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Why do CRM systems fail to live up to their promise in sales organizations? Why do they inspire high hopes only to crash and burn in a heap of friction and frustration for Sales Managers AND their Salespeople? The reasons may be plentiful, but the solutions can be relatively simple. Let’s dig deeper to understand why CRM systems fail to deliver on their capabilities, and how to get your CRM system and your sales team back on track before it’s too late:

The Promise of CRM Systems
CRM systems have been around for a long time now. It’s no secret there’s a fair amount of hype to accompany their tremendous capabilities. But when the right CRM system is chosen, when it is thoughtfully configured and customized, and when it is implemented and executed well, everyone wins! With a rock-solid CRM system, Sales Managers have the data they need to assess their sales efforts, forecast future performance, and make strategic decisions to guide the sales organization. Sales personnel, meanwhile, can use the CRM system to maintain and reference key information over long sales cycles, and use this data to improve responsiveness, performance and results. Even the business owner can make critical decisions by analyzing trends and relating internal sales performance to market opportunities.

So with all these potential upsides throughout the organization, why do so many CRM systems fail to deliver?

Why CRM Systems Fail
The biggest problem for CRM systems – even when carefully-chosen, conscientiously-configured, and implemented with intent – is the disconnect between perception and reality. You see, Sales Managers often have high hopes for their CRM systems based on features, capabilities and perceived benefits. Because the system is capable of producing reports, projections and intelligent forecasts, Sales Managers imagine being empowered to make key decisions based on actionable data and information-driven wisdom. They picture having the right information at their fingertips so they can promote key sales strategies and stay one-up on their competition. That is the perception. That is the expectation!

And many salespeople, too, initially have high expectations. They believe the data will bolster their innate sales sensibilities and empower them to take their sales performance to the next level – for more prestige, more respect and bigger bonuses.


What too often happens next is that salespeople soon realize the data doesn’t just magically appear in the CRM system; it has to be entered and updated again and again and again. And that takes them away from actually selling! What’s more, the Sales Manager might start using CRM data to produce reports that focus not on market opportunities but on poor sales performance.

And thus, it becomes a battle of wills: Salespeople become reluctant to enter timely and accurate information; and Sales Managers become frustrated by the lack of reliably actionable and meaningful data.

The Solution
As with most problems, the solution lies in first recognizing root causes. In this case, those root causes are that unrealistic expectations and frontline resistance tend to subvert the possible advantages of CRM systems. These end up pitting Sales Managers against their sales personnel when the CRM system should be capable of bringing both sides together for greater sales success at both the organizational and personal levels.

So how can CRM systems live up to their promise for the good of everyone involved?

Focus on benefits. Don’t be so dazzled by the features of the CRM system that you lose sight of its capabilities to use data to drive better decisions, organizationally and individually.

Design for a win-win. Make sure when the CRM system is customized that it is configured to serve and support the salesperson as well as the Sales Manager. If both sides don’t perceive very real benefits, nobody wins.

Don’t overdo it. When designing and using a CRM system, don’t become so enamored of the fact that thousands of reports are possible that you ignore the fact that you couldn’t possibly process and utilize that much data in the first place. Just as you can’t see the forest for the trees, it is also true that you can’t keep your eye on the prize if all you see is data.

Be positive, not punitive. Sure, with the right levels of accurate data, you’ll be able to assess sales performance. But if your salespeople perceive they will only be scrutinized and judged based on the information they entered, the data they provide will become less and less thorough. (After all, who wants to hand over a club only to have it used on them?) Instead, strike a nice balance that recognizes excellence and reinforces opportunities to perform better.

Spotlight successes. Look for silver linings in that cloud of data. Find examples of salespeople using CRM-based data intelligence to improve their performance. Shine a light on those CRM heroes! When your sales team sees real potential for success, their adoption and support of the CRM system will follow.

Bottom Line:
CRM systems have enormous potential for sales organizations of just about any size. Sales personnel can enter and use key customer, prospect and sales data to drive new opportunities and boost performance. Sales Managers can use CRM information to manage the overall sales effort and make strategic decisions that drive increased revenue and market share. Unfortunately, however, too many CRM systems fail to live up to expectations. This is because those expectations can be unrealistic and unmanageable, especially when frontline sales personnel don’t see true benefits for their data entry and system usage efforts.

At Sales Xceleration, our licensed Advisors know how to assess, customize and implement CRM systems for total sales team adoption and success. To learn more, reach out to an Advisor today, or contact us at 1.844.874.7253.

Dennis Jackson

Author Dennis Jackson

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