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News Flash: Big Company Makes Big Mistake With CRM

As seen in Forbes.

Ever heard of Sage Software?

Big 800 pound gorilla; killing it in customer relationship management (CRM) and accounting software.

You’d think a huge company like this would have it together, right?  A big guy us smaller guys can look up to?  Read on my friend as there is something to learn here…

Crammed into my mailbox over a three week period I find three direct mail pieces from Sage. Pitching their hot new offering for small business; ACT CRM 2012.  Well, they got me.  Sounds like the solution to all my CRM needs.  Jumped online to check out all the fancy bells and whistles.

Now mind you, we are current customers of Sage.  Been buying their Peachtree Accounting software since 2005.  Plus, got hooked on ACT in 2007 and been upgrading each year since.

Five user seats, 200 bucks a pop for each, times two.  Don’t really know the math, and not sure I really care.  But, we’ve spent thousands of dollars on software from them over the years.

Now I know it’s not the big bucks of a large company.  But we aren’t buying enterprise software. We’re startup entrepreneurs, so we’re drooling over the stuff geared toward small business.

So — current customer; getting pitched in the mail; interested in upgrade to ACT 2012; online to find out more.

Drop into a web form asking for information.  Name, biz name, phone number and email. Happily filling out the form, they give me access to the demo I want to use.  Poking around for an hour or so, I learn what I need to and move on.

Now the real fun begins…

A few days later, phone’s ringing.  Some gal from Sage Software.  “Do you have a moment?”  I think, “Um, not really.  But hey, I asked for the info and so I’ll give her a couple of minutes.” First thing she asks; “How can I help in your evaluation of ACT as your choice of CRM software to use?”

What?  Pardon me, but do you know we’ve been customers of ACT since 2007?  And that I was responding to the “upgrade” offer you sent me in the mail?

Long pause and some stuttering…

Feeling sorry for her, I pick up the baton and run with it.  Spend 10 minutes explaining who we are, what we are doing and why we are looking at the newest version of ACT.

Getting off the phone, I feel good.  Helped a gal understand who we are.

In my imagination, she is sitting in front of command control from Star Trek.  Punching away keystrokes on the latest CRM technology available, recording all the juicy nuggets I have just given her.  Pure CRM utopia I can only dream of.

Only wait — dream turns into a nightmare…

Fast forward three weeks.  Busy on a Friday morning trying to wrap it before the weekend. Ringggg. Dash across the warehouse to grab my phone on the bench.  “Hello?”

“Hi, this is Natalie from Sage Software.  Do you have a moment?”  (Um, well, not really I think to myself, but hey, this could get interesting.)

“Sure, I have a minute.  But let me tell you, I spoke with someone from your company three weeks ago…”

In pops Natalie, “Oh, well I just want to be sure you have all the information you need as you evaluate different CRM software companies to use.”

Huh?  You’ve got to be kidding me?  Please tell me you have all the valuable tidbits I gave you guys three weeks ago.  Please tell me you are using some kind of CRM software to help our relationship blossom and grow.  And for Pete’s sake, please tell me you know we are a current customer!

Poor Natalie.  Definitely embarrassed.  Turns out she was using a version of ACT, but had no idea we were current customers; nor were there any notes on the last conversation with the other sales rep.

Don’t Let This Be You.

Crazy as it sounds — how in the world can one of the world’s foremost creators of CRM software be so inept at using CRM software?

Does it make sense?  These are the experts you and I depend on as small business owners to help manage our customers… using THEIR software!

The point of this story is not to beat up on Sage.  It is to help you see this:

The best CRM technology in the world will not help you one little bit — unless you and your team know how to use it correctly and then actually use it!

This is a big bugaboo for me.  You hear successful entrepreneurs say it time and time again; “Your relationship with your customer is everything.  It is the number one thing you must focus on.  Without your customer, you don’t have a business.”  And on and on and on.

