What is a CRM, really?

CRMs like Salesforce.com and SugarCRM ask us to believe that keeping up with leads & making sales is complex work. But the job of sales is actually quite simple and requires a single thing: a human who is excited to do the actual work of sales!

What does a CRM do?

The core function of a CRM is to help you figure out what to do next:

  • Who should you email or call today?
  • What should you say to those people today?

And really, that’s the primary service that all the expensive CRMs provide!

How CRMs Work in the Real World

Most of us start by doing the work of a CRM in our head before quickly realizing, after the 10th or 11th forgotten lead, that the human brain is not capable of being a CRM.

So we turn to pen-and-paper, which actually works quite well and is all we really need to do all the work of an expensive and complex CRM. But because we live in a digital world, we think it must be more complex than that. So we move our leads to a spreadsheet. But we forget or neglect to update the spreadsheet, because who needs another thing to check every day, amiright? And couple that with the fact that we really don’t want to do the work of a salesperson anyway…Yet still we power through, because that’s what a good business owner does!

We adopt increasingly-more complex & expensive software that tracks and stores our email & phone contacts – It even tells us when we talked to them last and when we should follow up with them! The holy grail, right? Wrong. Because even though we have the most sophisticated contact-tracking & follow-up tools at our disposal – tools that would make Dale Carnegie shit his pants – we still hate doing the actual work of sales. Besides, we’re doing okay without following up on all these leads anyway, so we think, “What’s the point of a CRM, anyway?”

Yet even with this realization, we don’t cancel our expensive and complex CRM service, because some day we expect we’ll have the desire & stamina & willpower to do the actual work of sales. We expect we’ll be able to eat better and get more exercise this year, too. But we never do.

Then someday in the distant future, if we make it that far without quitting completely and re-joining the corporate workforce, we’ll realize the error of our ways and hire a salesperson to do the actual work of sales, and we won’t give a rat’s ass if they use a CRM or not, because the CRM doesn’t do any of the hard work of sales – the salespeople do the hard work of sales!

And we’ll be happy, because not only will we be rolling in dough while doing the work we love that only we can do, but someone else will be doing the work we hate to do (sales), and they will be loving it!

And that, my friends, is how to build a successful CRM. 🙂

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for WPTavern.com.