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Editor’s Note: The Sapient Salesman began as a series of internally-focused sales coaching pieces written by SugarCRM team member Erin Fetsko. While initially focused on “selling Sugar,” Erin’s advice and wisdom have proven useful to Sugar partners, and well, anyone in the business of sales. Thus, we are happy to add her insight to the Sugar corporate blog. You can read all of Erin’s musings at The Sapient Salesman.

People say silicon valley was founded by proud members of the autism spectrum. Having spent most of my adult life navigating the minefield of idiosyncratic behavior many uber geeks lay, I’d believe it. The engineer charm makes way for exceptional development power which yields truly valuable solutions. I often joke: there’s only so much room in one mind … you can’t expect me to be clever and nice at the same time. But this got me thinking, do successful CRM adoptions fall on a spectrum as well?

Sugar’s CRM adoption curve outlines a framework to establish where a business is, and guide it as its processes mature. But how do we measure success at each step? I often boast that SugarCRM successfully uses Sugar to manage their business; I use this morsel to imply a perspicacious persona and gain the trust of prospects. But does anyone truly adopt and use a CRM system the way we advertise?

During my stint with support I worked cases. Cases that had subjects, descriptions and substantive notes. Cases that reflected time spent and actual work done. Today I also work cases. These cases, however, sport a combined subject and description that, on a good day, contain 4 words: demo | customer needs demo. Both implementations are “successful,” but one yielded a reportable, measurable way to track employee efficacy. The other only relieves me of several hours a week as I futilely map disjointed email conversations to cases with the hope my efforts reflect resource consumption.

We sell a vision like that of a modern Corona commercial: people on a beach reviewing perfect reports on their favorite flash enabled tablet PC. The epitome of hands off visibility and insight into their company’s heath. Too soon we forget about the poor schmuck who runs around the office populating the data that drives these reports. I wonder if my fellow salesmen really appreciate what it takes to successfully adopt CRM.

When Sugar is an afterthought, when users start their day in other systems, or when employees see Sugar merely as a way to “getting credit” for work done – an otherwise “adopted” system remains at risk. One day the guy holding it all together, back-filling the data for reporting purposes, will leave and the implementation will fall apart. Truly successful CRM adoption results from a more socialistic approach. Every user of the system must prepare themselves to actively participate, and it’s important to communicate the commitment necessary to have a plenary implementation with sweeping adoption.