Monday, March 31, 2014

3 Keys to Successful CRM (Regardless of Who You Are)

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems have been with us for decades, yet most sales forces don't get the most out of theirs. I see this with small businesses and large global clients. It's a big investment with little adoption. It has high expectations and low perceived value.  There's lots of data, but limited insights.  But how can this be when so much sincere effort has been invested in making CRM a game-changing innovation?

Ironically, many sales forces don't get the most out of their CRM system because they literally try too hard.  They want their CRM to be the omnipotent center of their sales universe from day one.  The expect it to be the single, all-knowing hub of all selling activity and information. If that sounds like your organization’s desire, then we would offer you only four words counsel:  Good luck with that.

The number of companies that we’ve seen succeed with this center-of-the-universe strategy out of the gate can be counted on one hand.  And the number that we’ve seen fail is, well, all of the rest.  If you want to have a successful CRM strategy, regardless of the scale or scope of your sales force, then here are 3 fundamental strategies that could put you on the right path:

1. Keep It Simple

The French philosopher, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, said that perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.  And so it is with a CRM system.  We’ve seen company after company add as many bells and whistles to their CRM tool as technically possible too quickly, and they did so with the best of intentions.  Yet they typically realized poor outcomes.  The fewer tabs, the fewer fields, the fewer functions you can get away with in your CRM tool, the better.  Add features and functions to build on to a workflow that is established.

2. Focus on the Things that Matter

Salespeople need focus, and sales management, candidly, is not good at giving it.  We tell salespeople that everything is important, and in no place is that more evident than a CRM system.  When you’re choosing those few tabs, fields, and functions that should survive in your tool, choose the ones that will focus your sellers on the things that really matter.  CRM should be put in place for one reason primarily: to make salespeople more productive.  Any distraction from that focus is a waste of bits and bytes.

3. Remember, CRM is for the Reps

If we are honest with ourselves (and even if we’re not), CRM systems were originally sold as a fantastical reporting machine for senior leadership. Consequently, it functions tremendously well at generating management reports.  However, that’s not the best use for CRM.  The ideal role for CRM is to make it easier for salespeople to do their jobs.  How can it enable better selling and improve buyer/seller interactions?  That is the riddle that needs to be solved.  And when you finally solve it, user adoption, perceived value, and field-level insights will soon flow from your CRM tool effortlessly.
These three strategies will lead to highly successful CRM implementations.  We measure CRM success by its ultimate sales outcomes, not by its technical merit.  CRM is an extremely powerful technology that can flex and grow to amazing heights.  And therein is the problem.  If you want to succeed, tame your ambitions.  Focus on the few important things that will make sellers better.  And then, miraculously, CRM will become the game-changer that we all want it to be.