Small Businesses Are Failing With CRM Software

(Here is what they can do about it)


By Larry Caretsky

CRM software has a bad rap in the small business community and for good reason. The failure rate for the successful implementation and use of CRM software in this sector is higher than 70%. There are literally thousands of small businesses all telling the same story; we tried it and it didn’t work for us, but why? What went wrong? Outlined below are a few of the reasons small businesses are struggling with the implementation and use of CRM software, and what they can do to fix it.

First, let me take a moment to tell you that I have been in the CRM software industry for more than two decades and in the computer software industry even longer. As a sales executive, I have been engaged in hundreds of sales cycles with small, mid-size, and large corporations and I have found that small businesses tend to take short cuts when making decisions that can be critical to the success of their business.

Every business regardless of size is looking to streamline their internal processes in order to get a leg up on their competition. CRM software has been touted as the silver bullet for improving how you market, sell, and provide service to your customers. There is no cookie cutter approach to this, which is why it is critical that you put together the proper game plan for selecting the right solution for your business. I have found that small businesses tend to overlook three key decision criteria, which are often the culprit for failed installations.

Poorly Documented Requirements or No Requirements at All

Small businesses do not seem to appreciate how important it is to document their business requirements or pain points. How do I know this? Because the person inquiring tells us so. When asked what specifically is driving you toward evaluating a CRM solution they often do not know. They have been instructed to download several CRM solutions then recommend the best one for the business and if they have any questions, they will be in touch. You have to ask yourself if there are no specific business requirements how can they possibly decide which is the best solution for their business. If you are in sales this is a big red flag. Either the management does not have the time to discuss the business objectives for a CRM solution with the staff; or they don’t really care and think all products are the same so just select the one you like the most at the lowest cost. The sad truth is that is exactly what happens. Several months later the product is shelf-ware, and they become another story of how we tried CRM and it just didn’t work for us.

So how can you address this? It’s easy. Management simply needs to take the time to sit down with the staff and outline the 3-5 specific business challenges they need the software to address. If they do not have the time to do this, or they simply do not know what these challenges are then guess what? They don’t need a CRM system.

Underestimate the Commitment Required for Success

Small businesses do not fully understand that the successful implementation and use of CRM software requires a dedicated resource, a champion or someone with authority that can manage changes to internal procedures and ensure that the staff is properly trained on how to use the software. CRM is not an appliance that you simply plug in the wall and everything works according to the manual. It requires an investment and I think small businesses underestimate the level of commitment required for the successful implementation and use of the software. This contributes to the high failure, but can easily be addressed by treating the CRM system as a critical component of the business.

The Value of Vendor Engagement

Small businesses tend to overlook the experience and value added services they can take advantage of by selecting the right CRM solution provider. In fact, the majority of small businesses pay no attention to this and it is perhaps the most significant reason why so many are failing with CRM. For smaller businesses, it is hard to appreciate the value for the following reason. Most CRM solutions for the small business community are very inexpensive ranging from free to $30 dollars per user per month. In addition, to get buyers to move quickly they are offered a month-to-month payment plan that can be cancelled at any time. So if you are only paying a small amount for the software each month it’s hard to justify spending additional money for implementation and training, but this is foolish thinking.

CRM software should not be looked at like a gym membership.  Think of it this way. You cannot get yourself in shape in 30 days so how can you possibly improve your business in that same time frame. You can’t and if you do not have the resources or knowledge to design your own fitness program you will most likely hire a trainer. The CRM solution provider should be viewed as the trainer for your business. A good solution provider will have experienced people on staff to assist you and ensure the system is properly implemented and used by your staff. Yes, it will cost some additional money, but if you get the results you were initially looking for then it’s all worth it in the end.

If you are planning to select a CRM solution so that you can improve how you market, sell, and provide service to your customers, the winning formula includes:

  1. Document your business requirements and educate your staff about them.
  2. Don’t underestimate the time and commitment you need to make to manage internal changes and train the staff how to use the software.
  3. Select a CRM vendor that can act as your partner in your success.

