Call them activity reports, call reports, after-action memos, or encounters — activity items are a vital part of Client Relationship Management (CRM) software. They are also one of the most significant resistance points for users of all kinds, especially salespeople. That resistance is informative for leaders and managers. Salespeople offer a lot of arguments against activity reporting — this post will help you overcome them.
Argument: I'm already successful
We hear salespeople say things like “my sales speak for themselves,” or that “I keep notes already.” Most of your sellers are probably already successful. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have jobs. But activity reporting isn’t about ignoring success. Instead, it’s about finding out what leads to success. Success within your organization isn’t a zero-sum game. Your best salespeople have a lot of lessons to teach and some to learn.
Argument: It's just "Big Brother"
Accountability can be a scary thing. But it’s an essential part of leadership. Salespeople often complain that call or activity reporting will only help their manager monitor them. As a CRM-adopting organization, you’re showing a commitment to sales process improvement. So, we know this isn’t true because we are going to use them for much more important things. An excellent example of great use is inside-outside communications — each activity report contains information that helps outside and inside salespeople understand the client relationship.
Argument: It takes too long
While your salespeople should be busy, it’s reasonable to doubt that they are always too busy to fill out a simple form. If, as your salespeople probably claim, they are taking excellent notes, then these should be easy to fill out. Better yet, why are they taking notes in two places? Of course, there are arguments about usability and accessibility — scroll down for more on those.
Argument: It's too complicated
To overcome this argument, you may need to do some work. A well laid out form quietly tells the user what to do. It does it with its design. If you’ve got a wide-open activity form with a subject, dates, and notes area, then your users probably don’t understand what you want. If, on the other hand, you have dozens of drop-downs, checkboxes, and text boxes, it may be a bit much. When you’re laying out your form, think about how the user will flow through it. Think more on:
Argument: A form for every call? That's ridiculous!
Of course, that would be ridiculous and that’s not what you’re trying to say. You’re looking for activities that affect the client relationship. Here’s how I like to think about it:
In each of these cases, something of value, usually information, was exchanged between you and your client. These interactions are the pay-dirt — they are where you establish and build relationships. They are also where you weaken and destroy relationships.
Argument: I could spend that time securing more sales
It’s is factually accurate to say that there are a limited number of working hours in a day. And your salespeople do need to be spending the bulk of their time selling. With that in mind, you chose to implement a CRM system because you wanted to improve results. For a CRM system to help you get those results, we have to report our interactions. Well-designed activity reporting forms simplifies entry.
Argument: It's pointless and doesn't do anything
If you have a poorly designed form, this one may be true. A well-designed activity form communicates five essential things:
These are all the questions we ask when we’re helping colleagues solve problems. Each part paints more of the picture. If we’re missing answers, it’s hard to help out. It’s essential to design your form so that it answers the questions colleagues are likely to ask.
Argument: I don't get paid to do this
Commissioned salespeople have incentives to sell. If you only compensate your sales staff through commission or draw on commission, this one might be true, too. If you pay them a salary, at all, this argument holds less water. Changing commission and compensation structures is often part of a CRM implementation. Adopting CRM means changing how you sell. Changing how you sell could very well mean changing how you pay your salespeople.
Wrapping it up
We’ve given you eight objections. There are certainly more out there. If you’ve got a particularly good one, please put it in the comments. As long as we keep trying to change their behaviors, salespeople will keep coming up with new excuses.
Overcoming salespeople’s arguments against activity entry requires you to be flexible. As a leader, you’ve must be willing to change the system while they adopt the behavior. It also demands that you hold firm on certain things. Knowing the difference is the key to success.
If you need help getting your salespeople on board with activity entry, reach out to the experts at Focus Ten Consulting. We’ve heard a lot of arguments and can help you sort the excuses from the legitimate concerns.
Got a question?
Reach out. We’re always excited to talk about CRM adoption, process creation, and working through challenges leaders face. If you need us in a hurry, call 216.236.3836.