Why CRM Systems Fail at the OEM & Dealer Level

Written by: equipmentfx

November 9, 2019

If you Google “why CRM systems fail”, you come up with lots of studies and technical analysis of why CRM system implementations fail. Somewhere between the range of 30 – 70% fail to meet objectives.

I’d say it’s closer to 90% when compared to using a system the way its “intended” to be used. To me, the answer is surprisingly simple: sales reps don’t like big brother knowing what they’re up to and if the information they put in is not going to be used to help them accelerate sales, then they ain’t gonna do it!

So the key question becomes at every OEM or dealer level, “what are we trying to accomplish with this initiative in the first place”? Followed by a “how can we make this drop dead simple and fast for the reps to accomplish this?” Get these two questions answered and a successful system CAN be set up, but it’s going to take some work.

Background on Me & CRM Systems

I think I pioneered the first true digital dealership, at least that’s what our OEM and others said. In 1998, I made a decision to kill all yellow page ads, NOT hire additional staff and committed fully to the internet. We were literally doing SEO before Google was Google, using these obscure keyword charts produced by a company called Overture, later acquired by Yahoo.

In the year 2000, all you had to do was match the title tag of the website to the body content and you would own the internet. And we did. 4 – 5 first place “organic” rankings, and we generated thousands of highly qualified leads.

We sent the leads to our then advanced Goldmine 6.7 Enterprise CRM system, pushed leads to flip phones by product and territory to the field reps, developed custom reports and did email follow up with links back to product pages. Advanced stuff then, advanced stuff now.

So, we had to have buy in from the sales staff to follow up and qualify leads. We needed a system. We evaluated several, hired a Goldmine expert to come in and help us configure a system we all had input designing, and eventually hired him. I called him “X”, because he could make anything we could dream up work.

Eventually, a study was done on our dealership by NACCO Industries called “what it’s like when it’s right”, the theme was adoption of advanced digital marketing strategy, and CRM integration was a big part of our success. But to make it a success, we had to get buy in from EVERYONE on why this made sense, what was in it for them, and how they would know it was working.


Why Do CRM Systems Fail

There are many reasons, but the 3 main reasons for failure are:

  • Hard to get buy in from sales
  • Not easy to use
  • Limited lead nurturing and process management

Every quarter, I got on my soapbox and, to this day, past reps and friends remember my “garbage in, garbage out” speeches, and promises that if they took the time to put good information in, it would get used for their benefit. Promise!

So, we took a lot of time designing the system around what they would or wouldn’t do with the system, a type of old fashioned contract that simply said, if we you do this, we’ll do that. Most of the “lively” discussions centered around how many required fields they had to complete so they didn’t feel like they had to put in too much information. You think it sounds like the tail wagging the dog eh?

News Flash: Most sales reps HATE data entry, and they hate even more big brother knowing what is going on with THEIR customers. In the off chance they leave, they gotta keep that relationship going. It’s a dynamic that affects the equipment industry more than most because reps move from one company to another, but generally stay in the same industry, in the same territory.

So, from these discussions we emerged with a contract that solved the three points listed above:

  • We asked for and got their input on what they would be willing to do if we did our part
  • We designed a system that was simple, effective and became the foundation of an amazing selling system, large territories, fat commission checks, happy reps and great margins!
  • We set up a system of immediate lead distribution, call back processes, email nurturing campaigns and monthly reporting

The system we built was the foundation of all of our sales and marketing efforts, but we had group feedback and a contract we agreed on that simply said “if you do this, we’ll do that” and it worked with devastating effect for new sales, aftermarket sales and generally the creation of what author calls the “fly wheel” when the system was creating leads and opportunities on auto-pilot and we were humming!

But to get there requires a vision, plan, implementation and a true commitment what the vision is going forward, often times between a dealer AND OEM with out of territory leads that are part of the mix.

Goals and Objectives

The main goals are usually to bring visibility, accountability and business process improvements that facilitate more sales and improved customer retention and management. But at a more granular level, also be mindful of lots of other questions to ask internally.

Start with a simple list of questions to understand why you’re considering something new, or a change to an existing system to get more buy in, and more out of the system:

  • Why are we doing this in the first place? What specific, measurable outcomes are we hoping to achieve with our CRM implementation?
  • Who are the main stakeholders in this, and what’s in it for all parties? What does everyone gain with a successful implementation? What will success look like?
  • Do we have internal resources required to investigate, evaluate, recommend, implement, train and generally manage the project initiative?
  • How will a CRM system fit into and enhance our existing business processes?
  • How will we measure success? What are the most important KPI’s we would establish to measure this success?

Adoption Failure

To avoid joining the failure group of most businesses, take preventive action by clearly understanding the reasons for failure points:

  • What does my team need from CRM? What specific benefits will CRM provide to my team? How will I communicate those benefits?
  • Who will be the project champion? How will that person ensure successful implementation and adoption?
  • How will we ensure and demonstrate executive and management buy-in?
  • How will team members be involved in the adoption process?
  • How will we train our team to use CRM? How will we keep CRM user-friendly for team members?
  • How will we support users who have CRM questions or problems? Will we do this in-house, or with a CRM partner company?

Integration Failure

CRM systems ALL need integration. Salesforce has many limitations, but almost endless integration options (for a small fortune that is). There are simple ways to integrate systems with planning, but proactive questions to avoid integration failure are here:

  • How will a CRM system fit into and enhance our existing business processes?
  • Which CRM systems would require us to change our business processes to use effectively? Would those changes be benefits, or burdens?
  • Which CRM systems do what we need to accomplish our goals? Are they scalable? Customizable? Reputable? Well-supported?
  • Which systems would require us to pay more for tools we don’t need and aren’t likely to grow into?
  • How will CRM fit into our current IT structure?
  • Do we use other technology solutions that require or would benefit from integration with CRM?


This is a starter post and list of helpful information. To make a CRM system work, you need to roll up your sleeves, dig in, ask questions, assess, align and activate a plan that gives you a best chance to succeed. The simpler and more elegant the plan is, the better chance for success.

I love these kinds of projects, if you have any thoughts or questions, please let me know.

Good selling…


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