crm adminHot take: Common CRM complaints are usually more about user adoption 

I’ve worked in firms where as soon as you walk in the door you’re flooded with chatter and horror about the awful CRM system. They plainly hate it! It’s terrible, they say. It’s just a glorified and expensive rolodex on speed. And immediately they start to ask for recommendations to replace.

Does any of this sound familiar? Well it should. I often hear these complaints both from clients and non-clients. For example, my son, who is a user of a tool at a very well-known advertising firm. He complains about the system lagging, not being user-friendly, and not producing the type of reports he needs to review his accounts, etc… Well, inquisitive me took a peek one day as he was working his magic. I concluded that his complaints about their CRM system are not only untrue, but misleading.

Most CRM systems today can do a lot. It’s worth mentioning that they are well-designed and can be used straight out-of-the-box. Sure, they come with a price tag; however, they can be integrated with other systems, they have features for sales and opportunity management, marketing, calendaring, and email. The list goes on.

As a former administrator, you become tired of hearing the same complaints and excuses. So, you start to question, why the problem?

Why do so many companies struggle to find value from their CRM?

I’ll tell you what other industry leaders have not and will not tell you. The problem with the CRM system isn’t necessary about the CRM system.

It’s about you.

It’s the way it’s been set up.

It’s the way it’s been implemented.

It’s the way it’s been managed (you probably never hired a dedicated admin with the skillset to manage the CRM system).

There, I said it! If you are looking for your CRM system to succeed, then take a very deep breath and take these proactive approaches to nurse it back to health.

Forget about all the minutia in the past and focus on reports

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked for a specific report only to find out that the client is not keeping track of the specific data set. Or better yet, I have a friend/ex-colleague who is starting his own business and wants me to setup and configure his CRM system. Great! But all he wants is for me make sure he is getting the reports he needs to manage his sales team, because that’s all he cares about.

Now, the CRM system is just that, a CRM system and nothing more than a database, no matter where it’s located in the world. A good sales manager would know this. Managers know what they need to manage their team and what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. They need reports on pipeline, new opportunities, recent activities, and lost sales.

Don’t get enamored by new bright and shiny objects. You need to start with the basics and gradually add more once good habits are established within the team.

So, forget the bell and whistles in the beginning. Instead, focus on the few KPIs you will need to produce from the CRM system on a weekly, monthly quarterly, yearly basis. These should be automatically delivered to your inbox every week or every day. More importantly, you should be managing your people based on this data. They should be trained to do nothing else but make sure they’re doing the necessary data entry so that you’re getting these reports.

I’ve had interesting encounters as an Admin where a manager doesn’t know what they want or the reports they need – that is an issue in and of itself.

Invest in a committed administrator

I met a soft-spoken woman in a previous life while I was working for a trade, futures, and opting firm. Sweet-as-pie friendly and kind as can be. But don’t you mess with their Salesforce Org because she would transform into a total hellraiser. She had been with the company for over 7 years and she knew the system backwards and forwards. She was responsible for the data in the system. She was the go-to person for anything Salesforce.com related. She treated the system like it was her baby and took full responsibility for it’s success.

To succeed with your CRM needs and maintenance, you need that kind of person. Hire a person of that caliber. This should not be an IT person – they are not all suited for this task.

Learning how to manage CRM system is not that difficult today. Even a good super-user can pick it up with some training and effort. Just allow them the time and support. Give them the support they need and the ability to take pride in system ownership. Every successful CRM system, whether it’s Salesforce.com or any other, has a strong administrator behind it. And a senior stakeholder willing to make the investment.

Adopt or suffer

“If it’s not in the system it doesn’t exist.”

I remember working for a sales and marketing firm a while back and the mantra was – “if it’s not in Salesforce, it does not exist”. Shortly after implementation I recall one of the employees complaining that it took too long to enter opportunities into the system. The manager at the time turned and said to him, “I don’t care, enter it!” Shortly after I overheard another employee complain and state that he wouldn’t be using it. I did not see him after that day. This was a company that was serious about their CRM system, and embraced it.

At a different Sales and Marketing firm I worked at, we implemented Salesforce.com only for it to fail within a year. Why? I’ll tell you why – because management allowed employees to continue with bad habits and did nothing about it. Result: CRM Failure. Don’t want to embrace your CRM? Don’t’ want to require a bare minimum of data entry to rack customer contacts and key profile data? Don’t care if a salesperson isn’t paying attention to the system? Then suffer the consequences.

The most successful CRM systems are at companies where the system is the culture.

Do what is necessary to help your staff adapt. Give them training and support. Explain why it is important for them and for the company to use the system, and require it. The main point here is that you probably don’t need to invest in something else. Stop complaining. Follow ALL the recommendations above, and watch the results.

Saleforce.com or any other vendor may not be willing to say this to you. But I am. It works and I’ve seen it. With the right Support Partner, getting on track with your CRM admin and CRM user adoption can be made simpler.

-Mara Leal, Project Manager