Sales Tools & Technology

What to do when your CRM isn’t growing sales

Jonathan Hubbard
Jonathan Hubbard
March 1, 2024

Feeling a sneaking suspicion your CRM isn’t helping your sales team sell? You’re not alone. Reports from a dozen research firms and industry analysts have found that between 18% to 69% of CRM projects fail. 

That spread’s so large because the researchers’ methodologies varied. But most researchers asked variations on the question, “Did your CRM project meet your expectations?” And for many organisations the answer was a big fat nope. 

And that’s not all. All is not well with Salesforce, the grandaddy of CRMs. A 2022 report by Nucleus Research on Salesforce user satisfaction indicated 51% of Salesforce users would switch to another vendor, given the opportunity. Users also rated Salesforce as difficult to adopt and felt the value they’re getting from the platform doesn’t match its price.

Many of you are finding your CRMs underwhelming when it comes to sales. When Numerik founder Jonathan is out and about talking to sales managers, he finds many sales leaders disenchanted with their CRMs. He says, “I have six or seven calls a week with sales managers, and on most of those calls the managers express dissatisfaction with their CRM. And it’s always the same issue. It’s not being used, so it’s not a helpful tool.” 

If you’re frustrated with your CRM and wondering how to help your sales teams sell more, read on for recommendations from other sales managers, sales tech experts, and the Numerik team. 

Growth or bloat? How did CRMs become so blah?

Salespeople simply want to close more deals. But when it comes to making more sales, CRMs often become handbrakes rather than accelerators, as sales reps waste time they could be selling, on servicing CRM records to meet management demands.

How did a tool heralded as the next big thing for sales go so wrong? To understand why CRMs aren’t serving sales, it helps to take a few steps back and look at what a CRM is, why organisations use them, why they fail, and where they fit into the sales picture. 

CRMs are customer relationship managers. They’re designed to improve an organisation’s relationship with its customers, by storing all customer interactions, orders, and data in one place. They become the single source of truth, allowing everyone in an organisation to access info on a customer, understand their preferences, and serve them better. 

CRMs are used by several business areas:

  1. Management gather data that informs strategy and targets.
  2. Marketing store customer data and organise and automate customer nurturing activities.
  3. Sales teams research customers and record sales activities.
  4. Customer service fulfil orders. 

And here’s where the first CRM issue arises. When a tool tries to serve too many agendas, you end up with competing priorities, functionality becomes bloated, and purpose becomes blurred. 

Jonathan says, “CRMs tend to overengineer solutions and try to be everything to every part of a business, but at the same time they often fail to dial in on what each team needs. They’re like photocopiers, laden with features when most teams only need to  print, copy, and scan. CRMs are the same, most organisations only use their core functionality, at best. Sales teams want to be able to quickly look up info on customers, take notes on calls, and check on targets and sales. The rest is just busy work. Creating deals, populating pipelines and everything like that doesn’t help salespeople make sales, which is why those features aren’t used.” 

The more features a CRM has, the more work your team have to do to service the tool’s processes. And it’s important to ask if those processes support your team’s goals, or whether they exist to justify the existence of the CRM. A cynical observer might say that CRMs are loaded up with features to justify their high monthly fees. Certainly, it doesn’t matter how many features a CRM has, if those features don’t help you sell. 

Why do CRMs fail?

Like every tool, CRMs have pros and cons. The upside can be significant. Centralising customer data helps everyone offer better customer service, leading to an improved customer experience and the holy grail, greater customer loyalty. But the downside is the scale of the investment in time, money, and effort required to reap these rewards. 

CRM benefits

  • Single source of truth for customer data.
  • Provides insights to improve marketing with more personalisation.
  • Grow sales by identifying most profitable customers for nurturing, tracking sales trends, and automating elements of sales process.
  • Provides data to improve customer experience with more personalisation.
  • Grow customer loyalty. 
  • Can improve reporting and analysis. 
  • Can improve strategy with richer data. 
  • Can improve team collaboration and productivity.

