Generous!

The CRM Champion

When a company is rolling out CRM, they will often look for their "CRM champions" in those reps that have been using contact management effectively. From an organizational change perspective, it would seem to make sense that those that are used to entering customer notes into ACT, or Goldmine, should have no problem transitioning to CRM.

I can tell you from personal experience; It was the ACT and Goldmine users I looked for to be super users for the CRM implementation. These users of course said it was "Great" that we could use Scribe to import their databases into CRM. Once again, "The CRM Dilemma" had a huge hand to play in the minds of these technologically advanced sales reps. I now know the planning had begun for these reps to defeat CRM. The clues were provided in their statements and questions:
  • "CRM needs to be as easy to use, as my ACT system."
  • "Can I make notes in CRM private?"
  • "I have many customized fields in ACT that I need."
  • "Who is going to be able to see what I put into CRM?"
  • "I will probably keep my Goldmine database in case CRM goes down."
  • "I need offline access to my information."

These are very natural things for people in this situation to say. Because we are confident in the superior technology of CRM, we promise that all these needs will be met.

While contact managers can be set up for the information to be shared in a small group, they are primarily designed for single-client use.

The UNSPOKEN, and most important differences - Here's what your contact management users aren't saying:

  • "Because I alone see what I put into my ACT database, I only record "High Card" activities."
  • "I like that I have admin rights over the information I record in Goldmine."
  • "I like that if I am asked to share ACT information, I can do so selectively."
  • "I like that I decide what to enter about my activities"

Because of "The CRM Dilemma," the spoken will become the database of excuses, for the unspoken.

Challenge: Since you are reading this, I will assume you have CRM in place that few, if any, sales reps are using. Run CRM activity reports on "super users" that were previously using contact management. I am pretty sure you will find very low usage rates among those that were supposed to be your champions. Unfortunately, "The CRM Dilemma" says that the requirement to enter "Low Card" activities, spoiled all the fun for these key users. They have the advantage of determining all their excuses in advance for not using CRM. Send a link to this blog out selectively and ask for opinions on it. You will be amazed (As I was) at the response once the truth about the "Unspoken" is revealed.

The PACT Difference

By removing the fear of "Low Card," quantitative activity reporting, vast new tools can be provided through PACT, for the contact management user.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

17) The Sales Manager

Before I discovered the CRM Dilemma
I was working with one of the largest regions in the company. The head of the region was begging for CRM, and had promised that "Our people WILL use CRM." since I knew "Pressure from above" increases CRM adoption, I made them a pilot region. This story involves a general manager, a sales manager, myself, and 30+ sales people. These events all happened before I discovered "The CRM Dilemma." Now that I have completed this research, what happened in this region makes much more sense. I now know that when CRM is implemented in this region, the results will not be what I anticipated at the time.

The General Manager: As far as clients go, "Jim" was a dream come true for this CRM Project Lead. Young, MBA, analytical, information driven, and very hospitable. As a stop-gap measure, "Jim" had instituted and mandated an Access database log of activities be kept by all sales reps. This hadn't worked because "It was too slow." I had noted that "Jim" had tendencies towards micro management which made the sales rep in me cringe. But I wasn't one of the sales reps in his region, I was the CRM Project Lead who was looking for "Executive buy-in," and I had found it! "Jim" had recently instituted a policy that all managers and sales reps had to keep their Outlook calendars populated with appointments. They were also to add notes to the appontment in Outlook after meeting with a customer. "Jim" was having trouble getting "Terry" the sales manager to keep his own calendar populated.

"Jim" was looking for CRM to provide:
  • Sales rep activity snapshot reports.
  • Understanding about the "Mood" of customers
  • Help to "Keep each other in the loop" because multiple people were calling on the same customers.

The Sales Manager: My first meeting with "Terry" went very well I thought. He was responsible for one of the largest sales force in the company. "Terry" is a seasoned veteran and seemed quite laid back and he reminded me of the sales manager I had when I was a rep. My sales manager was, and remains, the best sales "Coach" I have ever encountered. I remember thinking I was a little concerned that "Terry" may not pressure his reps to use CRM, much like my own sales manager hadn't. "Terry" was hoping CRM would:
  • Help him communicate better with his sales reps
  • Because more employees were now calling on the same customers, they needed a way to communicate with each other so that customers received a consistent message
  • Help to provide better customer service

Before I get to the sales force, you need to know about the sales meetings.

