Saturday, February 16, 2008

9) A "True" CRM Dilemma

If you Google "CRM Dilemma", you will find the list comprised of decisions between software, vendors, hosted or on-site. You will then see provocative references from my blog telling you that CRM isn't going to work, no matter what you do. A true dilemma is one that involves more than one person or group, making a decision that impacts both the outcome and the decision made by the other group. The CRM Dilemma I have defined through research is a Trust or Don't Trust Dilemma between employers and employees that heavily impacts resistance to CRM.
  • An employer requesting that "Low card" activities be recorded in CRM, causes users to distrust, and fight CRM because:
  • "If our employer trusts us, and does not plan to use our recorded activities against us, why do they want us to provide quantitative data about our activities?"
  • The resistance by users to providing information on their activities, causes employers to distrust, because:
  • "If our employees are doing what they are supposed to do, resistance to providing this information can only mean they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing."

The most fascinating part of this dilemma for me is that it can't be spoken with the other party in the room! As soon as you validate the concerns of the other party, there is no longer a dilemma and "Distrust" can be the only choice. The only element to be decided is whether the employer or employees will "Win." A win by employees means no one is using CRM to record any activities. I believe the CRM failure rate provides the answer on who really has the power to make or break CRM against this dilemma.


Friday, February 15, 2008

8) New Product Launch - PACT versus Traditional CRM

In order for PACT to replace traditional CRM, Planning and Communication need to be the focus throughout the organization. As posted before, tremendous planning needs to be done to ensure sales reps have all the information they need in order to plan a successful sales call. Sales reps also need to be held accountable for proper territory and sales call planning as many sales reps are lacking in these important skills. This does not mean that we are telling sales reps how to plan, but rather, guiding them in what to plan. The following hypothetical company statement illustrates how PACT is supposed to work.

PACT - "High Card" Approach

"In order to prepare for our new product launch, our goal is to have 300 new product presentations conducted with customers next month. In order to assist field sales in achieving this goal, we are adding the following sales call planning reports in PACT:"

  • Data sheets on the new product line

  • Sell-in sheets

  • A copy of the suggested presentation format

  • Customer leave-behinds customized to each customer.

  • Target demographics for the new line

  • Product photos

  • Independent reviews of the new line

  • The latest competitive intelligence for this line

"When planning sales calls for next month, please select this package of information for each target customer. Please note that customer feedback on these tools is very important, so please pass along any feedback you receive. You will also be able to view cumulative reports on the feedback that has been received."

Accountability in the "High Card" approach:

Before I give the "Low Card" approach to this scenario typically found in CRM, it is important to understand how using PACT has shifted the accountabilty for the sales reps involved. Again, with apologies in advance to the IT experts, I am a "Sales Guy," not a "Network Guy".

In the above scenario, sales reps have been made accountable for 1) Planning and scheduling appointments with customers. 2) Selecting the new product line package for target customers, and 3) Providing customer feedback on the presentation, which they can also access cumulative reports on. (This last add also tells reps that management will be reading the feedback as well).

CRM - The "Low Card" approach to this same scenario:

Even if all the same sell-in tools were provided, "Low Card" reporting is added to satisfy quantitative reporting. The added statements are in red.

"In order to prepare for our new product launch, our goal is to have 300 new product presentations conducted with customers next month. In order to assist field sales in achieving their portion of this goal, we are providing the following tools in CRM:"

  • Data sheets on the new product line

  • Sell-in sheets

  • A copy of the suggested presentation format

  • Customer leave-behinds customized to each customer.

  • Target demographics for the new line

  • Product photos

  • Independent reviews of the new line

  • The latest competitive intelligence for this line

"On the attached template containing a list of all your customers, please check off the customers you will be doing the presentation with next month. In CRM, each customer will now have a check box added that should be selected once you have completed the presentation. You will also find a drop-down lists to indicate the results of the presentation and, if the order is not placed, the reason the customer has given."

Accountability in the "Low Card" approach:

In this typical "Low Card" scenario, sales reps have been made accountable for 1) Selecting the customers that will receive the presentation so as to provide their "portion" of the total goal. 2) Provide "proof" that they have completed the presentation by checking off a box in the customer record. 3) Provide further "proof" that the presentation was completed by choosing the results of the presentation from a drop-down list. 4) If the presentation did not result in a sale, to provide the reason the rep was unsuccessful.

Such data is fantastic at providing quantitative reports on the activities of reps, right? Wrong!

