It seems that I have been in many conversations lately about Customer Relationship Management Systems, or CRMs. I have spoken with a variety of business owners and sales team leaders who are inquiring about the “best” CRM for their situation. What most are really looking for is a magic bullet to make their salespeople do the right activities to generate enough business. I am not a highly technical person so I cannot share all the ins and outs of the different products on the market. And, I haven’t actually found one that MAKES a salesperson do what they are supposed to do. So the system alone won’t fix this problem.


I have seen effective systems range in complexity from the very robust CRM system with all the bells and whistles down to an excel spreadsheet, and everything in between. I have seen these systems work great to give leadership better insight into sales activities, and to make determinations about resource allocation. I have also witnessed them fail miserably; not because the system was poor, but mainly because the leadership around using the system appropriately was ineffective.

Here is what I mean. If a new system is put in place that will help you track where your leads come from and who they are distributed to— great! If the manager is then not following up to measure what works and what does not, or doesn’t regularly check in with the salespeople who have received those leads then the money invested in the system is wasted.

Here are a couple of thoughts about how to get the most out of your CRM system:

1. Why do you want the system? Some reasons could be: Track leads, measure effectiveness, get a handle on the salespeople’s activities, predict future sales, make it easier for the salespeople to do their job. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want and keep it in focus during the evaluation and implementation of your CRM, you are unlikely to get it out of your new system.

2. Integrate your sales process into the system. This assumes you have a repeatable sales process that your salespeople are following (if not, let’s talk, because stats would indicate you can increase sales by 15% just by instituting a repeatable sales process).

3. Have clearly defined expectations with regard to activity levels based in doing the “math of success” or what some people refer to as “backward math,” so that the salespeople know what they need to do, have committed to certain activities, and those activities can be tracked in the system.

4. Have standardized buckets for the pipeline to be able to articulate with ease the actual probability that a deal will close based on certain milestones. Again, if your salespeople follow a specific process and use a specific selling system to qualify their prospects then this process will be much easier. This process also becomes easier if you use a good system to track leads, appointments, proposal and closed business because you can more accurately predict closing ratios into the future.

5. Set the expectations that neither the activity or the opportunity exist if they aren’t logged in the system and set consequences for offenders, such as they don’t get company generated leads if they don’t put the data in.

6. Coach the salespeople on the many benefits of putting absolutely everything into the system (correctly) to make their jobs easier and more efficient. Help them make more money by using the system fully.

7. Think about how your CRM will support integration of sales and marketing to save time and provide your sales team with the best information. Today’s sales environment is in real-time, social, on-demand, with more informed buyers. Making data management as simple as possible for your sales team saves them valuable time. With cookies and form submissions from our inbound marketing software (we use Hubspot), we save time in Salesforce by having fields already populated through our API-based data sync. Now that we’ve recently begun to dip our toes into Hubspot’s new CRM, the integration of lead data between the marketing and sales side saves even more time- it’s the exact same database. This gives us the clean, accurate, current data we need to be most effective and respond quickly to inquiries. It also enables closed-loop marketing so we can track ROI and identify which marketing efforts best support the path to sales.

The bottom line is that any CRM system is worthless if the sales manager is not using the system to improve coaching and to hold people accountable to the right behaviors to produce the appropriate level of success. So, you CEOs and business owners out there, if you have a weak sales manager, a system will not make them better. It will make a good sales managers’ job easier, but it likely won’t change a weak manager into a strong one.

If your problem lies with sales management, we have your solution. Read more:

Get our eBook on Effective Sales Management for even more ideas:


If you are exploring CRMs, here are some other blog posts you may want to read: