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CRM the Right Way

There’s always a right way and a wrong way to do most things. In fact, there’s typically several right and several wrong ways. So why is it then that many companies seem to choose the wrong way to implement their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution? Don’t they read all the articles and white papers we’ve been writing over the years that explain why these systems fail and how to avoid these failures? Don’t they care? Don’t they believe us? It’s really quite simple, albeit not very easy. It takes commitment and a concerted effort to ensure you have a successful CRM implementation, both strategically and technically. So, here is the story about two of my customers; one did it right while the other, well, not so right.

Let’s call the first one Customer A and the second one Customer B. Customer A had all the right intentions. The VP of Sales wanted all his sales people to keep track of their customer and prospect information in one central and shared location; including letters, emails, appointments, calls, notes, forecasts, and more. Good start. Unfortunately, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions and his trip down below was just beginning.

The first mistake the VP from Customer A made was to not prepare his sales organization enough. While he told everyone that he was working on a new CRM solution where everyone would be able to communicate and share customer information, he was not specific nor did he discuss what benefits they’d achieve. He did not include his sales managers or sales reps in the needs analysis, so the product didn’t include the features and functionality that would benefit the very people it was intended to help. He even waited until the training class to announce that his sales reps wouldn’t get paid commission on any sale that wasn’t forecasted in this new CRM system. In fact, the only benefit he mentioned was that the reps wouldn’t have to do spreadsheet forecasts anymore. Big Deal! Nice benefit, but that was it?

Bottom line is that, in spite of my continued warnings and advice, he did not plan well for this implementation and was simply in a hurry for a quick solution to his problem. His problem was that he needed to provide accurate forecasts to his Board. Therefore he believed that if he had a CRM system in which his sales reps would regularly enter forecasts, then the system would allow him to monitor his forecasted sales at the push of a button and he could provide forecast information whenever the Board asked for it. This is a very narrowly focused objective which should have been part of a much broader strategy that would help sales and his business in many other ways as well. He was thinking tactically and short-term instead of strategically and long-term. What made it even worse was that the sales reps, who were all remote users, would be synchronizing with the central CRM database and needed to change their regular behavior and practices. Little of this was taken into consideration.

Eventually the training I was supposed to do was scheduled for all the sales reps. Keep in mind that these sales reps entered into this project unaware, and uncooperative, because they felt that this project was thrown upon them without consideration for what they needed. I didn’t blame them for feeling that way. I would have too. So I walked into the conference room and saw all these unhappy faces. What was it that my proctologist once said? Oh yes, “This will be a little uncomfortable for just a little while,” followed later with, “Now that wasn’t too bad, was it?” Let me tell you, I would have rather been with my proctologist that day. It was a very painful experience. I was faced with a room full of Type A sales reps who didn’t want to be there nor hear what I had to say. It was so cold in there that ice was forming on the walls. It was a shame, all that ice and no vodka. And I really could have used a drink that day, too.

I struggled through this session and ultimately survived. With a neck brace and an IV drip, I pulled out of it. As I left the killing field, I told the VP that I had warned him several times that user acceptance would be his biggest challenge and that I thought he was going to “grease the skids” a little better. He apologized and said he grossly underestimated the impact this would have. Again, why don’t people listen to us when we tell them this!!! Anyway, I left for lunch and grabbed some road kill, an appropriate meal for the kind of day I was having.

The final outcome was that the sales reps didn’t use the system except to enter the few accounts which had forecasted sales so they’d get paid their commissions. The VP never spent time with me defining the sorts of reports he needed nor did he spend any time learning to use the system himself. End result – everyone got frustrated and stopped using their new CRM system. The VP still needed to get forecasts to his Board – his single objective as it turned out. So he ended up with what he called a temporary solution, which was a hosted CRM product that he “rented” on a monthly basis for all his reps so they could simply enter their forecasts and nothing else. The advantage, he said, was that it was a very simple system and easy to use for doing just forecasts and that they could get access to it from any PC with a browser. Fair enough. But why did he spend all this money on another much better solution for his company when he ended up with this temporary, minimum, self-serving solution? Because he didn’t have a plan! He just had a problem to solve.

What about Customer B? Well, the short answer is that they did everything opposite of Customer A, which yielded them huge success. The longer answer is that the VP at Customer B planned well, and well in advance. He made his objectives clear, and they were good ones for the entire operation. He included his sales managers on what they needed and included their requirements on the needs analysis. He made sure the entire sales and marketing staff knew what the project was all about, what the objectives were, what was expected of everyone, what the milestones were, and what the progress was. Remote sales reps were contacting me directly with great enthusiasm when it was time to get their laptops set up with the new system so they could synchronize with headquarters. Training was scheduled in phases so they would all learn and absorb the information a little at a time (no drinking from a fire hose here).

The end result was that user acceptance was high. The system included all the features and functions the sales reps and their managers needed. And because there was good up-front planning, whenever they ask me for another feature or change or enhancement, it is easy to apply because I was able to build this flexibility into the initial implementation.

What’s the difference between these two customers? First, consider their size. Customer A was deploying their CRM solution for about 10 users. Customer B was deploying it for about 30 users. Customer A had minimum customizations. Customer B had a fairly large number of customizations. Customer B paid about four times more for my services because I needed to do about five times the work. What does this tell you? How can a much larger rollout (three times as many users) with significantly more sophisticated requirements pull off a very successful CRM implementation in a relatively short time? I hope you know the answer. It has to do with PLANNING and a COMMITMENT.

If you plan well, and well in advance, you’ll be way ahead of the game. Planning also means including key players (sales reps, managers, marketing, etc.) to contribute to the plan and the direction of your CRM strategy. You also have to be committed at the highest level to the success of your project. The VP of Customer B was totally involved with the planning, execution and usage of the CRM solution, and continues to be so. He’s an avid user of the system. He was committed to its success and didn’t just pay it lip service. This level of commitment also means being willing to invest in the resources and training to make sure it is done properly. In other words (ok folks, here it comes….) – You Get What You Pay For!

If you need help planning your CRM implementation or just don’t know where to begin, give me a call. We can have that drink I never got with Customer A.

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