About the author

Larry Caretsky is the CEO of Commence Corporation a leading provider of CRM software for small and mid-size businesses. He is considered an expert in the field and has written numerous articles about the implementation and use of CRM and an e-book, “Practices That Pay: Levering Information to Achieve Selling Results.”

Sales Question and Answer #51 – How to Stay Upbeat

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Q.  I find it difficult to stay upbeat and positive all the time.  I have a tendency to get down on myself when something goes poorly and then find it hard to look forward to the next sales call.  I can’t be the only sales person who struggles with this. Can you help?

how to overcome sales slump depression.

A.  Thanks for asking a question that the vast majority of sales people don’t have the courage to ask.  Yep, the situation you described is an occupational hazard.  Most sales people have times when they are hesitant to make the next call or take the next step because they’ve just be rejected in the last.

I think that sales people, in particular, are sensitive to this.  Two reasons – first, we face rejection more times in the course of a week than almost any other job title.  Second, since we spend so much time alone, we often mentally dwell on our shortcomings and failures much more than the person who works in an office or in proximity to other people.

So much for the problem.  Are there any solutions?  Of course.

For now, let me focus on just one.  About ten years ago, Martin Seligman, PhD., authored a book called Learned Optimism.  I expect that it is out of print, but if you can find a copy, I’d recommend that you do so.  Learned Optimism provides a solid answer to your challenge.

In it, Seligman describes his lifework.  As a research psychologist, Dr. Seligman began by studying helplessness in dogs.  In an early experiment, he put dogs into a cage from which they could not escape, and subjected them to mild shocks.  After some effort at escape, the dogs would give up trying and lay down.  Later, he put them into a cage from which they could easily escape, and subjected them to the same mild shocks.  The dogs would just lie down and give up.  Surprisingly, they did not attempt to remove themselves from the irritant.  They had learned helplessness and hopelessness.

In subsequent experiments, Dr. Seligman found a similar behavior in human beings.  Put into a room and subjected to irritating noises from which they could not escape, they soon learned to give up.  When put into a room with a mechanism that would turn off the noise, they still didn’t try.  They had learned helplessness and hopelessness.

From this beginning, Dr. Seligman continued to formulate a thesis he calls “learned optimism.”  It says, basically, that human beings learn to have either a pessimistic or an optimistic outlook.  Dr. Seligman’s book contains a self-assessment to measure the degree of pessimism or optimism of the reader.

Dr. Seligman’s thesis arises from the way people explain negative events to themselves.  When something negative happens, as it eventually will, the way you explain it to yourself determines your pessimistic/optimistic attitude.  There are three components of this “explanatory style.”

The first component is the degree to which you believe the event to will be permanent.  Pessimists believe negative events will be permanent, while optimists believe that they will be temporary.

The second component is pervasiveness.  Pessimists believe the causes of negative events are universal, affecting everything they do.  Optimists believe them to be specific, and limited to the individual circumstance.

The third component is personal.  Pessimists believe that negative events are caused by themselves.  Optimists believe that the world is at fault.

Here’s how this behavioral perspective works in the everyday life of a sales person.

Let’s say you visit one of your large accounts, and your main contact announces that the vice-president for operations has signed a prime vendor agreement with your largest competitor, and that all of your business will be moved to that competitor within the next 30 days.  That’s a negative event.

As you drive away from the account, you think to yourself, “I blew it here.  I should have seen it coming.  I’m never going to learn this job.  I’ll blow the next one too.  I mismanage them all.”

Now, that’s a pessimistic explanation of the event.  Notice that you have explained it in a way that is personal, “I blew it.”  Your explanation is also permanent, “I’m never going to learn to do this job,” and pervasive, “I mismanage them all.”

Now stop a minute, and analyze how you feel as a result of this explanation.  Probably, you feel defeated, dejected, depressed, and passive.  These are not the kinds of feelings you need to energize yourself to make your next sales call.

