What is stakeholder management?

Stakeholder Systems vs CRMs: 9 Signs CRMs Aren’t Working

Is it time to make the switch from CRM to stakeholder software? We share 9 signs that your CRM isn’t working for your stakeholder management processes.

If you’ve been using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to manage your stakeholder lists, you’re not alone. And if using that tool hasn’t been as successful as you’d hoped… once again, it’s not just you!

Fortunately, if your CRM isn’t working for your stakeholder management processes, there are other tools you can explore. But before we get into those, let’s take a look at what a CRM is meant to do, and some signs your CRM might not be the right solution for managing your stakeholders.

What’s a CRM?

Illustration showing a person with a cross inside a user interface.

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and is most often used to refer to the software or systems used to manage relationships with customers. There are many CRM systems on the market, but some of the best known include Salesforce, Hubspot, and Zoho. 

Features inside CRMs typically include:

  • Customer data management
  • Sales pipelines
  • Meeting and call notes
  • Email automation
  • Tasks and collaboration
  • Revenue forecasting
  • KPI reporting

They’re primarily designed to help sales and marketing teams improve their performance and achieve goals like increased leads, increased conversions, increased sales, and repeat purchases. 

CRMs are powerful tools with a lot of capabilities and stakeholder management does involve building and managing relationships… so, a CRM system should be perfectly fine for managing your stakeholders, right? 

Wrong! As you’ll soon see, what works well for your sales and marketing team will likely lead to problems when it comes to managing stakeholders.

9 Signs CRMs Aren’t Working For You

1. You Don’t Understand What Stakeholders Need

If you’re using a CRM to track a variety of stakeholders and groups, you’ll almost certainly run into troubles with understanding stakeholder wants, needs, and concerns. That’s because CRMs aren’t built for complex tracking. Customers are one type of stakeholder and most of the time, they want and need one thing: your products or services. 

2. Gathering and Analyzing Feedback is Tricky

Person holding a tablet that shows a graph.

Feedback is an important part of stakeholder management. In particular, surveys are often used to discover more about who your stakeholders are, what they care about, and what they think about different issues. Although many CRMs do offer feedback tools or survey integrations, these are not a core functionality — so their ability to analyze survey data and integrate it with your stakeholder contacts is generally quite limited.

This is why if you’re using a CRM to gather and analyze stakeholder feedback, you’re probably going to run into limitations.

3. Prioritizing Stakeholders Is Challenging

CRMs prioritize customers based on how much money they’re likely to spend and how likely they are to spend that money with you. But in stakeholder management, you will likely need to prioritize your stakeholders based on interest, impact, and influence. This is easy enough to do with stakeholder mapping, which then allows you to segment your stakeholders based on any of these factors — or a combination of all three.

Unfortunately, most CRMs don’t offer stakeholder mapping because they have no reason to! Nearly all customers (and potential customers) have the same level of:

  • Interest (High) – Most customers are very interested in a product or service (especially when they are first added to the CRM), while some stakeholders may have no interest in your project at all
  • Influence (Low) – Customers rarely influence a product or service, while many stakeholders can (and perhaps should) influence your project and decisions
  • Impact (Low) – Aside from receiving their product or service, customers aren’t impacted by your organization, project, or decision, whereas stakeholders will have varying levels of impact

4. You’re Not Sure How You’re Progressing

Person drawing a graph on a clear surface

The goal of a CRM is to encourage customers to purchase a product or service (and then continue purchasing from you in future). Generally, analytics inside CRMs focus on measuring each contact’s progress towards this goal — in other words, where are they in the pipeline? And what is your company’s overall forecasted position?

But stakeholder management or engagement goals are much more varied than this — and the analytics and metrics you need to track are different. For example, to track your progress, you might need to see:

  • What engagement activities have we undertaken?
  • How are different groups responding?
  • Who has been contacted about a particular issue?
  • How do people feel about your organization, project, or issue?

