There is general agreement that CRM is a game-changing tool that can help businesses scale faster and work smarter. Yet, despite this step forward, there is a tendency for companies to see CRM systems as a cure-all, and then experience disappointment deeper into implementation. This happens in large part due to the pressure to prove immediate ROI of the CRM investment, and also a general lack of discipline around how CRM systems are implemented.

In a recent webinar with Jason Jordan, author and Principal of Vantage Point Performance, he clarified how a CRM system can work for your business, and ways it won’t. Knowing how CRM systems work can help you tune your system to control your outcomes, resulting in the break-through results we all want. 

Do you know what your CRM can do for you? Do you know what it can’t? Test your assumptions below. Here are five way CRM can help.

1. Improve the data you have

You have data coming in from your sales teams, even if its too much, too fragmented and stored in disparate locations. A CRM system will allow you to manage your data and improve the quality of the data by making it accessible in real-time, connected to a central database, and making it actionable across your company.

2. Take action on data

A CRM system can help you get the insights you need to take action on your data. For example, which accounts have been neglected? With a CRM system you can set up activities to activate stagnant accounts. Without such insights, your sales teams are left in the dark and opportunities fall through the cracks.

3. Manage sales team activity

What is your sales team up to? Are they making calls to prospects or existing customers? A sales leader can give teams direction to best meet business goals, all within their CRM system. Doing so will align your salespeople to mission critical tasks.

4. Grow sales

Yes, CRM systems can help you grow better managing your sales teams. The key is that activities tracked in your CRM system need to clearly ladder up to the larger goal of increasing sales. If your sales teams is being tracked to increase prospect calls in order to increase territory coverage, it is possible that your CRM system will contribute to increased sales. But if you are tracking unrelated activities in your CRM-- such as training or coaching-- you may not influence sales.

5. More informed decision making

CRM systems gather the data that you think is important and that you want to change, enabling you to review that data, and make decisions on it. While it can't help you make better decisions, it can help you access the data to make more informed decisions. CRM at its most fundamental is a decision-making tool.

 Now, here are five ways CRM can’t help.


6. Manage revenue or pipeline

While your executives want you to increase revenue with your CRM system, what you are really managing are the activities that influence revenue, not the revenue itself. Many companies make the mistake of trying to manage revenue through CRM systems when in fact this is not manageable. If you instead use CRM to manage activities that focus your sales teams, you are on the road to revenue. 

7. Increase customer satisfaction

This is another unmanageable metric for a CRM system. While its possible to create a report for just about anything using a CRM system, reporting on customer satisfaction is out of your control. It involves factors that have involve not only sales outreach, but product features and customer service.

8. Manage market share

While executives may not like to hear you say that you can’t manage market share in your CRM system, the fact is that a CRM system allows you to focus on metrics like closed deals and territory coverage which will result in increased market share, but you are  not managing market share directly in your CRM system. 

9. Increase customer retention

Again, here you can influence customer retention, but you can’t manage and control all facets of this directly. CRM manages the activities around customer engagement, not the customer retention itself. You can’t make customer stay with you obviously, but you can do your part in managing the relationship using your CRM system. 

10. Hit Your Number

Yes, as disappointing as this seems, a CRM system will not help you hit your number. A business meets its goals due to contributions of sales, marketing, PR and other sources. Quarterly goals can’t be managed in a CRM system. What CAN be measured is what your teams are spending their time on to reach that goal.

The question is what do you need to do to influence these big metrics like revenue, customer retention and market share? You need to measure and report on activities that will influence these outcomes.

Rather than feeling that a CRM system is limited, you can feel liberated to focus on what you can control. For example, making more calls and increasing territory coverage. By doing so, you can reverse engineer success to get to the big goals.

Do you agree? What can you do – and not do- with your CRM system? Post your comments below.