CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation

CRM Best Practices

For most companies today, their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is the primary tool for managing sales and marketing information.

A forecast from Gartner estimates the CRM market was worth $27.5 billion worldwide in 2015 and anticipates it rising to $37 billion by 2017. This year, Gartner expects Enterprise CRM will outpace ERP sales for the first time in history. As compelling as the story is for CRM, it’s not an easy road for some – especially if adoption is a struggle. Getting sales and others on board is often cultural or process challenge rather than issues with the CRM itself. Fortunately, research shows that adoption numbers are turning a corner as companies get better at deploying and managing their CRMs.

I have always been a huge CRM fan because I’ve experienced first-hand the many advantages. Of course, I’ve seen the “belly flops” in my travels as well. Through it all, I’ve learned much about how to make CRM add real value to a business, In this article, I’ll share six highly foundational and strategic tips that can help your CRM project get off to a great start. These are essential if you want to succeed and create a solid ROI – or any for that matter.

Shown below is an overview of the key benefits and capabilities sales and marketing should expect from their CRM if it’s done right. I’ve included a separate marketing automation system, which is an optional but integral part of an “ideal” scenario. Most CRMs these days include some level of automation built in, but they’re not as robust as standalone applications.

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

Building a Solid CRM Foundation

#1 Gain Executive Buy-In
A high-functioning CRM can produce impressive results, but It’s usually a big investment among many competing priorities. The fate of CRM success depends heavily on the level of executive support. This means your CEO can’t stand in front of the team a few months from now talking about your new CRM, and then ask “how do I sign into this darned thing?” The sales, marketing, IT and other leaders involved must share the same level of commitment, or your CRM project will likely not survive. Success will rely on your people and processes more than the technology. For the owner of the project, this means a great deal of executive communication and collaboration – before, during and after the decision has been made to proceed.

#2 Create a Plan
CRM is typically a large-scale corporate undertaking involving many complexities and stakeholders. Before you deploy it, be clear about what you want to achieve. Decide who will use it and how. Understand what the data mapping will be relative to other connected systems. Clearly define how you will deploy, test, train, support and improve your CRM over time. It sounds intuitive, but you would be surprised how many companies fail to do this adequately and then pay the price later. Be sure to think about how success should be measured. It’s also important to know the needs and concerns of your different user groups and then plan how you will address them to gain support.

#3 Build It for Users
CRM is designed to improve effectiveness and productivity, but that can only happen when your users see the benefits and embrace them. Don’t design or position the system as a management tool for “big brother” to keep watch. Don’t make it overly complicated either. If you do one or both of these, the CRM simply won’t fly, so stop now and save your money! Some ways to help this will be presented at another time. However, the key themes are: keep it relevant, keep it simple, and ensure it’s set up to help people do their jobs easier and better.

#4 Provide Training & Support
This is two-fold. First, the people responsible for CRM will need to be well trained – including the system itself, plus the customizations and processes you will use. Most vendors offer a “train the trainer” program. The core team could be internal, consultants, or a combination of both. Next, come the end-users. Make sure everyone understands the importance of CRM to the strategy and growth of the organization. Ensure each user is clear on the CRM’s use as it relates to their respective roles. Document your training for new people coming in and as a reference for existing users. It’s better still if you can create instructional click-by-click videos. Once training is complete, there will be questions, so be sure to offer responsive support to help get users up to speed as quickly as possible. This is crucial during the first few months.

#5 Mandate Adoption
This area is by far the one that “makes or breaks” CRM success. For sales, in particular, I would argue that CRM usage should be part of the job description and have some weight in performance appraisals. There simply can’t be exceptions. I once had a sales VP tell me “our reps only have to bother with CRM until they make their quotas – after that, they can do what they want.” How well do you think that CRM program worked? Adoption starts from the top and must be continually reinforced.

One of the best ways to get sales people using CRM is to stop the “spreadsheet madness” that comes with pipeline and forecast review meetings. Don’t accept any data not sitting in the CRM – period! I like the adage “if an opportunity isn’t in CRM, it doesn’t exist.” It’s best to review the data directly from your CRM on a projected screen in sales meetings and use custom views showing the key fields you need to see. People will be a little embarrassed in this situation if they haven’t come prepared, and the behavior should quickly change. If not, the Sales Manager may need to take a more aggressive stance. Again, 100% adoption must be enforced if your CRM is to deliver on it’s full potential. Successful sales people usually see the value in short order and take full advantage of it. But, if others don’t get with the program, understand why and fix it. It does take some time to learn a new system, so it’s best to have a pre-defined cut-off point if you’re moving into a new CRM. A few weeks to a month after training should be more than enough time in most cases.

#6 Communicate Results
Track, measure and communicate results and benefits shown from using CRM over time. Show how it’s impacting sales productivity, marketing campaigns, customer satisfaction, and service (if CRM is used for that purpose.) The more value you can show to senior management, the more support you will have. When you create a positive buzz from end-users, they get others excited about adoption as well. Ideally, in your planning phase, you have established some goals and metrics that you can track against in a meaningful way.

Hopefully, you have picked up a point or two here that helps. I’m coming at this from the B2B sales and marketing perspective and didn’t touch on the many powerful CRM capabilities around service, support, social media tracking, and help desk integration. For B2C and retail, CRM tends to be more focused on direct customer interaction and end-client experience. That said, these tips are applicable to any CRM implementation. They build the critical foundation needed for CRM to have the significant impact it can and should. In the next installment of the series, I’ll focus on ways to make CRM easier to use, better maintained, and explore added functionality to draw out further value.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and would love to hear your thoughts about CRM implementations or any experiences you can share. Please follow us on your favorite social feed and contact us if we can help in any way.

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