CRM downsides

  • Costly to run. 
  • Complex to choose right CRM.
  • Disruptive to implement (can be positive because it’s disruption that leads to a more customer centric organisation).
  • Poor, unintuitive user experience makes them hard to adopt and unrewarding to use. 
  • Labour intensive to implement requiring communication, training, reference resources, and regular refreshers.
  • Resource intensive to support. 
  • Risk of over automation and de-personalising customer experience. 
  • Security risks / outage risks. 
  • Lack of support from CRM providers.

Often the downside of CRMs eclipses the potential wins, and with such a high failure rate, it makes sense to ask the question, why do CRMs fail?

When we look at research on CRM failure six common themes emerge:

  1. Lack of a clear CRM strategy and measurable goals means the system is set up without a strong foundation for success. 


  1. Lack of user involvement in planning and design means the system doesn’t reflect user needs and users feel no investment in its success. 


  1. Lack of involvement and engagement at senior exec level mean the project lacks champions, which is critical for a project that entails organisational change. 


  1. Dirty data undermines the integrity of the CRM. 


  1. Side-lining IT leads to a lack of integration with the existing IT infrastructure.


  1. Focusing on technology over the needs of people leads to a system that lacks relevance and user appeal.

Most of these failure factors boil down to one thing. CRM systems fail because adoption fails. People don’t understand how to use them well, and they don’t make the effort to learn because they don’t see what’s in it for them. So, most CRM failures are less the failure of a system, than a failure to enact organisational change. 

So where do CRMs fit into the picture for sales?

The role of a CRM is to collect customer data and be the single source of customer truth. 

They help management

They help marketing

They help improve customer service 

But do they help sales?

Sales tech expert Nancy Nardin writes in her article Get Ready for the Disruption of CRM, “Traditional CRM is not a productivity tool. On its own, it doesn’t automate much—if anything … Salespeople often spend more time “managing” the system and activities than actually performing the activities.” 

Salespeople want to make more sales. That’s their number one motivation. But CRMs don’t make selling faster or easier. As Nancy states, most CRMs don’t help sales teams manage, execute, track, or record the sales process in any way “markedly superior to an Excel spreadsheet.” Brutal. But from what we hear from all you sales managers out there, also fair.

Why Farmland Foods decided to ditch their CRM

Farmland Foods is New Zealand’s fastest growing smallgoods producer. We spoke to their National Sales and Marketing Manager, Robbie Dale about why they swapped their CRM for Numerik. Robbie explains, “We already had a CRM tool but I’m always looking for optimisation, asking how can we sell better, faster? Our salesforce today spend so much time on mobile devices, so we need something that works well on mobile. I was looking for a mobile sales app that gives the sales team access to all the data they need, and I stumbled across Numerik.”

“CRMs are very one dimensional. And if the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that you’ve got to be able to adapt. And the other thing we've learned is that time is precious. So, you need an all-encompassing tool that helps you move fast, and CRMs aren’t that tool. We found Numerik offers that speed from a decision making and information perspective. We service well over a thousand New Zealand outlets every single day. So, I can walk into a store, see what they’ve bought, see what they haven’t bought, see how it ranks against other stores, and quickly elevate the discussion.”

“Numerik is CRM meets Excel meets Facebook meets Power BI. It’s the power of social media combined with data and not just numerical data but visual data. Being able to post video, photographs, and voice notes really gives the sales reps a boost. Numerik has given us a single tool, where reps and customers are benchmarked, and all the data we need is there. In any business today, data is currency, and the team with the best data wins. And because Numerik sits in our live ecosystem, the data is constantly being updated. Our guys can walk into a store, and two clicks later, report back to me. That’s a true gamechanger.”

“Numerik has replaced our CRM completely. We also use Power BI for numerical data, and we’ve lots of historical data on there. But Numerik is our go-to for customer and sales data at the moment and I think it will continue to be that. For us it made no sense hanging onto some historical CRM. Buying patterns are changing so fast in New Zealand with cost-of-living that what worked two weeks ago doesn’t work today. It’s a massive benefit to have a live ecosystem where a merchandiser walks into a store at 6:00am, sees there's no stock, and can be placing an order by 6:15am. It's instantaneous, whereas with our old CRM, nothing was live.”

