The 7 golden rules of a successful CRM project

The importance of a CRM system

To wonder if having, or not, a CRM system is now almost being an obsolete topic considering the number of assets of having one. In order to increase your chances of success during your project, you better start thinking about “how” : your implementation strategy.

However, if you aren’t yet totally convinced about it, here is an overview of the reasons why you need to get this powerful tool:

– A better follow-up of the existing leads and contacts: because you cannot know when a lead will buy, or when one of your clients will come back to you again, you must organize your data in an efficient way to better meet their needs. By making your clients feel how important their are, by a customized chat with any of your agents, building the sustainable relationship on a long term basis that every company is dreaming about will be as easy as a child’s play.

– A targeted relationship with your clients: understanding who your clients are and having a precise idea of what they need will help you to offer tailored products and strategies that will meet their needs even better. Thanks to your targeted approach you will no longer spend precious time with inefficient or expensive actions. And happy customers means that your retention rate that will improve almost automatically.

– Improved sales with a more efficient system : how many of your clients have a better sales potential than you think ? How many of them are fully aware of your product range ? Your CRM database will help you to implement tangible actions in order to remain visible and not lose any market share to your competitor.

– Your customer data are your main asset: it is crucial not to be unprepared when one of your employees decides to leave. Making the database of your CRM the center of gravity of your sales and marketing system is a precious treasure that you will build over the years. Take it into consideration and think about the place your CRM tool will have at the implementation stage so you will be more efficient, with your sales team as much as with your customers.

The 7 golden rules to succeed with your CRM project

With the following rules to succeed with your CRM project, you will have everything in hands to choose the implementation strategy of your new tool that suits best your business.

Rule n°1 : Integrate your CRM project in the strategy of your company

The CRM is a tool that will help you to implement your strategy in terms of sales, marketing and services. This is why the CRM will be the sword arm of your strategy. Do a quick assessment of the direction you want to take and the things you have to do before to choose the best tool:

1. Your industry: what are the areas or services that you want to develop, the place you want to run your business? Try to imagine how your industry will evolve and what you need to do to be better than your competitors.

2. Your goals: what does your employees need to do to reach the goals you set and what would be their future needs? Decide whether you have enough people and materials.

After this assessment you will be able to write your specifications, which have to:

– Define the scope of application: to be used only by the sales force or by other services too (marketing, customer service, accountability).
– Structure the project : who will have to do what, where, why and how (planning, clear role distribution to each and everyone, budget allocation).
– Propose an implementation strategy in order to lead the change in the most effective manner: do not change everything radically and all at once!
– Integrate impactful communication actions in order to secure the adoption of the change : kick-off meeting, stressing out benefits for the employees, information about the project progress…

Don’t forget that this brainstorming will probably imply the evolution of the company, on a cultural as well as organizational aspect: thanks to the evolution of mentalities, people don’t work alone on their own but instead share information with colleagues and services, and IT will be used to automate some tasks. Ways of thinking and working that are sometimes archaic will be assessed and changed.

The CRM will lead some companies from a verbal to a written culture, which will imply a change of working habits.

In some specifically complex cases (multi-site, international projects, collaboration between different organizations, etc.), it is advised to contact an integrator and/or a consulting firm specialized in CRM projects in order to optimize the preparation of specifications.

Rule n°2: Fight against resilience to change

Change is the number 1 enemy of all CRM projects.

Too often the CRM system is perceived as the new toy of the management in order to control the activity of employees or to get reports, instead of being an asset to reach the goals of other employees of the company.
Avoid these misunderstandings and emphasize the benefits brought by this solution for all users by defining clearly the goals of this CRM.

Typical change resilience reactions that are habits related will happen and you will spend almost as much time to convince than implementing the project.

But be aware: a CRM software demands to be even more rigorous to be able to save the information and reuse it. This the biggest challenge of CRM projects.

Ask for qualitative and quantitative improvement of the collected data… so that in return this information could be used by all the services of the company.

However changes can sometimes be very simple… For example, recording all inbound calls in the software, meetings, all mail sent by clients…

In order to get a better adoption of the CRM project, always showcase visible benefit for the daily users:

– For a sales representative, receiving notification to follow up with clients whose buying decision is close, to identify customers that are inactive for X days, to customize emailing from the company with their contact details, to get info automatically about prospects with pre-entered or prequalified contact details with the help of an online form…
– For the marketing, it’s to be able to check the efficiency of marketing actions, to quicker get more precise data from the field (to get pictures of products from competitors, etc.), to communicate quicker towards sales representatives (flyer, ads, etc.).
– For technical support, it’s to have a knowledge base usable both internally and externally (FAQ, etc.).

In addition to benefits from the tool, you must talk about indirect benefits like for example having a new laptop, a new phone…

Simultaneously, during the implementation of the application, do not forget to create a “pilot” group, made of influential users within the company. This group will test the solution first to improve business functionalities and create a trustful atmosphere around the application for future users.

Rule n°3: Integrate the CRM system to existing software and information systems

Not just an additional layer in addition of the information system, the CRM system is really the cement that will link all information contained in different software of the company (e-mails, ERP, social networks, mobile applications, websites, marketing automation tools, etc.).
Best is the enemy of good: try carefully by implementing a CRM software where it is the most useful (ex: to manage customer service), and then integrate other part of the business of the company, once this first integration will be digested and absorbed.

