You heard that CRM (Customer Relationship Management software) users achieve huge sales gains, and took the plunge…yet no lights flashed, and cash registers didn’t really ring.. What happened…or didn’t? It could be a lot of things. Here are some of the most common.

Know What you Are trying to Accomplish

Before you start, gain a clear-eyed view of your objective. Know what is working well, where your sales system needs to change, and what you expect out of a change initiative.

  • Focus on a small number of goals and issues. CRMs are powerful and flexible; they do a lot. Asking them to do everything may be focusing on nothing.
  • If your list of goals is too long, narrow it down by staging them into phases—speed up by slowing down.
  • Figure out how you’re going to measure progress. Measure IT pre-implementation to establish a baseline.

Know what software can change and what it can’t

Now that you know where you want to go, know how your CRM will solve the problem. Make sure there’s a clear line-of-sight between a capability of your CRM and your goal. I find this isn’t as obvious as one would think.

  • Don’t confuse efficiency with effectiveness. Generally speaking, CRM systems can make things more efficient, seldom more effective. If you have a 15% close ratio, CRM might help you churn through more deals. Increasing close rates takes increased effectiveness, which is largely out of scope for most CRM software.
  • CRMs are not your sales process…the sales process that comes “out of the box” from the software vendor is almost certainly not your sales process. Understand YOUR process and document it…then articulate that process in your CRM.
  • More importantly, your sales process isn’t the same as your customer’s buying process. Understand and document your customer buying process as well.
  • A sales methodology is how salespeople keep buying and selling processes aligned. If possible, integrate methodology along with sales process; this will help you develop metrics that predict success.
  • Develop dashboards that track your specific metrics. When developing metrics, remember that fewer is more, because you’re more likely to get good data.

What does the human and organizational effort look like?

Implementing CRM is a full-on change management initiative. All of the normal change management advice applies.

  • CRM usage is a behavior. Thus, CRM projects are always behavior change projects. CRM implementations often fail due to low system usage. Remember, if your compliance/adoption rate is 50% (a very normal figure), you have 0% data integrity – your CRM reports are all but worthless.
  • Don’t over-estimate how easy managing the system will be. Because some systems are worse offenders than others, you must budget carefully for the necessary support
  • Implement a management cadence. This should be a central component of your behavior change program. Sales funnel health reviews and opportunity reviews are probably critical to your achieving your goals. Thus, your front-line sales managers are a critical lynchpin to your CRM implementation. Making sure they’re equipped to be great coaches.
  • Provide incentive to use the CRM; if CRM adoption is purely a compliance exercise (“do it or else”), you’re likely to have ongoing adoption challenges. Show your sellers convincing evidence that using the tool benefits them.
    • I like to implement methodologies in CRM systems. This provides an incentive to use the CRM, and creates information that front-line sales managers use in their coaching cadence.

Putting it all Together

CRM investments fail to meet expectations at an alarming rate. I’m often asked to help address this issue. It’s rewarding to help a client re-invigorate their CRM initiatives.

I hope you found this list useful. Please add your thoughts below, or contact me directly to discuss in greater depth.

To your success!

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