CRM Adoption: Using the “Carrot and Stick” Method

I was reminded during a conversation at a client site the other day of one of the oldest adages in the realm of CRM adoption: the concept of the “carrot and stick”. The basic tenet behind it is that management will give end users incentives to use the firm’s CRM, but if that is not enough, then some form of backlash will occur if utilization is not up to par. Though this may sound like something out of The Darth Vader School of Management (“Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them”), the execution of this strategy needs neither lavish incentives nor draconian punishments to be effective. Usually, all that is needed is context and insight.

The Carrot
There are two basic truths I have seen in every sales organization: 1. everyone wants to sell as much as possible and 2. no one wants to spend more time than is necessary to do so. Regarding the latter, CRMs are often unfairly maligned as overhead for sales professionals to log details about accounts and leads; to them, the process can seem duplicative or even wholly unnecessary, especially if they have a tried-and-true low-tech solution in place. The job of the CRM is not to make busywork now, but rather to make data work for those salespeople in the future.

The sort of data someone from sales may enter in the CRM is usually fairly basic, and answers a few basic questions: who, what, where, and when. Who am I meeting with today? What is the context of the conversation? Where will this contact take place? When do I need to be there? The follow-ups after the call or meeting also become part of the running thread around this sales opportunity.

It is great to capture this data, but is it really working for the end user? They have answered the other questions, now answer these on their behalf: why and how. Front-line salespeople probably are not going to do heavy data analysis, so do it for them.  Use historical projections, quotas, client activity history, etc.. Keep it simple, keep it accurate, and make sure it can be made relevant at the individual customer level. This should help answer (or effectively ask) those other questions. Why has this client not reordered from us this fiscal year? How should we structure this sale to this organization knowing that multiple salespeople in our organization have active deals with different departments within it?

In summary, collecting data is great, but making it actually do something is the carrot to motivate your end users in sales to provide the right kind of data inputs into the CRM.

The Stick
The National Sales Director at a previous firm of mine used to hold a weekly sales meeting on Monday mornings. From our CRM, he would bring up the pipeline reports via a screen share session/conference call with the various branch offices. Anyone whose listed sales opportunities seemed low (or far too high) on the probability of close would be asked to justify those numbers. A common response was that some of the good leads were not in the CRM or had not yet been updated in the system. His response is one you hear often on the “stick” side of this topic: “If it’s not accurate on my report, it’s not in the system, so it doesn’t exist.”

The public shaming approach might sound harsh, but it was effective. Still, it should be said this was not a case of a man on a power trip trying to make life difficult for his bedraggled underlings. This was a manager trying to figure out if resources were allocated properly to potential sales and if advisors were, in fact, closing the deals they started. No one wanted to be called out for not having moved the needle one way or another on a given sales opportunity in those meetings. You were unable to show your successes as a member of the sales organization unless your interactions in the CRM said so. It was made a point of pride to be able to talk about your successes in front of the group, as well as being humble enough to ask for assistance on the more challenging nuts to crack. Honesty and openness were the name of the game.

Of course, there will always be one or two naysayers who simply cannot be convinced of the value of such a system. This is where executive sponsorship and support must make the hard decisions to correct this. One easy way is to demonstrate a scary scenario that would be difficult to mitigate without a centralized repository of client interactions. In organizations not using CRMs with full adoption, the dreaded double-contact story always emerges in some fashion. It usually means an embarrassing call to a customer who says, “Yeah, I know you’re selling red widgets – I just bought some from Jim Smith yesterday. Don’t you guys ever talk to each other?” *click* Now that is a stick you never want to be hit with!

In conclusion, CRMs are invaluable to sales organizations simply because in today’s business environment, there is simply too much data to track. Yesterday’s sales heroes were lone wolves with a briefcase and a nice product; today’s are pack hunters with a solution crafted from intelligence gathered from many sources. Capturing that intel in a timely fashion on your leads and clients will help you sell by enabling your team to support you.

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