Two Sales Meetings - Big Differences

I had the pleasure of being invited to two sales meetings for this region. The first meeting was run by "Terry" the sales manager, without "Jim" in the room because he was out of town. The second sales meeting was run by the general manager "Jim" with "Terry" in the room.

The meeting run by "Terry" was relaxed with a lot of discussion. "Terry" spoke a little on CRM but I was disappointed there wasn't a stronger declaration. Watching "Terry" in action solidified my opinion that his true strength was in being a sales "Coach." The sales reps clearly liked "Terry" and responded well to him. I also became more concerned that "Terry" wasn't going to put enough pressure on his sales reps to use CRM when we rolled it out.

The meeting run by "Jim" was entirely different. There was very little discussion and it was very much lecture-style. "Jim" spent quite some time talking about CRM and the benefits of CRM to the region. "Jim" made it very clear that the sales force would be expected to use CRM and usage reports would be looked at by him. When "Terry" got up to speak, I noticed he was quite different than when "Jim" wasn't in the room at the last meeting. I could tell there was a tension in management styles between the two.

The Sales Force: This is a very dedicated and diverse group, struggling to meet all their goals in a declining economy. As I interviewed them in groups and individually, I noted that "Terry" was highly respected by them but they didn't like "Jim" very much because of his micro-management style. The sales reps I spoke with had told me they were using their Outlook calendars to record appointments and adding notes. They expressed concern about being micro managed through CRM. We assured them that CRM was being designed as a tool for them. The main frustration they were consitently expressing was that many employees were now calling on "Their customers" and they needed to be kept in the loop on what was being said to customers. In the past, only the sales reps would be calling on customers so this was a huge change for them. They were pleased that CRM could be used to communicate to each other about what needed to be done after a department called on a customer.

Leading Indicators: Now that I understand "The CRM Dilemma," there were several indicators that this CRM pilot will not produce the desired results.

  • I thought "Terry" was avoiding me - After our intitial meeting, I was never able to get a follow up meeting with the sales manager. Since I was only there to help him, this puzzled me.
  • "Terry" was being pressured by "Jim" to be harder on the sales force and monitor their activities more closely.
  • While it is true that sales reps had used the re-occuring appointments feature in Outlook to populate their calendars, not one of them was filling in notes after the customer appointment.
  • No call reporting was done by sales reps
  • It was clear to me that "Jim" wanted quantifiable data from CRM in order to make business decisions. These decisions would not neccessarily be in the best interest of "Terry" and the sales force.

The REAL story through the lens of "The CRM Dilemma"

I now understand the serious dilemma faced by "Terry" the sales manager in the implementation of CRM. In fact, "Terry" already understands the basics of "The CRM Dilemma," but he can't say anything about it. As the leader and protector of his sales force, he knows they need CRM so they can communicate needed information between each other. "Terry" also knows that with the benefits of CRM comes a huge pack of misery for him and his sales team. In the end, "The CRM Dilemma" will prevail and this CRM initiative will fail:

  • "Terry" will not make his reps record their "Low Card" activities, unless he is forced to do so by "Jim"
  • If "Terry" forces his reps to record their "Low Card" activities, "Jim" will begin to run reports on the quantifiable, "Low Card"activities of the reps.
  • "Terry" will run no such reports because he does not believe in activity control and prefers to coach his reps based on outcomes.
  • "Jim" will then go to "Terry" and tell him the changes he needs to implement with the sales force, based on this information
  • "Terry" may go to his reps and "Coach" them on what to put into CRM (Gaming) with the purpose of protecting him and his reps from "Jim"
  • If reps are entering activities into CRM, but are "Gaming," if "Jim" figures this out, he will either put yet more pressure on "Terry," or he will start going directly to the reps and bypass "Terry."
  • The best solution for "Terry" and his sales force is to make CRM go away. If he could just take the "Low Card" activity reports out of CRM, they could all use it as the tool it was intended to be in the first place. This great sales team won't be able to take advantage of the "High Card" communication tools that they really need because "Low Card" activity controls are attached to the system.
  • "I know I should be using CRM but.........." will be the refrain heard throughout the sales force.
  • If they use CRM just for "High Card" communications, it will negate the excuses they need to use to get rid of CRM.
  • CRM will have to die. It will die as long as the entire sales force works together.