  1. In selecting which customers reps intend to do the presentation for in advance, reps will satisfy their portion of the goal for the quantitative report which will satisfy or exceed the overall 300 presentation goal. BUT...They haven't made the appointments yet! The time to state the intention to do the presentation is at the time the appointment with the customer is made.

  2. Proof the presentation was completed: We seem to forget sometimes that most sales reps hunger constantly for new products to present and sell to customers. I know that having a nice report on "X Presentations completed = X% sell-in success rate", but this is achievable in PACT, without forcing the reps to create this report for you.

  3. Results of the presentation: Your ERP system will tell you if a sale came out of the presentation. This drop down is designed to put further pressure on reps to account for their activities and builds on the battle to make CRM go away.

  4. What did you do wrong? I guarantee you the drop-down selected here (If chosen at all) will be the one that puts the least responsibility on sales reps for the sale not being made.

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

I will let this sink in while I prepare my next post.

7) Instituting a PACT takes courage!

As an employer, you have every right to ask your employees to log their activities into a centralized database. My research does not advocate removing accountability, but rather, seeks to demonstrate how the aversion to recording activities, that can be used against them, drives employees to mutiny against traditional CRM. Believe me, I found the conclusions of my research to be hard to swallow, but undeniable. If you have the courage to implement a PACT, rather than traditional CRM, there will be departments or individuals, that will push to add activity controls. Because the CRM Dilemma is so counter-intuitive to the ethos of most organizations, unless you fully believe in a PACT, rather than trying to force sales reps to log their activities, you are better off not trying to go down this road. Unless you are willing to institute a "No Low-Card Policy", (Except for training or discipline as noted earlier) my research concludes you will be back to a failing CRM system in no time. Remember that a "Low Card" is anything that a sales rep is asked to record about their activities, that only forms quantitative data and does not help progress the sale, benefit them, or the customer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

6) PACT - Communication after the sales call

NOTE TO READERS: This blog is NOT meant to be read "Top-down". Please explore my research starting with the oldest entry to understand the logic behind the CRM Dilemma.

After the sales call
With traditional CRM, after the sales call the sales rep is supposed to enter the details of the sales call into CRM. Typical details of a sales call include:

  • Date of visit and customer

  • Primary objective(s) of the call, by category or categories

  • Items discussed, or presentations made by category are recorded

  • Agreements reached with customer

  • Customer feedback is recorded

  • Evaluation if objective(s) of the call are or were achieved

  • Follow-up activities or appointments required by the sales rep, are recorded

  • Follow-up activities or appointments required by others, are recorded

There are many benefits to the sales rep, the company, and the customer in recording the above details of a sales call. Whether or not CRM is used, many of these details are recorded by the sales rep in a paper or contact management format. To follow, I will evaluate the benefits and implications of each of these activity details as they relate to the sales rep, the company, and the customer. Each detail of the activity will also be evaluated from the sales rep's perspective if entering it into CRM, rather than a paper or contact management system only the sales rep has access to.

Date of visit and customer: The vast majority of sales reps record this information as a reminder to themselves or evidence that the sales call was made. Usually, in the hands of the company this information is only used for quantitative and analytical purposes. This information has some value in the customer record if another employee is going to visit the customer and needs to know the last time the sales rep visited. In PACT, this information will be revealed based on the planning that was conducted for the appointment. This information is "Low threat" to the sales rep provided it is not categorized and only in the customer record.

Primary objective(s) of the call, by category or categories: Every sales rep should have an objective when they make a sales call. These objectives should line up with strategic initiatives set out by the company as well as the goals the sales rep is working towards. What differentiates PACT from traditional CRM, is that because reporting these objectives back to the company is strictly "Low Card", quantitative data, such reporting is not required.

Items discussed, or presentations made by category are recorded: Most sales reps will record this information for their own records. In CRM, this information is "Low Card" used for quantitative reports of negative value to the sales rep. PACT does not require this information, but does allow for uncategorized text notes created by and for the sales rep, if they choose to do so.

Agreements reached with customer: Such agreements usually have "High Card" value (Someone needs to know this agreement has been reached). The progression of these "High Cards" in PACT (Or CRM for that matter) is of high value to the sales rep provided the quantitative element of this information is kept to a minimum. Quantitative reporting (Usually indicated by "Tick boxes") can have the negative effect of causing the sales rep to use email to progress the "High Cards" because email is less quantifiable.

