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CRM Implementation Planning

How to Get the Most Value When You’re Pressed for Time and Budget

 

“There’s no free lunch. You pay for things in various ways,” said Iris Apfel.

 

Apfel’s insight is that you pay for what you get one way or another—a truism for CRM systems.

 

While free and cheap options for managing customer relationships are abundant, they come with hidden costs—the additional time and effort you and your staff will have to put into them. Yes, you’ll find free Excel templates and low-cost software. But it comes with a catch. Because it may not have the features and functionality your organization needs, it raises the cost of implementation and daily use.

 

So how do you get the most value out of a solution?

 

Pick the Right Product

You want to choose a solution that’s easy to customize and intuitive to use.

 

Easy to Customize

Every company’s needs are different. To maximize the value, for example, you’ll want to tailor the fields you use to capture contact data and create custom dashboards and reports. So look for a solution that you can customize.

 

The devil is in the details, however, so dig below the surface to discover how easy it is to customize a solution. While some applications may be extremely flexible, it may take consultants weeks or months to customize the code to meet specific needs. Alternatively, business users in your organization can customize other software in ten minutes or less. The difference in the time it takes can, of course, have an enormous impact on the implementation costs.

 

Intuitive to Use

If a CRM system is not user-friendly, your associates will shy away from using it. And if you derive no benefit from it, it doesn’t matter how inexpensive the solution is. All those at-a-glance dashboards that drew you in do no good if users do not input the data. Instead, put user requirements first. Find a CRM system that’s easy for associates to work with, and train them until the functions become second nature.

 

Why is this so important? According to Forrester Research, seven in ten CRM implementations fall flat because end users fail to use them fully. Only systems that make sales teams more efficient and successful will realize their full potential.

 

Select the Ideal Team

A successful team includes an executive sponsor, project owner, sales people and other end users.

 

Get an Executive Sponsor

You cannot implement from the corner office. An effective team starts with an executive sponsor who works directly with the associates charged with making the solution operational. While the sponsor may not be involved in everyday tasks, he or she should check in at critical meetings. Through this process, management keeps employees focused on the priorities and the project on track.

 

The Project Management Institute has discovered that while sponsors at the executive level are a prime driver of success, less than two-thirds of projects take advantage of them.

 

Appoint a Project Owner

Since shared accountability often equates to no accountability, someone needs to own the project. Ownership is especially important in small companies where everyone is juggling a lot of balls. You want to keep this one in the air.

 

A prerequisite for success is choosing the right person to fill this leadership role. He or she must understand the sales and servicing process inside out. That’s because the project owner is leading the team in a complex process. Also, he or she will need to map out internal processes and show how the tools will systemize them, ensuring the team has accounted for all the details.

 

Include End Users

To prevent the possibility that users will not adopt the system, you need to get their buy-in and take their concerns into consideration. The easiest way to do this is to include some salespeople and other end users on the team.

 

Determine the Right Objectives

Is your goal to increase sales and profitability? If so, that’s not good enough.

 

When you set goals, make them specific and measurable. You might have an overall objective of increasing sales by 10% supported by other requirements. These could include centralizing accounts and leads or providing management with a dashboard that provides at-a-glance metrics.

 

Just as you need employee buy-in on your CRM strategy and requirements, you also need it on the objectives. If they support what you’re trying to accomplish, they will be engaged in the process and do everything they can to ensure its success. For example, an objective might be streamlining sales and service processes so that reps can do their jobs more easily. Now that’s something that associates can rally behind!

 

Whip Your Data into Shape

Fueled by dirty data, even the best application will sputter out. Clean your data before launching your program. You can start by pulling all of it into a spreadsheet. Once there, you can make sure it’s separated into the required fields and labeled correctly. You can use the sorting function to check for data issues, correct spelling mistakes and more. Here’s more detail on data cleaning tips.

 

Measure, Report and Reinforce

Making a change is one thing, sustaining it is another. For long-term success, it’s essential to create and make key metrics visible. After all, “what gets measured, gets done.” All measures need to be automated. After all, if sales and service managers are diligently entering data into the system, and managers are still asking for an update, they’ll figure they wasted their time.

 

Managers should only need to check in when they see variances to the plan. They can then work with employees to troubleshoot problems and help remove obstacles. If everything’s chugging along smoothly, managers can just give the always-appreciated pat on the back. With this style of engaged management, employees feel rewarded for their efforts and have a vested interest in keeping the CRM system in ship shape.

 

For the first 30 days after implementation and until you feel comfortable that everything is going smoothly, set regular weekly check-ins to review progress and answer outstanding questions. It can go a long way to encouraging usage.

 

Take the steps we’ve outlined and you’ll maximize the value of your new application.

 

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