Wednesday, August 31, 2011

8 Key Success Factors in a CRM Implementation

An earlier article, 5 Reasons A Spreadsheet Is Not A CRM, we gave an overview of CRM selection attributes and a partial list of available vendors. So, by now you've evaluated and chosen a CRM. Considering that your CRM could (and should) become the backbone of your selling system and the center of all your ongoing customer interactions, what's important about your implementation? That you get it right, and get it right the first time. Resurrecting a failed system implementation is at least 5 times as hard as getting it right on the first pass.

Here are some ideas and suggestions for a successful CRM implementation:
  1. Don't delegate this. In a mid-sized company, this is important enough to have the full attention of the CEO, COO and VP of sales. Notice I didn't mention IT. CRM projects led by the IT staff are the single largest group of CRM implementation failures. This is a business system, not an IT system. The underlying IT challenges are minimal - almost nonexistent.
  2. Decide in advance what you want to accomplish. Hopefully you did this before making a product selection. Write (or bulletize) a set of requirements that you expect from your CRM. Look out a ways -- 2 or 3 years. Get past the initial implementation and visualize what a "real" e-marketing company's backbone data platform would look like.
  3. Include the "thought leaders" of your company in the planning. Get the key influencers invested in the project. They'll help you through the rough spots and they'll help you promote usage.
  4. Define exactly how you expect your employees to use the CRM. Just collecting contacts? Logging phone calls? Tracking quotes and proposals? As an E-marketing campaign database? As a long-term customer relationship history? As a project workflow tracker? A retrievable company-wide knowledge base? The possibilities are almost endless. Your CRM can, in fact, become the hub of many of your business processes.
    HOT TIP: Survey your workforce, asking for a list of every spreadsheet they're keeping themselves that contains information about customers or prospects. You'll be stunned at the number of invisible "information silos" you have. If that information about customers is worth keeping, it's worth keeping so everyone has access -- not just spinning around on 1 user's hard drive.
  5. Break old habits -- One of the hardest habits to break is getting people (including yourself) to use the enterprise-wide contact directory in the CRM vs. your own directories. Mandate that Outlook or Email client address books are to be used ONLY for personal contacts. All business contacts and contact information should be stored (and shared) in the CRM's contact database (and only there).
  6. Use it yourself. Clearly demonstrate that you're doing what you say everyone else is supposed to do.
  7. Incentivize -- Hand out some $50 Target gift cards to people who jump onboard early and use it the way you want it used, or perhaps in ways you never imagined. (see:  How Much Employee Motivation Can You Buy with a Car Wash?).
  8. Recognize and reward -- When you see someone doing something great (you'll have to be looking at the data), such as an extraordinary call report, send a company-wide email blast recognizing the accomplishment (and don't forget the Target gift card).
CRM implementations are notoriously stalled by lack of top-down leadership. Once they stall, it takes at least 5 times as much energy to get them out of the ditch and back on track. Your CRM implementation can be the best thing that ever happened to your company or your worst nightmare. The way you approach it on the first try will make the difference.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

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