To "Terry" and all the other brilliant sales coaches out there, I finally understand what you have been thinking, but not saying. In PACT, I offer a solution that addresses your concerns and allows you to have the tools you really need. There is finally research to prove "The CRM Dilemma" exists and is all too real.

As always, I welcome your comments. In my next post I will share more CRM implementation situations where "The CRM Dilemma" was staring me in the face. I will also admit and share my own story as a sales rep, being asked to share my ACT information, and how "The CRM Dilemma" affected my actions.

Friday, February 22, 2008

16) The dreaded opportunities pipeline

If your company is currently using an opportunities pipeline, you are likely using it for one or both of the following reasons:

  1. To understand how many units you will have to manufacture or order to fill the orders in progress

  2. To put pressure on your sales force through activity controls

If you are using your pipeline for purpose number one, the system is probably working for you. Because it is used to fulfill sales rep orders, such a system is considered "High Card" by your sales reps (providing it is the only method by which the information is communicated), the reps will regard it as a tool to their advantage.

If you are using it for purpose number two, or both one and two, I am sure the pipeline is a major source of tension between managers and sales reps. The "CRM Dilemma" is epitomized by the opportunities pipeline by being the ultimate in activities control for your sales force. I would also bet that the following is occuring:

  • Your highest performing sales reps use (and are required to use) the pipeline, far less than lower performing reps. This is because the pipeline is not a tool, but an accountability. Your best reps require less accountability because "We already know they are doing the right things."

  • Sales reps that use the pipeline the most (If you have any) will not represent your highest performers. This is because the pipeline does not truly provide guidance to your reps - They already know how they are doing in sales by knowing their outcomes.

If your reps don't see personal value in the pipeline, they aren't using it anyway so kill it, kill it dead!

The really important pipeline

While opportunities management in CRM is the antithesis of PACT, PACT can be used as your greatest indicator about the effectiveness of your current strategies. Going back to the new product launch in Post #8, which would be the greatest indicator of the acceptance of your new product by sales reps and customers?:

  1. A "hit and miss"report from CRM on which reps have said they would do the presentation, and to whom. Combined with:
  2. A report on those reps that have completed the presentation. Combined with:
  3. A drop-down report from reps in CRM as to why they did not make the sale after the presentation. Combined with:
  4. An ERP report on orders received


  1. A report from PACT on those reps that have scheduled appointments with customers during the sell-in period. Combined with:
  2. A report on those reps that have requested the new product sell-in package for those customers. Combined with:
  3. Feedback from sales reps and customers regarding what they said about the new product line and the presentation tools. Combined with:
  4. An ERP report on orders received.

The key difference is that PACT offers a level of safety tin the minds of sales reps because it focuses on planning and communication that they consider meaningful.

15) Steps to converting an unused CRM system to PACT

If you agree with the premise of my research on "The CRM Dilemma", (Why would you be reading this if you didn't?) It probably means you have implemented CRM to great fanfare and promise, only to have your sales force ignore the tools you have given them. You may have tried various sticks and carrots resulting in no marked improvement in usage, or a move to "Gaming" by your sales force. The challenge then is how to resuscitate the system you have, without falling back into the activity control trap that your sales force rebelled against in the first place. It is my contention that this can be done, but it will require a determination to provide a system that your sales force will really view as a tool, NOT a threat. To follow are some steps you can use to achieve this important conversion in attitude.