“I talked to the director of the firm that owns our old CRM. They called to ask why we were moving because they really wanted to know and were truly interested in how they might improve. I was really impressed because I always measure a company's integrity by their action when they lose a customer. So, I was frank with them, and said, guys, you can't improve your existing platform. You need to change it completely. So, they went online, checked out Numerik, came back to me and said, we understand why you've moved. We get it.”

While Quin Global layer Numerik over NetSuite

Quin Global are the world’s largest manufacturer of spray canister adhesive. Chief Technical, Marketing and Innovation Officer Carl Fowler explains how things were before Numerik came on the scene. “We didn't have visibility of what each sales guy was doing and how they were performing. Also, we had no good commission mechanism driving performance. There was a commission structure, but it was difficult for the sales team to understand where they were against their targets and what their reward would be.” 

“The other problem was, we didn't have a forecast for the three months ahead of us. We had a budget with targets, but no trackable sales forecast aligned against that. As a result, we really struggled with Board buy-in for sales projections. Now with Numerik, we’ve six months of data where our sales forecasts and budgets are aligned, so the Board trust the numbers.” 

Another challenge for Carl and his team was using multiple systems to track sales. Carl says, “We were using for our pipeline, Phocas for BI, Google sheets to track performance, a database in Access, Excel, and a costly NetSuite forecast system, which was built for us. Plus, we were having email discussions about our forecasts.”

“My dream was to get our sales team running with only three systems. NetSuite as our single source of truth, a CRM, and a tool for forecasting and sales management. And that’s what we have now. We use Pipedrive for our CRM and new business pipeline management, and Numerik for numbers, targets, and commission on sales to existing customers.”

Carl and his team did their due diligence before they invested in Numerik. “We looked at other tools. And we wanted to make sure we’d investigated all the tools we already had. We tried building something ourselves. Didn’t work. We tried NetSuite for forecasting. Disaster. We looked at whether we could use Phocas or Pipedrive to forecast, and that didn't work either.” 

“My West Europe sales manager has used Salesforce and other sales tools. And he said to me the other day that Numerik is by far the best sales tool he’s ever used due to its simplicity, its forecasting ability, and the team spirit it creates.”

“Numerik is genuinely a no brainer for any organisation. It’s so quick and easy, and right in the palm of your hand. I'm no longer involved in sales day to day, but I’ve more control and comfort than ever because I can see what's happening on Numerik by the minute. I can trust the data, and it hasn't let me down. So, I don't think there is a better system.”

CRMs can be a political hot potato

Senior execs use CRMs to make management decisions, so their interests can end up having a disproportionate share of airtime when it comes to CRM functionality. But setting business strategy and making sales are not the same discipline, and don’t have the same drivers. 

However, because CRMs are a significant investment of time, energy and money, organisations can become overly invested in their success. They’ve spent too much on the solution, gone too far down the CRM road, and the CRM cannot be allowed to fail.

When this situation arises, it can become challenging (even career threatening) for a sales leader to point out that a CRM isn’t working for their team. Their fellow senior execs are likely to push back, saying they need data to manage the business and CRMs get people to enter data, and there would be payback if only salespeople would use the CRM more consistently. Senior execs come to feel that the CRM is a necessity, whether or not it helps the sales team sell, and the inadequacy of the system becomes reframed as the inadequacies of the sales team. 

But Nancy disagrees. She writes: “I have a secret. Come closer so I can whisper it, “IF CRM HELPED SALESPEOPLE IN A SUBSTANTIAL WAY, YOU WOULDN’T HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM TO USE IT.” And she is inarguably right. Well-conceived, well designed tools sell themselves. People don’t need to be trained to use them because they’re so intuitive, and they don’t need to be convinced to use them because the benefits are self-evident. 

