Helpful Tips For Successfully Deploying CRM

10/13/2010 08:49 AM | Sky Stebnicki

More and more organizations are realizing the potential benefits of rolling out a CRM solution. It seems like there are new vendors springing up every day and news features are being added to existing solutions at an unprecedented rate.  But if CRM is so great, why is it that analysts have discovered that 70% of purchased CRM solutions fail to get properly implemented or used at all? In theory CRM is a no-brainer, but in reality companies are spending thousands, even millions for the promise or "idea" of features that are never implemented or used.

When it comes to technology, often the biggest challenge to any initiative is implementation and user adoption. Having the greatest real-time sales reports are completely useless if your sales staff fails to enter any data. The most powerful tool in the world can be rendered entirely ineffectual if users refuse to adopt it. All too often an inordinate amount of time is spent on picking the "very best" tool, but very little thought is given to making sure the tool gets used.

Here are some practical and proven strategies that can help assure your CRM implementation is a success:

1. Integrate Your CRM Slowly And Strategically

Rather than trying move every function of your entire organization into the software on day one, break the project into bite-sized phases and integrate it more organically. This takes a little more planning up front and may even imply less-than-ideal levels of efficiency for a time; but it will dramatically reduce the level of resistance to change encountered from end-users. Here is an example of a very simplified phase-in strategy.

Phase 1

Establish the CRM as the"global" or "shared" contact database - including contact information for employees (more on this in strategy 2 below).

Phase 2

Migrate your library of sales materials including price lists, inventory, presentation/proposal templates and the like into the software.

Phase 3

Have your sales team start utilizing leads and opportunities to manage the sales process. It is important that management agrees to use data and statistics from the CRM for reviews and to track progress.

Phase 4 - Continue Ongoing Integration

Continue integrating business functions into the software. Over time it will become the foundation for more and more operations.

2. Provide Instant Utility

People generally resist change unless they see a personal immediate benefit. There are a number of simple ways to make a tool instantly useful for individuals; but the keys here is that the utility should be common to everyone and should require minimal training or explanation. One strategy is to make your CRM the source for all employee/team contact data. As it relates to a business or an organization, the most commonly and naturally maintained relationships are between internal contacts or employees. There is certain intrinsic practical value in information concerning internal contacts that will be needed regularly by everyone on the team. If users are directed to your CRM for employee/team data, they will naturally acclimate to using the tool to build and maintain relationships. This is just one example of many, each organization is different, but the point is to try and identify "instant utility" as a key implementation strategy early on in your planning process.

3. Centralize The Flow of Information

Get rid of all printed contact sheets, remove desperate databases/spreadsheet, disable/hide old file-shares and promote peer pressure to support the use of CRM. I have been in a number of sales-related meetings where I agreed to contact a client and when the sales person said "great I'll send you the contact information" I replied "no need, all the necessary information should be in the CRM." Then I watched as the sales-person scrambled back to their desk as soon as the meeting was out to make sure they had updated the history and contact information. The more users pull and depend on information from the CRM, the more responsible users will be challenged to push accurate data to it.

4. Encourage Playfulness

If possible, encourage an atmosphere of competition and playfulness through the implementation process. One of the key ways Facebook accomplishes this is by listing how many friends someone has on their profile. It is not uncommon to hear a Facebook user say something like: "I have over 1000 friends!" This technique is very effective and can be utilized to promote the adoption of technology in the workplace. It can be as simple as publicly recognizing and rewarding early adopters.  You could build a report of the "Top 10 Most Active Users" and publish it on your Intranet; or even give an incentive for the first 50 people to update their personal profile picture and synchronize their data with Facebook. Whatever the method, promoting healthy playfulness can dramatically improve adoption and can be a boost to moral.

5. Provide Accessible Training

Utilize creative ways to train your users. Too often business get tunnel vision in this area and assume the only way to train people is by hiring professional trainers, pulling employees off the job for house/days/weeks and submit them to learning in a classroom setting. While this is certainly proven to be a valid and effective practice, it is not the only option and probably not the most efficient. Try supplementing or in some cases even replacing classroom style training with other methods like: walk-through videos, email tips, vendor-supplied materials, a Wiki, webcasts, cheat-sheets and online/inline help (write howto documents and put them in the CRM).

Another innovative approach that integrates with the "Playful" strategy is to establish some form of certification or badge system for users. People like to be seen as experts, and if you can promote inter-team training through giving certain users elevated status, then some training will naturally be handled by the "experts" or "power users" in the organization. Users helping users can lead to accelerated adoption and buy-in.


It is far better to have an single imperfect tool in use, than a million theoretically perfect tools that go unused. CRM software can be incredibly useful and powerful, but unless you have a well thought-out strategy for implementing it, you are exposing yourself to a great risk of purchasing a very expensive digital paperweight.

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