PACT = Planning and Communication Tool
  1. Admit the problem: This may be the hardest part. I am no longer employed because I did this before the problem was identified in our North American role out (The Canadian implementation had failed because of the "CRM Dilemma".) To state that "Our sales force is not willing to record their activities, because they don't trust that we won't use the information against them" is a very bold step that will be welcomed by the sales force, but may be panned by others. This admission shows that we are virtually powerless to understand the day-to-day activities by sales reps, in a quantifiable fashion. You will be amazed at the audible sigh of relief you will hear from your sales force when you remove this tremendous burden from them.
  2. Restate the original goals of CRM for your company: You didn't implement CRM in order to control the activities of your sales force, activity controls are an unintended by-product stemming from the desire to offer better service to your customers. By restating these original goals, you set the stage for a new understanding with your sales force and open the door for a new PACT with them.
  3. Do an analysis of current planning practices: There needs to be an admission from the sales force that they could do a better job planning their activities. If I were hired by a company to perform this task, I would spend time travelling with various sales reps to identify gaps in activity planning. There needs to be a level of trust in identification of these gaps that does not single out individuals. Planning practices by department heads and executives must also be evaluated to ensure the messages that are reaching the sales force are clear and consistent. I have personally seen situations where sales reps are confused as to their objectives because different departments are giving them conflicting messages on what priorities they should be focused on.
  4. Evaluate the information needs of customers: I have always been a top salesman, not because I was a "close friend" to my customers, but because I was able to identify what they wanted to know. Not just about the products I was selling, but providing them information that they would be interested in, and that would impact their business or their lives. For example: A contractor customer is interested in your products, but provide him or her with a market analysis of their industry, and you become a hero to them. Help them to get more business and they will buy your products.
  5. Evaluate the information needs of your internal customers: Yesterday, I spoke with a friend that had a problem because she wasn't able to obtain a particular piece of business information on a consistent basis. I showed her how by creating a simple "Google Alert," she could have this information delivered to her as soon as it was made available. I suspect there are many people like her in most organizations. Now she will be able to plan her activities easily because she will be able to consistently get the information she needs. In previous posts, I outlined some ideas on the types of reports sales reps need in order to effectively plan their activities. Providing these reports is key to a successful PACT with users.
  6. Plan to provide all the required information: This is where I get into trouble with my friends in IT because I do not provide a magical application to accomplish this, nor do I offer a solution package. The key is that in order to plan activities, employees need to go to one source to find the information that is customized to the customer.
  7. Understand and declare what is and what isn't required to be communicated: For the new PACT to be successful, (Used consistently) "High Card" activities (Information that must be communicated in order to progress the sale, or provide feedback that MUST be acted upon) can be the only recording required in PACT. With the exception of training or disciplinary "One offs" identified previously, departments cannot be permitted to add "Low Card" activity recording to PACT. This may have the same implications identified in step one, so executive champions are required to keep consistency in this message.
  8. Remove all "Low Cards" from your current CRM application: As painful as this sounds, the days of the "Tick box fields" need to be over. You don't trust the information anyways, so in order to send a positive message of change, all quantifiable information on "Low Cards" needs to be deleted. You will hear yet another cheer from your sales force when they see this has been done! Please don't assume you can leave the information in and it is enough to say that your sales force no longer needs to populate the fields. Quantifiable data remains a "Threat" as long as it exists.
  9. Add "High Card" fields and tags to PACT: This step shouldn't be too difficult assuming your company email system is integrated with your CRM system. If "High Cards" are currently communicated through emails, there simply needs to be a link between the customer and that email. If you open the customer record, you need to be able to see the "High Cards" recorded against that customer. There also needs to be customer feedback fields, suited to your organization, that customer-facing employees can use to provide "High Card" feedback. As mentioned before, the ability for employees to view cumulative feedback is as important as managers viewing it.
  10. Conduct a pilot of PACT: CRM training has long been forgotten. Users need to be retrained and reminded what the new PACT is all about. Conduct a pilot study to ensure user understanding and acceptance.
  11. Make sure the PACT is being honored: With the removal of "LowCard" activity recording, comes new accountability in using the PACT system to its' fullest. Sales reps cannot assume the company has "Rolled over" but rather is providing new tools that are designed to help them sell, instead of watching and quantifying their individual activities. Users and managers alike must be held accountable for their planning and communication activities on a continual basis. Reports of appointments being recorded against customer records and the planning reports requested will be the key indicators of user acceptance.

In my next post I will continue to provide evidence of the value of the information gathered through the PACT system and tackle the issue of The dreaded pipeline.