So why do so many companies keep messing this up?  I have no idea.

But please don’t be one of them.  It matters not whether you’re an entrepreneur on your way to big company stardom, or you’re still small potatoes with your startup.  You’ve got to leverage the technology behind CRM and use it to help you.  Period.

Oh, and don’t use a CRM solution?  Ouch.  Why on earth not?  How do you keep track of your customers?  Do you really even care about them?

Love to know how you manage without some kind of solution.  (Seriously.  Tell me below how you do it ’cause I really want to know… )

Please don’t be like this 800 pound gorilla named Sage who can’t even peel his own banana. Get a CRM solution and figure out how to peel it, will you?  :-)


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About the Author: Eric T. Wagner is a husband, father and life-long entrepreneur. After starting multiple businesses, Eric is now focused on helping other entrepreneurs find the path to success in business and life. You can also catch his gig on Forbes or connect with him on Google+.


  1. Interesting story – wouldnt have expected it from Sage. Do update this blog when the light switch turns on – I mean, they finally figure out how to use CRM.

    Maybe you suggest to them they get Dynamics CRM or SalesForce! (couldn’t resist)

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Yes, strange indeed Girish. Almost comical when you think about it. I mean, who would be the best in the world at customer relationship? You’d think a company who develops products and solutions for the same.

      Can’t wait to hear from them as I’m gonna love hearing their reason… :-)

      Thanks Girish…

  2. Wow, that rep should’ve been recording every thing you said the first time into ACT! I have professional experience with Sage (and others like Sales Force) and that is really surprising to hear.

    You’re right, Eric.. a tool is only as good as the person who is using it (and of course their knowledge about it).

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      You’re right Jason, she should have. But didn’t for some reason? Or maybe their systems aren’t syncing…. who knows.

      But at the end of the day, what really matters is they are going to lose me as a customer. This event, plus a couple others, gives me zero confidence in them as a company. The sad thing? I will walk away and they will never even know it….

      Thanks Jason…. Eric

  3. Eric,

    This situation has happened to me on a few different occasions. You give a company some updated information than later on you have to repeat that information. Frustrating and it makes you feel very small and not important.

    As for me I’ve yet to have this problem. When I do get to the stage of being big enough where I do need a CRM, I’ll look into HighRise from 37 SIgnals.

    From a personal standpoint when I meet people I remember a few things about them and jot down their info in Evernote Hello.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Yes Jordan. Frustrating indeed.

      Funny thing is? All it takes is a system that works; and then using it correctly. Definitely not rocket science.

      Thanks for sharing Jordan. Appreciate it. :-)


  4. Very interesting post & I’m so sorry about your experience. Something like that can really let you down with a company you’ve been committed to for a long time.

    One good thing for me, being a creative entrepreneur selling on Etsy, is that Etsy automatically keeps up with all my customers for me. Getting a hold of that info is pretty easy.

    Now as far as my coaching business goes, I have to keep up with client information. Currently I don’t have a program that I use. I just keep records using an Excel spreadsheet since I’m small potatoes and don’t really see the point in buying expensive software for what I’ve got going on. Maybe that’s crazy, but that’s the way it is at the moment. Maybe someday soon that will change. Who knows!

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks for sharing Meagan.

      You’ll love this though: You can ditch your excel spreadsheet.

      Why? Because you can find some great solutions online to help you keep track of your relationships with no upfront fees. You might highly consider looking into a solution like HighRise, Solve360, Zoho or something like that. Or, once you get there, check out a solution called InfusionSoft. Bit more pricey, but pretty powerful stuff.

      With your email list growing, and your client base growing, it will do wonders for you. In my opinion that is… :-)

  5. Eric,

    This is an extremely important lesson because know that companies have computer systems and expect their conversations to be tracked.

    So when you don’t…. uh oh!

    Thanks for the great example!!

    Ryan H.

