How Mobile Can Help Solve the CRM “Carrot vs. Stick” Dilemma

Kurt Leafstrand headshot

Kurt Leafstrand
VP Products, Clari

I spend a lot of my time looking at other applications—after all, I'm a product manager, and there are a lot of great products to learn from out there. Since Clari is focused on sales, I've spent a lot of time over the last two years digging deep on CRM, and I truly believe that mobile is the key to making it more useful for both sales reps and managers.

I think we all know that the sales process was mostly guesswork before CRM applications came along. But even though CRM has been with us awhile, management judgment is still a big part of sales execution due to a lack of visibility into sales activity. Case in point: During a recent meeting, a sales executive at a Fortune 100 company told us how frustrated she and her sales ops team are that, even with a best-in-class CRM deployment, "the quality of data we need just isn't there."

To address the problem, that company took a "carrot" approach: it started piloting gamification software to incent sales reps to log in to the CRM system more frequently. Many companies employ a "stick" approach, going so far as to tie sales commission checks to CRM data entry. The challenge for me with both approaches is that they don't actually address the core problem of why data quality is poor.

I think a quick peek into most CRM systems shows what's wrong—we expect way too much from sales reps. We're asking them to fill out 100 or more fields (sidenote: the record among our current customers is 292), for every opportunity. But then we don't give them anything useful back to help close deals. I know I'd hate getting home from a long day of being on the road, eating dinner, tucking in my kids, and then having to go back to work just to fill out electronic paperwork for my deals.

I'm sure we can get better data quality into our CRM systems—we just need to do things differently. We can begin by replacing carrots and sticks with simplicity and well-designed mobile apps. First, take the hundreds of available CRM fields and simplify them down to the small core that really matter (some of our customers get it down to 10-20 fields). I would recommend that you figure out which ones are most important and then spend all of your time encouraging sales reps to update only those fields. You'll probably discover that there are only about ten of them. Then use mobile as your carrot to reach out and collect the data that populates those fields when and where reps are thinking about it.

New mobile platforms like Salesforce1 and Clari can help because they use mobility to get closer to the individuals actually in front of customers selling. As we collect more of the right data, feeding it back to sales reps at the right times during deals can prompt even more collaboration. When we simplify CRM and take advantage of mobility, we can reduce opportunity updates from laptop meals to bite-size inputs from mobile devices. That seems a whole lot easier than implementing more carrots or enforcing more sticks, and you'll get a whole new level of insight into the sales process. It's yet another case where less is truly more.