Customer feedback is recorded: Reporting the feedback provided by customers is of critical importance in PACT. Unfortunately, traditional CRM lumps this tool in with activity controls and as a result, many companies are not receiving this key information from customer-facing employees. By removing activity controls in PACT, employees will be more willing to record this feedback because they will not have to employ all the "Excuses" for not using the system. An important note: In my considerable experience, customer-facing employees need to be given access to cumulative customer feedback. Having access to these reports encourages employees that "Someone is listening." If possible, an automated "Thank you for recording this feedback" is also a good idea to encourage this behaviour. They also need to be encouraged to provide positive feedback from customers.

Evaluation if objective(s) of the call are or were achieved: In traditional CRM, this reporting is placed under the guise of "Program evaluation" or "Employee coaching." Employees see right through this and know that these "Low cards" will only be used for quantitative evaluation of their performance. Employees want to be judged on outcomes, not the activities completed to achieve those outcomes. Because this reporting is viewed so negatively by employees, they usually cause employees to avoid the reporting system altogether. Very often, this activity reporting doesn't jive with actual outcomes anyway. The reporting of these activities is not required in PACT.

Follow-up activities or appointments required by the sales rep, are recorded: Once again, because the quantitative reporting of sales rep activities is eliminated in PACT, the sales rep will be much more open to using the tools provided to record follow-up activities. Such a system works far better than paper-based systems because of the "Reminder factor."

Follow-up activities or appointments required by others, are recorded: The key in PACT is to attach these "High Cards" to the customer record. Even if the preferred method of "High Card" communication at your company is email, most systems integrate with Outlook so the customer can be attached to the email. In this way, anyone that opens the customer record will see the email or appointment that has been attached. Important Note: You may be tempted to create workflows to address these sales processes. I caution against applying accountability to those in the sales processes that receive these workflows. I offer the following scenario to illustrate my research findings:

Each stake holder in the sales process gathers in a room, to place parameters around a particular sales process from start to finish. Each department in the process is asked how long they feel it will take to complete their portion of the sales process. Their response is recorded and the entire process is agreed to by all stakeholders with a clear timeline firmly in place from inception, to completion. Each department will be accountable for the timeline they have agreed to live by. This is a process that goes on at most companies, with or without an automated system for tracking the progress. With an automated system, managers and others can receive delinquency reports on departments not achieving their portion of the workflows, in the time period agreed to initially.

The dilemma occurs when internal departments start moving away from the automated workflows that have been created and agreed upon. After a time, many revert back to old systems such as email or phone calls, and avoid putting the workflows into action. The reasons for this are very complex and hard to pin down. Inevitably, excuses blaming the "System" will arise as to why the automated workflow is not being used. The "truth" of the matter seems to point to human nature being the cause of reverting back to "Less trackable" systems for the following, usually unspoken reasons:

  • You can't "talk" to an automated system. The "system" doesn't care if you or someone in your department is sick. The "system" doesn't care if two people in your department just quit. If your department is assigned a workflow, a delinquency report WILL be generated if you do not complete your assigned portion on time. You can't phone the "System", explain your problem and ask for more time. It will then be up to you to explain why you are delinquent after the report is generated.
  • In an automated workflow process, if you need more time you can't simply phone or email the one that instigated the workflow. Instead, if you are unable to complete your portion on time, you will need to call everyone in the process and explain why you will be delinquent.
  • This dilemma seems to happen more often in "Team-based" corporate cultures. Because no one likes delinquency reports generated against them, empathy can cause a move away from automated workflows.
  • Automated workflows with accountability reporting, can have the negative effect of not being able to accelerate the process under special circumstances. Sales Reps and others usually try to form positive relationships with those they rely on to produce, ship and deliver the products or services they sell. Often, a phone call is made saying "I know you guys usually need two days to do this, but I need a big favour......". Usually the last thing someone wants is to create an adversarial relationship with those they rely on, by instigating an automated workflow process that will cause problems for those receiving it.

There are times of course when such tools are required and appropriate. This scenario is only designed to point out that agreements reached in stakeholder meetings, do not always result in "real life" work flow parameters.

The sales call by the rep has been well planned. The sales rep had a clear understanding of their objectives based on company initiatives and guidance that was provided in their planning process. The sales rep was also well-armed with information from PACT, that would help him or her both sell to the customer, and build relationships by providing valuable information and service to the customer. PACT provided this information customized as both a working paper and a customer leave-behind.

After the sales call, the rep was only required to enter "High Card" activities and customer feedback into PACT, so that recipients would quickly receive them and the "High Cards" would be attached to the customer record. The sales rep was also able to schedule any follow-up activities for themselves.

In my next entry, I will build on the value of PACT for companies and users. I hope to show that a tool based on Planning and Communication, even without activity controls, is far superior to a CRM system with activity controls, that no one is using.