by Nikolaus Klaus, CEO of Pipeliner
When properly implemented and adopted, a CRM system should become the operating system of a business. Revenue is the fuel that powers a company and so being able to forecast, manage risk and model revenue scenarios is critical to smooth operations. To achieve this there has to be a partnership between management and the frontline users of the CRM.
The foundation for this is set when originally selecting the CRM in the first place. It is essential that, for example, some salespeople are involved in the review and selection of the CRM and not just sales management.
There are multiple reasons for this, firstly if it is simply management assessing the solution then it will naturally be seen by frontline sales as a management tool imposed upon them. Secondly when you include some of those salespeople in the review and decision making you now have cheerleaders who are invested in the product and who can influence their colleagues.
Thirdly, your salespeople are going to see the application from a completely different perspective and will be able to immediately highlight where implementation and adoption problems might occur. Again this is invaluable data for making the most informed decision.
Once the selection process is over a change management group should be formed again consisting of management, team leaders, and frontline salespeople. Again this collective ownership will go a long way to ensuring widespread adoption.
( Also Read: A Guide to Customer Relationship Management )
As part of this process, the group should identify which are the key features of the CRM that phase one implementation should focus on. This is extremely important because many times companies try to boil the ocean and roll-out all the capabilities at once which result in long-drawn-out implementations which rarely succeed and atrophy over time. This leads to frustration of all the different constituencies and usually ends up with the CRM system itself becoming a convenient scapegoat.
By focusing in on a couple of business issues and the features that support those business issues mean that everyone can become accustomed to the new system in a systematic way and one that does not overwhelm anybody. Then over time, more capabilities can be rolled out and it becomes a steady building process as people become comfortable with using the system.
This is also where those who helped evaluate the CRM come into play as power users and peer support for their colleagues. There will always be initial resistance to something new by some people and having a peer encourage them through this can make a huge difference between adoption and resistance.
In order to embed the CRM into the daily workflow of the business, senior management needs to demonstrate that they are behind the initiative for the long run and it is not just the “initiative du jour”. This means they should reference the CRM in their conversations and company updates to reinforce its importance.
Following that managers have to be disciplined and do their pipeliner and forecast reviews using the CRM. This shows the salespeople the importance of keeping it updated. If the manager will not do the review until the salesperson is in compliance then this sets a tone for the whole team.
Finally, there should be a working group of salespeople (and the members of the team can rotate quarterly or whatever makes sense for the particular organization) that meets to discuss the CRM and recommend improvements or process changes.
This helps to establish collective responsibility for the CRM and remove the perception that it is a management tool. It is obviously essential that some of the recommendations are actually implemented!
If this process outlined above is followed then not only will a CRM implementation go that much more smoothly but collective ownership will drive ongoing adoption.
Nikolaus Kimla is the CEO of Pipeliner CRM and the author of over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, CRM and business. He has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople.