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The Sales Side – CRM: CRM is not an IT project!

Ohhh – is that so?!
And who’s running it then? Who has all the trouble with it and who the hell is dealing with it in the first place?

YOU just see the well behaving little CRM, but WE know what it takes to make it look like that!
– What’s your home planet, Tom?

Welcome to The Sales Side and part #2 of my CRM/SFA contemplation.

To better understand my ambitions and way of thinking I kindly ask you to read my previous post (that one questioning CRM success). And it’s probably a good idea to adjust your sarcasm filter.

OK – let’s start by putting the bottom line first:

A CRM project is not an IT project, because

  • IT does not benefit from the results it produces
  • IT is not responsible for the outcome

OK, agreed – running a larger company’s IT department is a kind of juggling with 3 running chain saws and a pretty miffed skunk, while your wife wants you to bring out the garbage – NOW!

The last thing IT wants is a new project with unpredictable side-effects on the productive system.

IT department’s job is to provide 24×7 services – which can be without no doubt a hell of a job! (OK – unless you have SAP, of course! <BG>)

So how come that IT is soon taking the lead and keeps it?

To understand why IT finally gets the lead and what is likely to be responsible for the “project target deviation” I will use a step-by-step approach and introduce you to ACME Inc.

And I will only focus on the dynamics not on the project!

Day 1 – Entering the event horizon

Sure, we all know that CRM exists and some of us outside SAP even heard about SFA. So we all have a kind of vague understanding about usage and benefit, but it’s mostly pie-in-the-sky. Nevertheless there is a certain day, when a sales director at ACME Inc. – let’s call him Dave – so when Dave realized that he lost something that he is supposed to have: control of sales!

The pipeline quality is pathetic, the forecast does not work as expected, “easy-peasy-150%-for-sure”-prospects fail for no obvious reason, the conversion ratio is a joke compared to the invested effort, and finally ’da management is not really helpful, because it’s the end of the quarter and the new financial data need to be published.

But Dave is not a stupid manager! He knows that he is expected to be a part of the solution and not of the problem. So according to “the Book” the solution comes by the name of CRM/SFA! And since he knows that “you should never ask a barber whether you need a hair-cut”, he is not going to ask a CRM vendor whether he needs a CRM, because smart Dave doesn’t want to look stupid or be talked into a solution.

First Evaluation

So Dave sits down and starts his first investigations on his own, asks some of his colleagues, friends from other companies and starts reading magazines and online forums, maybe buys some books, learns who the key players are, and and and. The more he learns the less likely it is that Dave considers another solution!

And he learns a very important lesson – CRM projects tend to fail!

But for Dave “Failure is not an option” something that is definitely not going to happen with his CRM project. No, he will do everything right and the successful CRM implementation will be a major milestone in his career! So Dave starts reading all the 5s, 10s or what-so-ever reasons why CRM fail or succeed. And he learns:

  • CRM is something that effects the whole company – or at least should if he wants it to succeed
  • It will have a long term perspective so it should be prepared for all the future issues, so
  • Dave better Thinks BIG

And Dave puts up a first sketch with a nice executive summary that was taken from the marketing material of some CRM vendors. Thus predestined, Dave becomes project manager for the new CRM-system!

Getting the people in the boat – evaluating the initial spec sheet

Now we’ll see an interesting effect: As soon as Dave announces the CRM plans all of his colleagues at ACME start the same kind of process – imagining all those little or big needs they have, or think they have, or sometimes wish to have – how their life will be improved by a CRM!

That is – by the way – the perfect moment for a good CRM sales rep to create “need”, to nourish those wishes already in the heart of the departments, this “How could we ever live without a CRM!”; this “I love those cool dashboards!”; this “I can use my iPhone/iPad for that ?!”

Meanwhile Dave is getting tons of suggestions. And to endorse their CRM ambitions, the departments start contributing to the CRM budget (or, more likely, were told to do so), thus making it possible to buy the all the CRM we need!

From now on Dave has lost control! He became outnumbered and out-sold! So let’s hope for Dave that he is able to withstand all those greedy colleagues and that he is still able to manage the project into success, but odds are bad!

