What Salespeople Really Want From CRM

April 28, 2016
min read time
Sam Aparicio
Sam Aparicio
Co-founder & CEO, Ring.io
What Salespeople Really Want From CRM

The CRM is the data warehouse where every customer touchpoint should be stored and key insights about your customers and potential customers should be kept.  When done properly this data can be analyzed to increase customer happiness and can serve as the fuel for Sales and Marketing teams to accelerate growth.  

When used correctly, a CRM like Salesforce can be a tremendously powerful tool.  Akin to the first homo sapien inventing the wheel everything should be easier with a well constructed CRM. Look, we can roll it down the hill!  

So why is this often not the case?  And why do salespeople hate logging information collected on their calls into the CRM?  Why?  Because it takes too much time!  Information asked for is often counter to the primary objective of closing a deal and the sales team was never told why this information is important for the company’s success.  They are asked to sell more and manually logging data into a CRM is a cumbersome process that distracts from the act of selling.

However, for any organization that wants to succeed, it is imperative that sales fully embrace the  CRM and input the data collected during their process so the company can make better strategic decisions.  They have to understand why they are being asked to collect and log certain information and most importantly, it has to be easy!

So what do salespeople really want from their CRM?

1. Clear the Clutter

CRM has to cater to three groups of people: managers, marketers and sales reps. Those three groups have very different requirements from the tool. Managers want to know what’s happening in their departments. Are reps hitting call numbers? Quota? Meanwhile, marketers want to know 10,000ft stuff about how the company is performing so they can reorient campaign strategy.

Finally, though, there’s reps. Reps want to sell. Seriously, that’s it. A tool that delivers brightly-colored, segmentable reports from a dozen different analytics streams makes marketers’ pulses beat a little faster. Reps could care less. They were happy with Rolodex.

If we must have CRM, it should be highly intuitive and simple. It doesn’t need to be visual, though that’s a good idea. Columns of figures, running a graphing plugin to make sense of the spitout you get when you ask for pipeline reports… it’s all time not spent selling. If we want sales reps to stop writing everything down on little pieces of paper and then grudgingly entering that data into the CRM at the end of the day, they need a CRM that delivers easy, fast, usable information.

What’s sad about this is that one of CRM’s core functions, contact management – it’s right there in the name – is of huge value to sales reps. Sales is getting more technical and more pressurized: quotas are rising, teams are shrinking and organizations are aligning around an end-to-end customer journey based on access to huge amounts of data.  

No other tool can make usable information available like CRM. So the challenge is to sell reps on this point – to encourage them to see CRM as a personal assistant, not a digital extension of management.

The key to is to choose tools that automate activity logging, freeing up time for salespeople to focus on selling while at the same time giving sales managers deep insights into sales performance.

We use our own product, Ring.io, to automate data collection on every call. Quantitative metrics like call time and call length are automatically logged as soon as the call is over. While the sales rep is on the call, they have a set of pre-selected questions they can answer such as the qualifying questions they asked and the result of the call. These answers are then pushed to the right Salesforce field.

This way sales reps can log every bit of important data to Salesforce without having to find and update each field after the call.

2. The View Ahead

When managers use CRM they want to know what’s happening. When marketers consult their aggregate reports it’s to know what happened. Sales people want to know what’s next. The division is that simple and that deep. A sales tool that constantly pulls reps into explaining what happened, logging past events, is one they’ll never love.

Instead, CRM should alert reps about the next stage and adequately prepare them for their next call, meeting or email. From a rep’s point of view, a good CRM is one where you open the prospect’s page or profile and you’re ready to go: everything you need is right there.

CRM also needs to push prospects along the pipeline and alert reps to ‘stallers’ – prospects who spend forever in the same part of the pipeline without moving toward purchase. All that’s about what’s next, not what just happened.

The backward-looking, record-oriented model does contain some value for reps, however. It lets reps look at ‘deals like’ and figure out where they went wrong, or how to play it this time. Setting out to meet with the CXO of a midsize potential buyer? Use those analytics marketers love so much to find out what worked the last couple times you did that. Or better yet, what happened the last couple times the best performing sales rep in the team did it.

Ultimately, this can only work if it can be sold to reps in terms they care about. But if you can tell them, records let you analyze sales performance and get more commission, you have them.

3. CRM For Them

All the things we’ve talked about so far add up to one thing: Reps don’t feel like CRM is for them. Reps often feel like they’ve been sold a bill of goods with CRM: it says, ‘make it easier, make more money,’ on the packaging, but when reps open the box all they find is data entry for someone else’s benefit.

It’s worth remembering, too, that high performing sales reps are usually a little bit more self-motivated than the average person in an organization. In the words of Michigan CRM Systems Director Brian Fey:

‘Great sales people, how do I put this gently . . . well, they don’t walk past a lot of mirrors without stopping for a look, if you know what I mean . . . For the really good ones (i.e. I still refer to them as “fighter pilots”) — the idea that they’re beholden to a marketing person for even part of their livelihood can be a little hard to bear.’

