Ask various CRM (Customer Relations Management) users what they think of their systems, and their responses will wildly vary. Personally, I experience these varied responses every week, even outside of client consulting engagements. The discussion is especially interesting when I ask sales people to describe their experiences with CRM systems. Let’s just say I get a lot of feedback. So why is there such a love/hate relationship with today’s CRM software?
Keeping Everyone Happy
Let me clarify my position on CRM systems and sales people for a moment. I’m looking at CRM systems from the perspective of having been a quota carrying, on the road, living in hotels, flying multi-million miles sales professional. I would not trade a second of my experiences. Sales is one of the most fulfilling professional activities I’ve ever done, and yes, it’s in my blood.
I’ve also been a sales manager, a VP of Sales and a company CEO. The only reason I share this is that those experiences help me understand why CRM systems are so vital to so many people in your organization. I’m trying to take a balanced point-of-view when I say that they are absolutely necessary for your company’s success. So, how do we take the CRM experience and make it positive and productive for all stakeholders?
Recommended CRM Best Practices
1. Involve all stakeholders: If you’re selecting a new system, replacing an old one or updating a system that’s been in place for years, multiple parties need to be involved to ensure success. A small team of users, managers, sales operations and any others utilizing the system will have valuable input that should be considered. Assign a team that will evaluate, select, and oversee the implementation of the system so that the project goals will be met.
2. Clearly understand your goals: The stakeholders should define and understand the clear objectives of why they are undertaking this project. This exercise will help rally everyone around the common goals and purpose for the system and will clearly define the benefits and expected outcomes. A key part of this process should involve defining the specific functional requirements of the system and how they will solve a problem, speed up a process, provide sales guidance or increase visibility. Ease of use (the user experience) should be kept in mind at all times.
3. Define a roadmap for the system: Usually it is best to roll out a new system in stages. Create a long-term vision for, and understand the powerful capabilities of, your new system. But stage the improvements over time and continue to gather input from all stakeholders to improve the system.
4. Keep the stakeholders involved during implementation: The team should not disband during the actual configuration and implementation process. They will need to validate requirements, test functionality and keep the project focused on its goals for success.
5. Train, support and continually improve: Of course, hands on, personalized training is always best for your users. This is one of the major areas of failure of many systems implementations. Plan on robust, readily accessible training aids to train your current and future users. Finally, remember your business needs will change over time and so must your CRM system. A process for continual improvement should be designed at the outset. This can alleviate a point of frustration for many users who often note that the system has not kept up with the changing needs of the business.
6. Designate a CRM “owner:” In consulting jargon, we call this “governance.” Someone needs to be the sheriff over the village CRM. This is extremely important and is not an “admin” level responsibility. You should develop and maintain data quality policies, system administration polices and system modification policies to guide the daily use of the CRM.
By following the best practices listed, your organization will realize the value they hoped for when making the investment in CRM. And, the stakeholders who use the system everyday will appreciate the investment in CRM and understand its value to the company.