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Winning the Battle of the Rolodex
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By Josh Ovett

A sales manager’s ideal world would look something like this:

Sales representatives hit or exceed quota every month. They maintain a high margin on every sale. They report all aspects of pipeline status through a CRM system.

They, of course, do all of this while inspiring loyalty and happiness in every customer.

In the real world, however, the scenario is quite different. The specific problem I’d like to address is the sales rep’s mortal dread of sharing information. In organizations across the country, managers feel they would be better off investing in a crowbar than in a CRM system. At least a crowbar has a proven history of prying.

Extracting information from a rep is and always has been a challenge – often referred to as “the battle of the rolodex.” Unfortunately, many of the best sales people don’t want to share their data, and many of the worst don’t have data to share.

So how can you, as a manager, convince your sales team to convert to a CRM system? One thing is for certain. If you choose to approach it in the classic fashion — automating sales processes a la hostile takeover — you are going to fail.

Instead, managers must start out slowly. A successful CRM implementation always begins with a shift in sales reps’ perceptions of CRM. Implementing a CRM system in a way that “pulls” your team in with valuable efficiencies will make them more apt to use it than if they perceive management as “pushing” it on them. In order to achieve sustained benefits, CRM cannot be perceived as a tool that controls people. In essence, you must “sell” CRM to your sales team, making the transition as simple as possible by gradually introducing usage requirements. This strategy, coupled with regular training sessions and reasonable grace periods for compliance, will effect a 180° change in your sales staff’s attitude towards CRM.

Changing attitudes is only step one along the road to successful CRM implementation, however. To ensure that CRM will be effective, your organization must use it to improve business processes, rather than perfect bad ones, as many organizations inadvertently do. Software vendors who peddle their wares directly are often the culprit in these situations. They have perfected the art of learning your mistakes and helping you to repeat them exactly. Most direct vendors ask the same questions, and, therefore, reach the same conclusions. This explains how a new solution – no matter how robust the software –can perpetuate an old problem.

To help sales organizations become true success stories, a partner organization must be employed to ask the hard questions that only they know how to ask. As in psychology, real growth within a sales organization can only occur when the organization has confronted the skeletons in its closet – or the dust bunnies behind its copier, as the case may be.

Ironically, most sales organizations are facing the same kinds of cultural issues, regardless of the industry they work in. Answer honestly. Does your organization deal with any of the following problems?

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Josh Ovett is the President of Extremely Productive Inc.
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