Let’s revisit the situation, this time offering optimistic explanations.  The same event occurs — you receive bad news from your best account.  As you drive away, you think to yourself, “They really made a bad mistake this time.  It’s a good thing the contract is only for a year.  That gives me time to work to get it back.  I’m glad it was only this account and no others.”

That’s an optimistic explanation because your explanations were not personal, permanent, or pervasive.  How do you feel about your future as a result of this explanation?  Probably, you feel energized and hopeful.

See the difference?  The event was the same.  The only difference was the way you explained it to yourself.  One set of explanations was optimistic, leading to energy and hope, while the other was pessimistic, leading to dejection and passivity.

Dr. Seligman has isolated optimistic behavior as one of the characteristics of successful people.  Using various techniques he’s developed, he predicted elections by analyzing each candidate’s explanatory style.  The most optimistic candidates often win elections.

The implications for you are awesome.  If you can improve your explanatory style, and make it more optimistic, you’ll create more positive energy and hope for yourself, no matter how difficult or negative the circumstances with which you must deal.

Learned optimism can be one of your most powerful self-management techniques. It’s based on this powerful principle:

Your thoughts influence your feelings and your actions, and you can choose your thoughts.  Here’s how he suggests that you do that.

Step One.  Analyze your explanatory habits.

Wait until you must deal with some negative event or some adversity in your life.  Then, stop and observe what you are telling yourself about the event.  What do you believe about yourself and the reason why bad things happen?  Ask to what degree your explanations are personal, permanent or pervasive?

Step Two.  Note the consequences of your explanatory style.

Pessimistic explanations always lead to passivity and dejection.  Optimistic explanations always lead to energy and hope.  Which is more likely to propel you to future success?

Step Three.  If you’re pessimistic, you must change the way you think.

Your future success depends on your ability to rise up and meet adversity with renewed energy and optimism.  You can do this by choosing to think differently.  Dr. Seligman makes the following suggestions.

Distract your thoughts.  In other words, when you find yourself thinking negative and pessimistic thoughts, tell yourself to “Stop!”  You can even say it out loud, or shout it to yourself.  Just “STOP” thinking those things.

Then, shift your thoughts to something else.  I’d suggest you think about something that brings you pleasure or satisfaction, or something at which you’re good.

Dispute your explanations.  This is a longer-lasting approach.  Argue with yourself.  Reason your way out of your negative thoughts.  Look at the evidence, or suggest alternatives.  Reason from the implications or usefulness of what you’re thinking.

Back to our example.  On the way out to your car after your miserable call, you are thinking to yourself “I blew it here.  I should have seen it coming.  I’m never going to learn this job.  I’ll blow the next one, too.  I mismanage them all.”

When you catch yourself thinking defeating thoughts, argue with yourself.  Think, “Wait a minute.  While it’s true I may have been able to do something if I had seen this coming, the truth is that the VP would never see me.  The other company must have had some special “in”.  That doesn’t mean that this will work anywhere else.  It’s just this account.  There certainly isn’t any evidence of this possibility happening anywhere else.  And, the truth is that the entire purchasing department is not happy about this course of events.  If I stay close to the account, they may find lots of reasons to continue to do business with me. ”

What you’ve done is argue with yourself in order to change your thought processes.  As a result of thinking differently, you have more energy, more hope and, therefore, more likelihood of success in the future.

You can change your thoughts.  You can choose to think differently.  You can choose to believe differently.

And that fundamental decision about how you think can, more than any other single decision, affect your future success.

Dr. Seligman has discovered, through his scientific research, a truth that has been known for thousands of years.  The Apostle Paul, writing in the book of Romans, counseled new Christians to, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  And Solomon said that, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Your choice of what to think about, and how to think about what happens to you, is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make.

So, when you find yourself feeling depressed, dejected and with little energy, recognize how you are thinking, and think differently.