Meanwhile the actual pre-spec-sheet became so big that the supposed CRM has to be reduced by at least 30 per cent to fit in the budget.

In endless meetings all the departments start to negotiate their essential share in the final project, because no one wants to lose their advantage (and probably a free iPad). The longer it takes the more arguments, facts, vendors, success-stories etc. had to be discussed, prioritized and decided on.

And Dave…? Dave just realized that he lost control even more and that he is now likely to be set up as the scapegoat.

The project gained so much momentum that his power won’t bring the other departments in the line anymore. But every escalation would first shows his weakness and second brings  the problems into a higher level of management attention – Very Bad Carrier Move!

No, no – very likely smart Dave does what every experienced real-life-tempered middle manager does – he prepares for the blaming game.

This is the moment were politics gets a higher priority for all participants than a proper CRM not mentioning the reason #1.

And that is the moment when IT finally takes the lead.

Only the IT department has a clear understanding about the prerequisites to run the CRM: re-use of existing DBMS technology, infrastructure & platform needs, administration & SLAs, extra licenses, data integration, etc.

AND IT can put price tags on every item. Something that Controlling and C-level really love!

Unfortunately do IT-based priorities have nothing in common with sales-based priorities, or in other words: IT prioritizes flawless processes, sales prioritizes meaningful results.

It’s like a perfectly maintained car that arrives in the wrong town.

Decision process

So when and how is the CRM decision made? That’s the moment when the amount of information brought into the discussion is so immense that even the last “objection-bearer” (still don’t know what “Bedenkenträger” in English is) goes belly-up.

Like in any other negotiation the decision is not driven by facts but by the will, ego, power and stamina of the participants!

Information overdose in combination with a maximum number of highly motivated participants is a 100 per cent guaranteed method to disguise your personal agenda. If you play that game well, it results in something that I call “analysis paralysis” – everyone became totally confused and everyone hopes that the vendor will do it right!

Well done – CRM Salesman! So at least YOU did your job well! Extra BONUS: Bora Bora – all inclusive!!


Once the first implementation steps are taken, an interesting switch in argumentation appears. During the decision process all kind of specs were agreed without being seriously questioned. But from now on every change-request suddenly needs a business case and it’s better be good.

Going Live & Production phase

And then the day comes when the euphoria about the new system is gone and the daily business takes over. Then something called resilience pops into existence. That means that we fall back into old habits. Habits that we are used to, that worked for years and that we know from our co-workers. The more stress we have and the less benefit we see from a certain solution the faster we get back to old routines.

In other words: we stop using the SFA because we can’t see the benefits for OUR daily life.

And here we are!

And there is another very important thing we should not forget to mention:

The IT department’s hidden agenda

The IT department (not it’s personnel!) runs all the necessary hard- and software to provide the necessary speed for today’s business processes. But it’s much more: IT knows HOW the company makes his money, all details about how the service it produces and delivers, it knows all about the customers, etc. Knowing with processes that are sometimes designed by people long gone or maybe even dead; processes that are usually never ever touched again to prevent nasty side-effects.
In short – IT controls the essential processes; from that perspective IS IT the company!

There is a certain attitude in any company that is essential to understand the relationship between C-level & groundhogs. This is best explained by the descriptive label “human capital”. An investment into IT material is much more likely to get a decent ROI than an investment in “human capital”; especially not when you expect your “human capital” to leave in 3 years for a better paid position.

With all your IT in proper shape you can lose all of your “human capital” and will very likely still be up and running in a short time. But if you lose your IT (by fire, earthquake, etc.) your company will be dead and remain so.

So the moment our CRM goes live it actually becomes an IT project!
From that perspective I cheated a little in the header!

CRM/SFA prerequisite thoughts

It’s not about that you are not selling,

It’s all about that the customer is not buying (from YOU)!

And the customer is not buying because you haven’t convinced him that you have the best offering, so

  • he took a competitor’s solution;
  • he decided to postpone the project;
  • conditions have changed, the problem became obsolete and you simply haven’t realized that.

