CRM, Changes, and Zombies

I started this article like I do most, by Googling what I’m going to write about. This time it was “Fear and CRM.” After the ads, the first result was about The Walking Dead. The AMC show about zombies and survival in a post-apocalyptic world. I’m not much of a horror person, so I don’t watch the show. Nonetheless, I was intrigued. So, I clicked.

Flesh-eating, wall-smashing zombies


It turns out that CRM, in The Walking Dead’s world, is a group that is dead-set on remaking the world in their image. As‘s Stephanie Dube Dwilson puts it, “They believe they are working for the future of humanity, and that goal takes precedence over absolutely everything else.” This group is well funded, and has access to fuel and helicopters, and has a far-away base. While they fight against the hoard of zombies, like the other characters, they do it on their terms, which causes fear and conflict. CRM doesn’t seem to be the “bad guys,” but they certainly aren’t the “good guys.”

Why are we talking about The Walking Dead on a blog focused on Client Relationship Management (CRM from here forward)? CRM is not natural for salespeople; it’s not natural for managers; it’s not natural for leaders. It’s from the outside, and your team is suspect of it. Hopefully, your CRM isn’t a zombie, but until they embrace it, it’s something from far-away that they will fear.

What are they afraid of?

Fear is a natural response to the unknown. It’s a great defense mechanism. If you have a dog or, especially, a cat, you see this every day. A shock or ruffle that they don’t expect can send them under the couch, up the stairs, or into your lap – the unknown is scary. Children can be just as skittish. Fear is our brain’s way of telling us to get away from something – we can’t fall off of the cliff if we aren’t standing next to it. Fear helps us survive so that our genes can survive. A good rule of thumb for biology is that you can’t reproduce if you’re dead.

But, what if the stimulus isn’t what it seems? What if the cliff isn’t tall? What if, at the bottom of the cliff, is safety or a reward? Fear keeps us from finding out more, too. When we are afraid, we reject that which we fear, just like a seven-year-old refuses to eat their broccoli. Think of the refrain, “You won’t know until you try it.” (On a side note, there is an excellent book for new parents called You Have to F****** Eat by Adam MansbachIt’s hilarious.)

Fear and your team

Let’s get back to your team and your CRM system. Relationship sellers often work independently with little supervision. Leaders and managers ask for results like more sales and new customers, and the salesperson, dutifully, meets those goals. Their manager doesn’t see how they make the proverbial sausage, but they know that it tastes good. When you introduce CRM, you are asking your salespeople to show their managers how they do their job every hour of every day, whether you believe it or not. That’s scary.

Luckily, the threat they are facing is surmountable. It’s not the undead, beating down walls in an insatiable quest for human flesh. It’s just a series of small changes to their daily routine and a larger one to their accountability structure. As their leader or manager, you can help them overcome their fear, adopt new behaviors, thrive in their new environment, and, maybe, get them to like broccoli. Here are five tips for doing just that:


Be Honest

Downplaying the importance or severity of a change seems like a good idea. Small changes are more comfortable than big ones, right? Unfortunately, your sales team has to sort truth and lies all day long. They’ll see through your words, and that sows distrust.


Have fair and straightforward expectations

You want them to use the system, not just go through the motions. Be clear about what information you expect them to enter, when they should enter it, and how often you’ll review it.


Use rewards and punishments wisely

Reward exceptional behavior, punish poor performance. That sounds simple, but you have to be mindful. As time goes on, you’ll need to punish what you used to allow and give fewer rewards. If you don’t, the end of the first year will likely look like the end of the first month. Identify salespeople whose behaviors (not necessarily results) are exemplary and recognize them publicly for them. Always punish as privately as you can.


Use peer pressure

Social learning is powerful. We’re as susceptible to peer pressure in our careers almost as much as middle schoolers are in the lunchroom. Consider making CRM teams and having some fun competition. Make sure that you use both qualitative and quantitative measures within the rules.


Lead by doing

Leader behavior helps set the tone for the team. You must live in the CRM system, and your team needs to see you doing it. Try to make it natural. You have to become proficient with the system to show them how simple it is.

Keep your team in mind

As a leader or manager of salespeople, it’s on you to help them work past their fears. Your success depends on their success – the new CRM system that you have changes the definition of success. You’re all in it together – don’t let the zombies win.

Featured image by Simon Wijers from Pixabay

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