Trouble is, CRM is here to stay, and marketing and management can’t function without the data that reps generate. On the other hand, right now, managers and marketers both are also getting a bad deal out of CRM. Why?

Because rep compliance is poor. Many reps really do write down the stuff that matters in a notebook; in a game where contacts are everything, reps don’t want to put their reputations in someone else’s hands by inputting that data into CRM. And if the CRM in question requires arduous data entry that’s just one more reason for reps not to use it at all.

How do we counter this objection? Sales people feel like CRM does all kinds of things they don’t want to do. So sell reps on CRM that handles all that for them. They can have the benefits of being structured and organized without actually having to do it themselves. But they can only have it if they have CRM that’s built around sales, and that logs and records automatically as much as possible.

4. CRM That Matches Deal Flows

CRM typically insists that deals follow a certain structure. Trouble is, not all deals really do follow that structure – and many follow a ‘non-mainstream’ structure because they’re an unusual type of deal.

Let’s say your SaaS sales team typically sells to SMBs. Cool.

But you have that one rep who doesn’t know that your company can’t sell to multimillion-turnover CEOs, so she comes in one day, picks up the phone and does it.

Which stage of the CRM’s carefully-planned flow does that deal go in?

Reps want CRM that matches up with the deal flows they actually use. That means it needs to be routine enough to support them without too much data entry and clerical work, but it also needs to leave them enough room to alter the flow. A big, basic system with few stages, plus short notes makes sense, and if you want reps to really love you, get rid of as many compulsory fields as possible.

Overcome this objection by offering customizable record keeping – maybe use a standard level of automatic record keeping, recording calls and emails, with option to add more or less notes.

Kill compulsory fields: think of CRM design the way you’d think of signup design.

No-one will fill out a form that requires 15 compulsory multiple choice questions; no-one wants your ebook that much. And no rep will willingly record a dozen or more compulsory facts about each prospect, some of which leave her wondering who the heck even wants to know that?

With the right structures in place, CRM can facilitate recurring sales by tying marketing and sales closer together and guiding sales reps though more complex, recurring sales cycles that depend on prospect data. Selling reps on this relies on making the offer – more, easier sales – believable, and the cost – conforming with CRM structures – as low as possible.

5. CRM That Helps Them Sell

Reps often feel like CRM doesn’t help them sell. CRM has been offered to reps as ‘sales software’ – what they end up with is a compulsory-use database. CRMs offer lousy mobile UX even though many reps rely on mobile devices; if you have to go back to the office to fill in ‘paperwork’ at the end of the day, how is that progress? If you’re spending only a third of your day actually selling, how is that more efficient?

To make CRM palatable to reps, offer them a tool that genuinely helps them make sales. Is that happening? In 2009, less than 15% of companies reported revenue increase as a result of CRM implementation.

6. CRM That’s Fun

No-one becomes a sales rep because they don’t want to rack up sales. The stuff most CRMs ask reps to enter isn’t on their radar and it isn’t any fun.

So they don’t record it, or they record it wrong, or they record it grudgingly. And even full compliance doesn’t get them any closer to their own goals: hit quota, make commission.

Imagine selling a product like that. Good luck, right?

So what’s the solution?

To rethink what CRM can do we need to rethink quota, reward and team structure. But with data driven organization alignment coming down the pike anyway, we’re going to be doing something like that whether we like it or not.

CRM should support reps in their primary goals. It should record and facilitate self-selected goals that encourage reps to drive themselves forward – because they’ll pull the company along behind them. And it should reward reps for the actions they currently don’t see any reasons for taking. Remember, CRM is a codified sales structure. If reps hate CRM, they don’t trust the process. But 60% of them could be doing way better if they adhered to it.

Gamified CRMs that reward reps for compliance with a structured sales process that’s proven to get results can help reinforce success in the 60% of reps whose performance lags because of poor organization, coaching and support. Make reps feel like they’re part of a team, reward team efforts and build CRM data into overall workplace gamification.


Sales reps, just like everyone else, have to get used to a data-driven, customer-focused future, one where the entire organization has to reorient itself along lines guided by massive, highly-analysed troves of customer data. They have to get used to the idea that they owe responsibilities to the organization based on that, because the data they generate when they make a sale – or do anything else – is absolutely vital. They can’t just kick the tyres and light the fires anymore.

Don’t expect them to like this.

They don’t.

But you can sell them on the value of it if you give them a tool to use that supports them in the thing they really care about: more commission.

That means your choice of CRM should be guided by what reps actually want to work with: something simple, automated, visual, customizable and unintrusive, that reflects their priorities.


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