It is as simple as that and it takes neither a degree in rocket science nor a CRM/SFA.

All of the above directly relates to the salesman’s ability to communicate, an ability which cannot be controlled from within an SFA. It cannot even be measured or qualified from within a process. Your SFA will just show you the consequence but not the individual reason. So how are you going to react when you don’t know the reasons?

And if your customer is not buying your service then you don’t need a CRM/SFA anyway.

During preparation for this text I found an IMHO easy and simple test whether you should consider a CRM/SFA in the first place. Just ask yourself the following question:

Was your biggest recent sales failure not buying your solution

  • because you didn’t had a cloud based solution,
  • because you didn’t use a mobile device,
  • because you didn’t know about your pipeline performance in Q4,
  • because you still running your business on some monolithic RPG stuff on OS/400?
    (vade retro – Satanas!)

If you really sure, that at least one of the above facts spoiled your sales success: Get a CRM – NOW!

Since all of the above are taken from a SAP marketing slide stating that you will get a competitive advantage if you would have all of the above in proper shape, I strongly recommend a SAP solution!

It’s important to understand what CRM is able to do and what that sounds like in CRM marketing terms. E.g. Oracle/Siebel says on their web-site:


In normal words, they are selling their own sales prediction with a different calculation, a different (supposed to be “better”) qualifying of even more (even better better!) parameters. They call it triangulated forecast because they used parameters from the field, the pipeline and history. I like that triangulated, because all of us have an “Predator style aiming-device homing in on our potential target” before our inner eye – “Yo Man –  no way out! You’re triangulated!”

And I really like the history, because that way you judge the actual customer behavior by what was important for him some years ago. I (semi-seriously) recommend adding some stock analysis and weather data and calling it Pentacast!

But no matter what or how – the result will be a percentage. And percentages are good for your blood pressure and for justification.

CRM/SFAs are an excellent way to observe existing sales projects, not to generate or control it! Because if you fail to sell, a “90 per cent” from your CRM/SFA got you nowhere!

So IMHO the most important prerequisite for a potential successful CRM implementation are:

The “Knows”
  • To know why and how you are selling
  • To know the real problems in your sales line
    (follow the line of causality which starts at the customer not in your company!)
  • To know the financial effect the CRM is going to have for your company (ROI) compared against the various costs that various vendors produce (TCO).

The “Do’s”

  • Clearly communicate your SFA REASON#1 to your sales co-workers and invite them to participate and contribute!
  • Define a clear framework: milestones, time-frames, priorities, decision processes, change requests (!!) etc. and their specific effect on reason #1 before you start!
  • Rethink your definition of the phrase customer. (more to come in “The King Machine”)
  • Get an experienced project manager – or better two; one for IT and one for the other issues (economics & departments)!

The “Don’ts”

  • Stop thinking that you are going to impress your customer with shocking new facts like
    I know what you bought last summer and I can show it to you on my iPhone right now!
  • Stop thinking that your customer will be impressed because you have a sales process!
  • Stop thinking that you can actually control the customer into the sale!
  • Stop thinking that pushing a slider on the dashboard has any effect on your real revenue!
  • Stop thinking that you can actually buy sales-success!
  • Stop thinking that an accurately forecasted statistic has any what-so-ever meaning for a certain single case!

Since I already referenced SAP and Oracle, I finally want to come up with a little
According to their pricing sheet (19. Nov 12), they sell their most popular license (the Enterprise license) for $125 per user per month. That means for a sales team of 50 sales people plus some 5 management licenses you pay $82.500 per year – every year! From a TCO perspective this might probably be OK, but I don’t know and care!

But how much did you invest in your sales people in the last 5 years?
(a.k.a. $412.500 in licenses)

If you DO have a successful running business there is no better than a CRM/SFA  for organizing it!

Because Never forget:

The Best-Run Businesses Run SAP
because they knew how to be successful BEFORE they Run SAP!

Thanks for reading and hope to see you next time


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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Sorry - but after publishing it, I found myself a little to enthusiastic regarding size!

      I promise improvement!