If “too much information kills the information,” too much information certainly kills a CRM project. Fill in the minimum amount of data during the implementation phase, and enrich it as the information become absolutely necessary.

Do not impose a radical change within the whole company overnight because it’s often a factor to failure: identify then during this phase where the information is available or created, and then know how / where / by whom they will be integrated.

For example, data from accounting are in the management software, schedules can be managed in MS Outlook, technical information in a knowledge base in MS Excel, information about visits to paper files… All these “silos” of information must be interconnected by the CRM software. Once it’s done, you must identify what is the crucial and the secondary information for the company. Indeed, the recovery of data is rarely complete, and you have to know how to accept a minimal loss of information (ex: no visit history that is more than 2 years old).

The more you wish to recover data the more it will cost you (and it’s not proportional: the remaining 20% of the information to recover can increase about 80% of the cost of data recovery because of a semi-automatic and manual entry).

That is the reason why if you have some accountability or management software, do not hesitate to contact your manufacturer in order to know what are the bridges proposed towards the CRM software of the market, or eventually if there aren’t any.

Finally, choose a solution that is close to your needs. Think deeply about the personalization and the “tailored” development. Because it represents not only an additional cost, but also difficult evolutions to plan within the next years (changing needs and systems, etc.).

Rule n°4: Provide useful information to users

Many CRM projects are still unfortunately designed without asking the real users of the solution…

So you have to study the needs among the sales representatives, the technical staff, the marketers… to know what they would like to improve.

A nice way to start is to analyze the current use of the software and its limits (through observation on the field), and its mismatch with the goals of the CRM project.

For that, involve the operational staff in the thinking process, particularly the employees that are known and renowned within the structure of the company (the “elders,” or those that have a very good knowledge of the formal and informal processes).

Spend enough time with brainstorming and needs analysis. Before to start, ask the software manufacturers: you have to think about your project, to analyze the existing software, the improvements to be made. All the time spent to think ahead, it’s 2 to 3 times more time saved during the implementation of the project (which also means fewer costs).

Be also careful about passing fad: everyone is currently talking about ASP or Software as a Service, which implies a monthly payment by users… yet this solution doesn’t suit to all clients, and on the other part it’s much more expensive.
Once you know where you want to go, you also have to list down all the new data to record and to make sure that this recovery will be accepted (it should not impede and burden the work of your employees).

Don’t forget that the impacts that are CRM related will not necessarily bring visible results on a short term basis… In order to avoid the disenchantment and a low adoption rate, you will need to communicate, communicate again and communicate again and again about the importance of the project… and especially formalize the new processes through a procedure book that will become the reference document (always prioritize writing among verbal communication).

However, you have to filter between the real request, and the one that look more like a “utopia,” because the final user will not necessarily see all the impacts of its requests and the amount of work related to it.

Rule n°5: To implement a real CRM project within the company

Communicate internally about the CRM project so that users could embrace the project, and feel that they are fully part of it (internal kick-off meeting, internal newsletter, inclusion within the yearly objectives of employees. Etc.).

Always keep in mind that 50% of CRM project’s success doesn’t come from the IT tool that is used but by the implementation of the CRM project and the personality of the person that is in charge of the project.

Therefore you have to create a CRM steering committee that will act as the driving force during the CRM project implementation.
This CRM steering committee is made of:
– A member coming from the management board of the company (or the CEO himself), which shows this way the involvement and the strategic dimension of the project for the company.
– A “sponsor” (or project manager), who will drive the implementation of the CRM software, and who will be the interface between the company and the contractor in charge of the implementation of the IT tool.
– Members of the company, who will have to bring their daily experience.
All shall be responsible for the project implementation.

In order to secure the success of the CRM project, you also have to define the allocated budget and the objectives to meet. In order to keep your employees motivated during this change, plan and celebrate small achievements (kick-off party, first beta version parties, etc.).

Rule N°6: Provide for the Training of Users

Don’t neglect the basic training of users: beside bringing knowledge for a better use, it also helps to increase the involvement of users during the project. It is even crucial and can be done by a contractor at the beginning, and then be delegated to the employees. But it is very important that all know very well how to use the product and can understand its benefits.

Create a specific training during each step of the sales process and implement a training plan that includes an introduction module that covers key aspects, as well as a specific module for each workplace: commercial, marketing and service.

You also have to provide for boosters 1 to 2 months later in order to solve new questions and expectations, after the implementation of the system, so you can foresee adjustments.

Rule n°7: Make sure that the system is well adapted and meet the needs of the company

Optimization is all about sharpening your CRM solution in order to maximize your return on investment.

Follow-up with how the goals of the project are met. Define key indicators related to the success of the CRM software. It can be done with files with e-mail addresses, a lower “not found at this address” rate, a decreasing lost business rate, an increase of the turnover of x %, etc.

It will help you to know where you stand, and eventually to identify blocking points in order to improve the situation.

Sébastien
Sébastien
Sébastien’s passion for entrepreneurship led him to launch Solutions Metrix, a firm that specializes in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. As of 2008, Solutions Metrix manages hundreds of CRMs in eastern Canada and continues to offer CRM services to numerous Fortune 500 companies. Sébastien maintains a strong growth trend for Solutions Metrix by leading the mission to help Canadian companies be more competitive in data management for sales and marketing.
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