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.”

I must believe in a product in order to sell it

Beliefs that limit a salesperson’s performance: I must believe in a product in order to sell it.

man in suit

By Dave Kahle

As a sales trainer, I often confront a difficult obstacle that stands in the way of developing more effective sales people. Too often sales people are hindered by limiting beliefs that prevent them from implementing the best practices, principles and processes that can multiply their results.  They remain bound by internal barriers of their own conception.

Here’s an example.  A Customer Service Representative wants to move to outside sales.  He was good at his job of reacting to whoever was on the other end of the phone line and responding effectively to the request of all the customers.  As a result, he forms the belief that success is a matter of responding effectively to everyone.  He’s moved into outside sales, where he naturally brings along that belief.  In that new position, he continues to operate on the basis of that belief, responding effectively to everyone who has a request for him.  As a result, he finds himself spending inordinate amounts of time with small and needy customers, and very little time with larger, more sophisticated and higher potential customers.  And as a result of that, his sales are mediocre, although he feels fulfilled.

It’s not that he doesn’t have the ability to do better; it is just that his belief limits his effectiveness.

This example illustrates just one of many beliefs that limit the productivity of sales people.  Many of these self-limiting beliefs are so subtle that they operate beneath the level of consciousness, supporting some behaviors and preventing others without the sales person’s conscious awareness.  In order to unleash the sales person to higher levels of productivity, these beliefs must be recognized, challenged and changed.

“I must believe in a product in order to sell it.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this.  I hear it frequently from new sales people, and occasionally from more experienced reps.  It is often pronounced with a bit of a smug, self-righteous attitude and projects the air that this is the last word on the subject – “That’s my position.  Period.  End of conversation.”

That’s too bad.  Because, as long as the sales person holds this belief, he will never achieve his potential.

It’s detrimental because it holds that the product, or more specifically, the sales person’s opinion of the product, is the ultimate influencer of sales behavior.  The sales person’s opinion becomes more important than the needs and situation of the customer.

Here’s an example.  At one point in my life, I sold men’s suits and sport coats in a relatively expensive men’s clothing store.  At a time when the average price of a man’s suit was around $100, we had one line of suits that sold for an average of $350 — three and a half times the price of the average.

I personally thought that it was a waste of money.  Why pay that much, when you could get a perfectly good suit for a third of the price?  I would never buy one of those.  I just didn’t believe in it.

Now, if I had been ruled by the belief, “I must believe in the product in order to sell it,” I would never have shown those suits, never had suggested them, and never had sold them.  However, my personal opinion didn’t matter to those people who wanted the extra details and more expensive look of that line of suits, and who could afford them.

I would have allowed my personal opinion to stand in the way of the sale made to someone who did not share my opinion.  In so doing, I would have limited my sales and hindered my ability to fulfill the customer’s needs.

Now, you can say that the example isn’t a good one.  We all have limits on what we can spend.  You’ve missed the point.  It could have just as well been a product line (and, in fact, it was) that was extremely cheap.  I didn’t believe in that line, either.  I didn’t think that line was worth the money.  But, I didn’t let that opinion stand in the way of the customer who could afford nothing more.

You see, the point is that my (or any sales person’s) opinion should not take precedence over the customer’s needs.  It puts the wrong issue at the heart of the sales process.  When you hold this belief, the sale is not about the customers’ situations, opinions and needs; it’s about your opinion of the product.

This article (S-45) is available in an expanded version. Check it out here.

Who gave you such omnipotent insight?  Where did you acquire such absolute judgment?  Where did you gain such arrogance as to think your opinion was so important?

In my career, I have sold countless things in which I did not believe.  Given the choice, I personally would not have purchased them.  I don’t see that as a flaw in my character; I see it as a strength.  It says that I was never so arrogant as to think that my opinions over-ruled the customers’.  It says that I tried to always hold the customer’s situation and the customer’s opinion as a higher value than my own.

