CRM: A Love/Hate Relationship

Part 1: What agribusinesses can’t stand about Customer Relationship Management programs

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Is it Facebook for business or a powerful sales tool? Is it Big Brother or a new way to serve customers? Is it here to stay or just a passing fad? I’m talking of course about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs that are sweeping through our industry. Join me in a series on the Love/Hate Relationship that we all have with CRM and find out how we can learn to use it effectively. Launching it with three different sales teams, I can tell you from first-hand experience, that much of your success is in your hands. Find out how to make it an effective tool for your team. Not just your sales team, but your entire business team as they serve your customer.

Why Do We Hate CRM?

Relies too much on Technology

When the program comes to your company, it is unpopulated with customer info. Hopefully, you have it auto populated from your accounting/order entry software so someone doesn’t have to hand enter all this information. Even with the customer basics entered, the program doesn’t seem very useful. There are no notes on the history of sales calls. That info is in your notebooks or maybe a file folder in your office. “Now, my company wants me to plug in every time I have a phone call or send an email” “I don’t see the point of putting it all in there, when I have what I need in my notebooks”

Feels like Big Brother

This complaint comes out frequently from sales people. They may not openly say it, but it is there. A big reason is the way we promote the value of CRM. When the CRM software company sells the product to the VP of sales or General Manager or whoever is buying the software, they often sell it on the value of continuity during sales person turnover. “If a sales person leaves your company, you will have all their sales call history in the CRM program. The next sales person will have the info to pick up where the last sales person left off!” While very true, that sales pitch is to you (General Manager or VP of Sales). It should end with you. Please don’t promote this feature/benefit to your sales team. I say this because I have heard it said several times. Trust me, it doesn’t sit well with your current employees. What they hear in this message “If you leave, we have all your information” or worse “We can replace you and not miss a beat with your customers.”

Too time consuming

By far, the biggest complaint that comes up with CRM is the time commitment to keep it updated. “I’m on the road selling all day. I’m not going to sit at home all evening and enter every phone call made and email sent.” Ok, I get it – you’re a busy guy or gal. You have a life outside of work. First, there are ways to make the data entry faster and easier. You don’t need to sit around all evening entering a thesis on your sales calls. Secondly, learning what to put in the program and what to leave out is an important part to making the program useful.

Uderstanding how to use the program

I put this complaint in here because I’ve see teams struggle in the beginning of a CRM launch. Often, the software company sales person puts on the first training sessions for you on how the program works. At first glance, the program looks overwhelming. During this presentation, the CRM sales person displays all the bells and whistles of this program working flawlessly in synch as territory info is sliced and diced several different ways. Check marks are used, status updates are connected to your Outlook calendar, connections to your contacts are interwoven to seamlessly make this program your new personal assistant. Like most of us, you finally get the program on your computer and you struggle to remember your password to log in, let alone all the different tabs, links and tools it has.

So how can we love CRM?

When I talk with customers and prospects, I always ask if they are using a CRM program. Typically, I get an exasperated response. Either they launched it and it’s not going well or they are thinking of launching one but struggling with some of the complaints listed above.

It begs the question – “What’s to Love?” There’s plenty. A competitive advantage, organization beyond the human ability to achieve and much more.

Join me next time as I go through the reasons we Love CRM. We’ll learn how to mitigate the parts we hate and expand on those we love to make CRM an effective tool for your team.

Greg Martinelli, Ag Sales ProfessionalGreg Martinelli is a sales coach, consultant and trainer who works with agriculture companies to dramatically increase sales productivity, profits and ultimately dominate their market. He spent the last 25 years developing sales teams across the Midwest that focused on the feed and grain business for both national and international markets. He runs Ag Sales Professionals, focusing
on high engagement and high productivity. He can be reached at or 608-751-6971.

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