  6. Hi Eric,

    Great post, draw a smile on my face for a while :)

    Unfortunately that’s not as surprising as it should be. I’ve encountered a few very large companies who don’t know their own products :/ That’s their loss, not mine…

  7. WHOA – that is CRAZY! Don’t get me wrong I’ve similar experiences myself, quite a few times actually. In my mind I always think – man these guys really need a good CRM system – why are they still pitching me like I’m a cold lead when I’m an existing engaged customer. But for a CRM company to be the culprit is mind boggling.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Yes Steve. That’s why it makes for a good story.

      It’s like the million marketing companies out there with websites…. that literally are terrible.

      Geez, if you can’t even excel yourself at what you are trying to sell to others, well, that’s a problem… Yes? :-)

  8. Alright… pretty eye-opening story, and I like how “gentle” you were about it all, Eric.

    Straight up– as a business I wanna excel, or at least be decent, in all the important areas of running a business.

    ‘Black marks’ like this aren’t exactly fun.

    I think it points to the benefits of being “a lean business”, easier to manage and stay on top of as opposed to an “800lb gorilla”.


    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Agreed on being “lean” Jason.

      I think though a bigger company can still pull off doing the same. You know, caring about their customers enough to figure out how to really engage them in an intimate way.

      Lord knows they’ve got the resources and all the tools in the world to do it…. but perhaps their culture is out-of-whack?

      If 800 pound gorillas like Zappos and Apple can pull off incredible customer service and intimacy; it proves it can be done.

      All it takes is the right leadership establishing the right culture.

      Thanks for sharing Jason…

  9. Having a great CRM & teaching your team to use it, is totally different ball game.

    Simplicity & speed is so crucial when selecting a CRM system for your small business. We have started using ASANA (By Facebook’s Co Founder) launched few months ago.

    We are really loving it and it’s free for up to 25 users.

  10. I agree with Rana, software is one thing, but using it is something completely different. Surely it’s all down to processes, isn’t it. Software is really great to have, but when it comes down to it, it requires people to run it.

    On another note, I’m really stuck with CRM. I’ve used Daylite but that is sometimes just an overgrown PIM. Act is just overkill for any one man bands. It’s probably down to Highrise I guess.

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Hi Mike.

      Thanks for sharing. And you’re right, it does come down to processes driven by people. Otherwise, CRM just sits collecting cobwebs.

      Oh, and maybe check out Solve360 by Norada for your one man band? We used it for the past 5 months for Mighty Wise and it does a great job. Just moving on to InfusionSoft because we wanted the extra fire-power of trigger/behavioral based marketing (which Solve360 doesn’t do). Otherwise, it was a great product that integrates well with Google Apps, Constant Contact, ZenDesk and other solutions.

      Good luck my friend…. :-)

  11. Eric – Iv’ve never heard of Sage, maybe because I am not a big player that needs it just yet but I will say that this experience would have had me frustrated beyond belief. So much so, that if this is the kind of attention they give to details I may not want to use them at all. Good luck Eric

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Hector… Everybody goofs now and then, including these guys. They actually have a pretty decent product…. they’ve just gotten big as a company and don’t have the culture and systems in place to manage it. (My guess… :-)

      The key for me is to learn from it: Culture of delighting my customers beyond belief and a good system to manage the relationships.

      Easy-peasy in theory, right? :-)

  12. HI Eric,
    Nothing wrong with ACT at all, it is the way it is set up that has more than likely placed the call center girls in a pickle. I have found this on numerous occations when the owner or manger has not given full access to the workers, because they are trying to protect the data base. Pointless giving the receptionist a tool without all the tools in the box. No matter how big your company is in today’s IT driven world a CRM is vital for growth and sustainablity of any company.

    Best Regards,


    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Agree 100% Archie.

      A well set-up system/process + the right company culture = rockin’ good customer service with CRM.

      Thanks for sharing Archie. Good stuff. :-)


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