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Is It the CRM or Is It the Process?

by Mike Esposito


As featured in the Dealer blog

Every so often I hear from GMs who insist their salespeople must have the latest, greatest CRM with every bell, whistle and thing-a-ma-ding ever invented. My advice to them is to ask themselves this question: is it the CRM that’s the problem, or is it the sales process?

Process does not have to involve advanced technology. One of the most successful car salesmen I ever knew worked in the late 1980’s, before computer systems had CRM capabilities. Every customer that walked in the door, he took their name and information and entered them into his own database on his own computer. The minute the prospect walked out the door, the salesperson printed out a letter and mailed it to them. Then he followed up on every letter with a phone call. He did this with every customer, repeatedly. After several years he never had to prospect for another customer. This person devised his own CRM and was successful because he was committed to the process. Which leads me to my point:

Commitment is the Most Important Feature in a CRM

CRM vendors have done a fantastic job of getting dealership management feature-obsessed. I am asked all the time what features our CRM has. Does it have the ability to generate birthday and anniversary letters? Can I use it to e-mail a newsletter to our customers? Do I need a BDC? What are the reporting tools? What are the tracking tools?

My answer is this: our CRM has the same features as most other CRMs. One feature or another isn’t going to make a salesperson successful. A salesperson’s commitment to process is what is going to make them successful.

By commitment I mean that dealership staff must be committed to not only using the CRM, but following the process established when the CRM was first implemented. Before buying a new CRM, a dealer should find out whether the salespeople are using the current system to its fullest potential. If not, then the dealer should invest some time in trying to understand why.

One of the problems many sales managers share is that their top salespeople refuse to use the CRM because they would rather do things the way they’ve always done. And who’s going to reprimand a top producing salesperson and risk making them unhappy? Nobody.

Unfortunately, their behavior can set a precedent with other dealership staff, i.e. if he doesn’t have to use it, why should we?

In order to prevent this attitude, a sales manager or GM may have to get a little creative. Perhaps an assistant can be assigned to help the top salespeople enter the appropriate information into the CRM. Or, perhaps additional incentives could be offered for comprehensive CRM entries. Another option would be to hire a BDC Manager or Internet Manager to manage all the leads, including showroom leads, and all the salespeople would have to do is fill in a form.

So, how do you know when the time is right to buy a CRM? If your current system is outdated and does not have some of the advanced features available, or does not integrate well with the dealership’s DMS.

“My staff doesn’t use it,” is NOT a reason to buy a new CRM. If they don’t use the current one, what makes you think they’ll use a new one? A CRM is simply a tool to help salespeople follow the process.

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