"I know exactly what each of my sales team is doing-I know they maintain their contact management program religiously because they have to turn in a detailed report daily and an even more comprehensive report at the end of the month. We know exactly who they contacted, what transpired, where the sale stands, and what the customer is going to buy. We know everything we need to know."
"How accurate is the information?"
"That I can't say although our sales managers are supposed to be going over the reports with each member of the sales team and spot checking accuracy."
"How well do the reports track with your actual sales numbers? More specifically, how well does each team member's report track with their sales numbers?"
"Of course there is discrepancy between the reports and actual sales. Some things that are expected to close don't, others don't place as large an order as expected, others don't buy when expected. Those things happen. If you're asking if we use these reports for our sales projections, the answer is no. We establish our objectives and each sales person's quota and they're expected to meet those numbers. Projections are independent of these reports."
"What are the reports for?"
"We track the team member's activity so we know they're doing what they are supposed to be doing. It's an activity management tool, not a projection tool."
"What do your team members get out the process? What's the benefit to them?"
"They log each future activity for each prospect and client and that activity is then displayed on their screen on the day they have scheduled the activity. They must complete the activity and check it off or the system will alert their manager. They have an automatic tracking system to help them keep their prospect and client activity up to date and to make sure they don't drop the ball. The system won't allow them to overlook a commitment they've made. It helps them monitor prospects and clients and manage their time and work."
"How much time do they have to spend maintaining the contact management system and doing the daily and monthly reports?"
"I don't know. Probably no more than a few minutes each day; maybe an hour to do the monthly report and another 30 minutes meeting with their manger to review it."
"How much time does it take your managers to monitor and review the reports?"
"I really don't know that, either. I'd suspect maybe a half hour each day and no more than a day, a day and a half at the most, for the monthly reports, including meeting with each team member."
"David, what do your salespeople and managers think of this system? You said they use it because it is mandated that they do, but do they find it helpful or do they see it as nothing more than a way to be micromanaged?"
"We got complaints at first, but that was to be expected. I really don't hear too much complaining now except from the salespeople who aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing. I think most see it as a major aid in keeping them up with their clients and prospects. I'd be really surprised if many were unhappy using it."
"Would you mind if I spoke to some of them and got their opinion? I'll certainly let you know what I find but I'm not going to reveal which salespeople I spoke to."
"No, feel free. I think you'll find most are happy to use it."
The above is an actual conversation I had with a new client a couple of weeks ago. I suspect if you're from the sales side of business, you can guess the attitudes of the salespeople toward the client management system. They hate it. They see it as both a time waster and a way management can micromanage them.
They don't complain about the system too much-it's been mandated, so they rebel by doing the least they think they can get away with. If they don't have enough contacts, they make them up. They put in as few future tasks as possible. They check tasks off as being done when they haven't. They give management what they believe management wants.
This company's client management system is as worthless as the old handwritten activity reports they use to get from their salespeople. The only difference is now the reports are easily accessed by all the company's management, not just the salesperson's immediate manager.
David's company isn't alone. There are tens of thousands of companies that have bought client management systems that are just as worthless. Like David's company, they justify their system by convincing themselves there is a real benefit in it for the salesperson when it fact its real purpose is to baby-sit a sales team management doesn't trust. It's automated micromanagement.
Unfortunately, when I informed David of the attitude his sales team has toward the system, his response wasn't, "what do we need to do?" Instead, it was, "I'll talk to the managers and get everyone in line. I didn't invest in this thing for it to be abused or ignored."
If your system isn't giving tangible benefits to your sales team or if your team members view the system as a management spy tool, you are more than likely getting the same results as David-worthless information that is designed to get you off the sales team's back.
Ask yourself these three questions about your contact management program:
- What tangible benefits do my salespeople get from the program that helps them grow their business or be better salespeople?
- What is the REAL purpose of the program-to help the sales team or micromanage them?
- How do the salespeople view the program-as an aid to their business or as a spy for management?
If your answers aren't salesperson centered, you're fighting a losing battle.
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