August 9th, 2017 by Oren Smilansky

Though much ink has been spilled surrounding the wonders of CRM technologies, sales leaders often still face an often-ignored challenge: getting sales reps to use the tools they’re given. In The Sales Leader’s Problem Solver, author Suzanne M. Paling offers sales managers a set of tips on how to get reps to cooperate when it comes to using CRM software. Last week, I chatted with Paling to learn more about her new book, and how leaders can encourage their reps to share information that will benefit them and their team members.

CRM magazine: So this isn’t your first book, correct? Can you tell me a bit about the first book?

Suzanne M. Paling: My first book came out in 2010, and it’s called The Accidental Sales Manager.  It’s from my work as a sales management consultant. And [in it] I talk about the problems that occur when a company’s president, CEO, or owner–who sometimes has little or no sales experience–gets tasked with managing the sales effort. I offer guidance on how to prepare for, orient, and then successfully manage sales people.

CRM: Why did you decide to release a follow up last year with The Sales Leader’s Problem Solver?

Paling: Every year, I see really strong sales people get promoted to a sales leadership position, receive little or no training and just be expected to do their job. They put in long hours trying to figure out what to do; often they just don’t know how to go about solving some of the most common sales staff problems. And as they progress in their career, especially if they work  for smaller companies, they don’t get any training, they don’t have any type of mentor. They need guidance on handling tricky issues. I always say I hope the book is like a toll free number to call for a sales management hotline. I hope it provides some of that help, assistance, coaching, and mentoring.

CRM: In the book you outline 15 common problems that sales managers encounter. Is there one that you would say is more important that they focus on solving than the others? If so, why?

Paling: I’d say there are a couple of them that people seem to resonate with the most. I would say it’s inconsistent sales reps, selling only to existing customers, social media paralysis, and the unqualified vice president of sales.

CRM: Naturally you caught my attention with chapter 6, which is called “CRM Non-Compliance.” What are some of the most common difficulties you tend to see in this particular area?

Paling: The reps just don’t put notes into the system or use it adequately; they don’t do what they’re asked to do. In the chapter, I talk about what happens when the reps don’t populate the CRM system–especially the notes section–and how it really affects absolutely everyone in the company. And I talk about talking to the rep, explaining why it’s important, and also I talk about getting other people in the company involved in talking to the reps about CRM participation. That it matters to the president; it matters to marketing; it matters to product management, it matters to all kinds of people, and that when you bring someone on board, during orientation, they should talk to the various parties and learn a little about how the CRM system is used by them, and how the information benefits them.

And then I give tips for working with the rep who is just CRM noncompliant. One of the tips that I use in the book is that [CRM] should be made part of a rep’s bonus. They are judged on certain criteria to get their bonus, and take a small section and talk about their CRM compliance and if they don’t use the CRM systems correctly, you might hold some of that money back. And also make sure it’s part of their monthly, quarterly, annual review.

CRM: What are some common mistakes leaders tend to make when trying to address CRM Noncompliance? What steps should they be taking instead?

Paling: One of biggest things they don’t do is make part of the interview process or new hire orientation. They should–during the interview process, long before they’ve hired the rep–they should ask them about their CRM usage, how they feel about it, and I would go so far as to ask the rep–and I talk about this in the chapter–to bring in some examples of notes they’ve left in the CRM system and/or reports that they’re responsible for populating. Have them mark over any private information that shouldn’t be seen by anyone else but someone in the company, and show their work. Talk about CRM usage and make it part of the interview process.

And then, as I said earlier, make it part of new hire orientation as well, and have various people in the company talk about how it helps when the reps look at information in the CRM system; how it helps them do their jobs. But mostly, if the rep is not CRM compliant, call them on it really quickly. Don’t let a lot of time go by.

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