How to solve the problem

So, you suspect your CRM isn’t helping your sales team sell. How do you make a business case for change? 

  1. Ask your team how they feel
  • Do your team see any value in the CRM for themselves. 
  • Does it help them sell? 
  • What do they like about it?
  • What do they not like? 
  • How often do they use it?

  1. Ask your team what they need 

Ask your reps what they need to sell more. 

Then ask yourself / your CRM experts if the CRM you have offers them that support. 

Many reps care about being able to access the following info fast:

  • Customer notes from the last call/ visit and actions taken as a  result.
  • Customer spend.
  • When their last purchase was.
  • Invoices when they get an invoice query
  • The margin on an account so they know which customers are most profitable 
  • Biggest selling products.
  • Customers who are growing and customers who are declining.
  • Popular and unpopular product.
  • Their own targets and sales. 

The quickest way to get your reps’ buy in to a new tool is to show you’ve listened to their needs and given them something they really want.

  1. Ask if your business model is aligned to your CRM’s strengths

CRMs work better for some businesses than others. 

  • They’re ideal for high ticket sales, that require many marketing touchpoints to convert.
  • They’re not so hot for businesses with large inventories and regular repeat customers.
  • They’re also not great for organisations with sales teams who are often on the road. 

We’ve put together a useful guide with a few more things to consider when you’re frustrated with your CRM and looking for a better solution. This should help you make a compelling business case for a sales performance tool to help your sales team sell more.

It's not about throwing out your CRM

Here’s the thing. CRMs are brilliant. Well … let’s rephrase that … good CRMs are brilliant. CRMs provide a rich source of data to inform sales reps’ conversations with customers and make those relationships richer. That’s incredibly valuable and leads to more sales over time. 

But what that data doesn’t do is solve the bigger challenge sales reps face, of staying on top of their sales pipeline, keeping motivated, and finding opportunities to sell. 

So, what is the solution? Back in 2016 Nancy wrote, “I’m proposing that sales leaders flip that scenario around. Deploy new platforms that are specialized to help salespeople execute in the way that suits them best and have the data from that system feed into CRM … The key to success is for those systems to automatically communicate the data to the CRM platform without intervention from the salesperson.”

In other words, sales teams may need a sales performance tool layered on top of your CRM, that supports your sales team and talks to your CRM / ERP because that’s your single source of customer truth. 

How a sales performance app compares to a CRM

Intent of sales performance app

  • Shows opportunities for growth. 
  • Motivates sales reps to achieve targets.
  • Tracks sales progress towards target.
  • Designed for sales reps to access essential customer insights fast.
  • Motivates by centring forecasts, commissions and incentives updated in real time.
  • Quick and intuitive to use.
  • Mobile first for reps on the go.

Intent of CRM

  • Helps manage customers. 
  • Stores info on customers.
  • Records sales reps’ interactions with customers. 
  • Designed for managers to produce detailed reports. 
  • Can demotivate because forecasts, commissions and incentives often difficult to find.
  • Slow and clunky to use.
  • Desktop first for management. 

CRMs simply aren’t made for sales teams

CRMs aren’t all bad. In fact, they’re valuable tools for many areas of your business, but they fall down when it comes to sales, because they’re Customer Relationship Managers, not sales performance tools (the clue’s in the name). 

The new generation of sales performance apps like Numerik, are especially designed to meet salespeople’s needs and help them make more sales. Not only that, but different tools are designed for the needs of different sales teams. Numerik is ideal for businesses with large inventories of products, regular repeat customers, and reps on the road. 

Numerik doesn't replace your CRM, it works alongside it, with integrations for Salesforce and NetSuite feeding customer data back to your CRM as your single source of customer truth. It simply replaces the clunky functionality of the CRM for your sales team, with streamlined, social, intuitive app, that places all the customer data they need at their fingertips. 

Numerik’s built by sales professionals, for sales professionals. That’s how we deliver the transformational business results our customers enjoy. To test drive the best sales tool on the market, book your Numerik demo today.

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