5. Reporting Is Difficult

Sales teams might use CRMs to report to their sales manager or CEO on things like the number of leads, potential value in the pipeline, and the percentage of closed deals. CRMs can produce these quantitative metrics in a neat report, often in just a few clicks.

Stakeholder management teams need to report to their management teams, too, along with other stakeholders. Their reports are often focused on the number of stakeholder contacts, what groups they’re engaging with, the activities undertaken, how engaged people are, stakeholder feedback, and more. It’s a lot of data — including both quantitative data (numbers) and qualitative data (messages, calls, and other things you can’t easily measure). If you try to do this with a CRM, you’ll soon find that it’s easier to copy and paste your numbers into a spreadsheet and do it manually.

6. You Have Workarounds For Nearly Everything

Three people sitting at a table, working on laptops

The problem with using software that’s not designed for the job is that you need to create your own workarounds. This means doing things manually and adding extra steps so that you can record the right information or generate the reports you need. 

There are a number of downsides to these workarounds when using a CRM for stakeholder management:

  • Your recordkeeping will take longer
  • You may simply leave details out because it’s too hard
  • Your data is less reliable or complete
  • You lack insights into your stakeholders, issues, and activities
  • You need to create additional training for your team so they understand your workarounds
  • Your team may avoid using the software because it doesn’t do what it needs to
  • You can’t manage or engage stakeholders as efficiently or effectively

7. You’re Concerned About Compliance

Many organizations manage or engage with stakeholders for legal and compliance reasons. While CRMs may have some compliance-related features and offer recordkeeping, they aren’t usually designed with compliance reporting in mind. 

On the other hand, purpose-built stakeholder relationship management software can help you track whether you’re fulfilling your project commitments with a complete history of interactions attached to each contact record. This includes emails, SMS messages, social media comments, phone calls, meetings, event attendances, and survey responses. Plus, they offer reporting capabilities that help you show who you’re engaging with, when you’re engaging, what information you’ve communicated, and what methods you’re using.

8. You or Your Team Are Overwhelmed

There are many CRMs on the market, and many of them are complex and multi-layered. This is great for sales teams because it enables them to design personalized, omnichannel campaigns that help them close more sales. But fancy CRMs with lots of features and buttons can become overwhelming if you’re using them for stakeholder management. 

You shouldn’t have to think about where the data you’re looking for is stored, what button to click on, or where to add new information. You should be able to open up your stakeholder management tool and intuitively find what you’re looking for.

9. You Can’t See It Working Long-Term

Of course, it’s always best if you can start with the right software solution from the start. But sometimes you’ll have to bootstrap your way and use spreadsheets or CRMs to manage your stakeholders initially. Perhaps because you had to hit the ground running (with no time to learn a new tool) or maybe because there simply wasn’t enough budget to invest in the right software at the time.

But sooner or later, you’ll outgrow the spreadsheets or want something more effective than a CRM to help you manage stakeholders for the long-term. 

The Alternative: SRMs or Stakeholder Relationship Management

Illustration of a person standing next to a user interface with three graphs.

If your project, stakeholder list, or team have outgrown your initial setup, it’s time to make the switch to an SRM. In other words, Stakeholder Relationship Management software.

SRMs are a bit like CRMs for stakeholders. But instead of being built for managing customers and closing sales, they’re designed for managing all your stakeholders — and their relationships with your organization. Learn more about the difference between a CRM and SRM.

Simply Stakeholders is a popular stakeholder relationship management software that includes all the features you need, like:

  • Stakeholder lists and groups
  • Detailed contact records
  • Stakeholder mapping (by interest, impact, and influence)
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Interactions
  • Communication
  • Sentiment tracking
  • Issues tracking
  • Task management
  • Survey integrations
  • Reporting
  • And much more

With Simply Stakeholders, your team will have the tools they need to manage stakeholders more effectively and efficiently, and even help to improve your stakeholder experiences.

Want to explore our stakeholder software for yourself to see how it compares to CRMs? Contact our team for a demo or learn more about how the software works.