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Over at Toolbox.com, which is different than Dropbox.com which is apparently different than Box.com – but I’m not sure since I’m still not sure what Box.com is, only that Box.com is doing some IPO and is supposed to value at billions – which I won’t be an investor since I don’t invest in things that cannot be explained to me – – – but back to the point – – – over at Toolbox.com, Rick Cook has an article called Common Problems with CRM – and I thought I’d give it a read, Rick cites several issues – but really gets to the source of most problems with CRM – which relate back to the original approach. 

We take it a step further – as many of my customers come to me to replace their CRM – when actually, we usually just fix what is wrong with the current set-up. It’s always the same problem. I call it the blind man and the elephant problem. 

You’ve heard the old story – a few blind men are standing around an elephant, trying to describe it – the man in front says it’s long and slender, the man to the side says it’s wide and flat and the man in back – well, we can imagine what he’d say.  Point being, if you have limited data perspective, even something as obvious as an elephant in the room can appear to be completely different to different observers. 

And you say, “wait a minute Gene, are you calling the managers at your customers companies a bunch of blind men?”  And I say, “yes, they are blind to that which they cannot see”. 

Especially when it comes to CRM. Blind Managers see only the sales forecast, reports and other data that basically answers the question  “when we will make some money?”  Blind Marketers only want to know “How did my last marketing campaign work?” Blind Customer Service simply sees “Everything the customer has complained about and how quickly I resolved it.”  While Blind Salespeople only want to know “Who should I call today and what should I say to him?”

And since the Blind Managers are running everything – that’s normally where you find the problem. 

It starts with the setup.  If the setup focuses on reports, you get some slick reports but crappy user adoption. Because those idiot Blind Salesmen think their job is just selling things. They can’t understand that they should ‘update’ their accounts so our reports work.  Manager Jim in supply chain just wants all the sales guys to fill out one field, so he knows what to stock for what type of customer. VP Bill in accounting wants a simple NAICS code filled out so he can track days receivable against business types. No one can really remember why Director Sam in analysis wants every account coded ‘red, blue, yellow’ and doesn’t really remember why we added ‘pink and green’ last quarter. 

So you end up with a ton of requests for information that have nothing to do with the sales function, only the sales department is saddled with gathering and recording the data because they’re customer facing. Upon further reflection (assuming some reflection has ever been involved)  if you wanted data gathered and recorded, come on, those sales-types are the last people in the company you’d task to do it. 

You can replay the scenario from other directions from Marketing’s needs through Management’s capabilities – but the issue is the same – the perspective of CRM is different from each department. Our Corrective steps are very simple:

1) User Adoption – Match the successful business flow of the actual users. They track only what is important to them. Marketing records marketing milestones, sales records sales activity. 

2) Reporting – learn to create reports based on actual activities, guidelines, milestones and results. If you have to change behavior to create a report, you’re not using the reporting tools correctly. 

3) Analytics – Don’t confuse CRM reports with BI (Business Intelligence). If you need to analyze the NAICS codes of your customers, hire an analyst to pull that data together. What?  It’s not important enough to hire someone to do it? Then it’s not important enough to pull the sales team off task to do something they have no aptitude, interest or skill set to accomplish. 

That’s it. That’s all. Just understand it’s a blind man and the elephant problem and track back to those three Corrective Steps. 

And as you say “What If…” remember, you’re only identifying yourself as the last blind manager in the room – if you try hard enough, you’ll fit that ‘what if’ into one of those Corrective Steps – it may not be pretty or elegant, but sometimes business requires a little square pegging into round holes. 

And once you’ve taken your CRM out of the ‘blind man’ scenario, it will be amazing what you can actually see about your business. 

Contact Gene@GeneHammons.com

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Disclaimer:  No actual blind individuals (or elephants) were harmed in the creation of the analogies used in this blogpost.