Thus, it did not matter what I thought of the product, it only mattered what the customer thought.

That’s why this belief is so limiting.  It removes possibilities from your ability to understand your customer, and it removes options from your menu of solutions.

No wonder that sales people who hold this belief only achieve a fraction of their potential.

If this belief is one of the fundamental tenants of your opinion as to what constitutes a professional sales person, it’s time to rid yourself of it.  Instead of focusing on your opinion of the product, focus on the customer’s situation, and the customer’s needs.  Your job is not to impose your opinions on the customer’s behavior; it is to meet the customer’s needs with solutions that fit the customer’s situation.  In so doing, you’ll break through the barriers that limit your effectiveness, and move to a higher realization of your own potential.

By the way, you’ll find this kind of insight into dozens of sales issues in our Sales Resource Center®. It houses 435 training programs to help every one live more successfully and sell better.  All delivered over the internet, 24/7, for one low monthly fee.

How do you sell something you don’t believe in?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Q.  How do you sell something if you don’t believe it is right for the customer?

A.  What a great question.  I suspect that every sales person, at some point in his career, wrestles with that question.

Let’s think about this together.  We should start out with a clear understanding of what we mean by “sell.”  I’m not being Bill Clinton-ish here, I really believe this is central to a resolution of the question.

One definition of “sell” is this:  You have the product, and you are actively and strongly promoting it as an appropriate solution to the customer’s needs.

Or, it could be that “sell” means:  Your customer has discovered the product on his own, and is actively seeking it.  They discovered that you are the source, and want to buy it from you.

You can see the difference, I hope.  In the first situation, you are recommending the product, while in the second, you are only responding to the customer’s request.

One other thought as preface:  Your question said “If you don’t believe it is right for the customer.”  Notice your words – “If you don’t believe”.  We’re talking about beliefs and opinions, here, not necessarily facts.  In other words, you could be wrong.

You don’t think that it’s right for the customer.  But you probably don’t know the customer’s needs, the customer’s situation and the customer’s values nearly as well as the customer does.  Allow for the fact that the customer probably knows better than you do what is right for them.  So, it is entirely possible that you don’t believe it is right for the customer, but the customer, knowing his situation much more deeply and clearly than you know it, believes that it is right for them.

Now, let’s try to assemble these random thoughts into a coherent response to your question.

If you are proactively promoting the product (scenario number one, above) and you don’t think it is right for this particular customer, then I believe that you have an ethical responsibility to share that belief with the customer.  Temper your comments with the understanding that you could be wrong.  This is just your opinion, after all.  If the customer wants to go ahead with the purchase anyway, you should not refuse the order.  It may be that you are wrong.  If you have shared your concerns with the customer, it is now his decision, not yours.

It may be that you don’t like the product at all, and you don’t want to promote it to anyone.  There is something better out there that they should be buying.  Again, that’s your opinion, based on limited information about the customer.  If we only bought the best product, none of us would be driving Hondas and Fords and Chevy’s — we’d all be in BMWs.  There is a place in this world for products of less than the best quality.

vintage car in need of repair

It may be that the product doesn’t do what you are told to claim it does.  That’s a different situation.  I dealt with this exact situation once in my career.  The product just simply didn’t work.  It hadn’t been field tested and had been rushed to the market too quickly.  The initial deliveries resulted in problems, and were routinely returned.  In that situation, I could not, in good conscience, promote the product.  To do so would be that I would have to lie to my customers.  It wasn’t a matter of good, better or best, it was a matter of a deceitful promise about the product.  Frankly, it was the reason I left that company.

Let’s go to the final scenario:  The customer has discovered the product on his own, and wants to buy it from you.  I would very softly and subtly raise some questions about the efficacy of the product.  If the customer still seems intent on buying it, take the order.  Remember, you could be wrong.  The customer surely knows his situation better than you do.

Thanks for asking what turns out to be a deep moral question.  Good luck as you sort through your options.

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.”  Check out his latest book, The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.”