Common CRM Strategy Pitfalls: How to Avoid Them

Common CRM Strategy Pitfalls

There are no one-size fits all CRM software systems on the market today—and that’s a good thing. Modern enterprises operate in such varying and unique ways that it would be unreasonable to expect a silver bullet CRM that could be mapped onto any business and instantly improve their sales processes. As such, when it comes to CRM strategy, it should always be about finding the right tool for the right job. In fact, mapping and understanding your specific business processes should take precedent in the implementation process—you need to comprehend your operations and workflows thoroughly before you can begin to select a software system that is supposed to support them.  However, the CRM software itself often becomes the subject of blame and derision if the system implementation falters or does not meet the vision of the company, and application is used improperly– or worse – not used at all. That means all that investment—both in time and money—goes down the drain. We can usually attribute the majority of the CRM failures we see on our client’s projects to five major CRM strategy pitfalls (or a particularly perilous combination of them).

Today we will be discussing how organizations can avoid these major risks, and thus circumvent the massive sunk costs that can arise after  a failed CRM strategy implementation. It’s best to keep all of the factors in mind as you begin planning your CRM project, and not merely start trying to juggle them when you’re in the thick of the implementation; planning them into your CRM strategy roadmap will ensure your whole team is equipped to take these tasks on.

Top 5 CRM Strategy Pitfalls

CRM failure can be devastating and hugely taxing on a business’ operations; both in the amount of money executives invest in the software to the length of time the implementation process takes right through selection to training and system go-live. The casualties of a CRM failure are often left asking themselves just one question;how did the software that was supposed to be a revenue-generating asset for the organization ultimately become redefined as a cumbersome software tool that is loathed by 90% of end-users, abandoned in droves, and become essentially a useless piece of empty software? The answer, and thus the solution for those failures, usually falls into one of the following five categories.

  1. Senior Managers Must Engage Personally with a CRM Project

Like with any major, business-changing project, a senior manager must be fully engaged in a CRM implementation and involved in software selection, end-user training and advocating for the system inside the C-Suite. A big reason for end-user abandonment in CRM systems stems from users who aren’t seeing their managers engage with the systems themselves, nor are they effectively communicating the value of the software to the employees. Leaders need to define the “why” behind the implementation at a broad user-level to the end-user, and inspire employees to engage with CRM strategy and the software from the very beginning of the project. Immediate, mid-level managers cannot lead the charge when they are generally still learning about the new system and direction themselves, and must focus on modeling departmental business processes. Top leaders will have the skill and influence to define the benefits and intention of the implementation to the organization, and thus become involved in a successful change management process.

How does this happen? Many times a software proposal is signed off on in the C-Suite and will proceed without any further engagement from the top-level leadership on the business—executive simply expect the results the project team promised when they promised. As a result, visions for the project will become construed and the software will not be able to fully support the wide range of processes within an organization. This lack of oversight can often also cause the dreaded scope creep, as your C-Suite continually raises expectations for a project without any basis in the reality or facts of your implementation—this is one of the main killers of CRM strategy and can be largely offset by executive involvement in implementation.

  1. Do Not Make Your Sales People Puppets

On this blog, we’ve previously discussed why your sales team hates CRM and why many sales people believe that they don’t need CRM to succeed (and how wrong they are). There’s no doubt that CRM systems can become bloated and unwieldy to use. Many end users may eventually view it as a tool used by their sales managers to track their daily tasks, Big Brother style. That’s why your project team needs to actively work to involve the sales team—your most important end users—in the selection, training and implementation process. Sales processes need to be relevant; not complex and unnecessary, and working with your front office to build your CRM strategy is a crucial way to implement a CRM that works for your sales team, not the other way around. Your CRM workflows, much like the sales process itself, need to have an initiation, a middle, and a close—simple, done. Complex sales engagement input becomes cumbersome and irritating—ultimately causing sales people to become disinterested in the system and its practical application all together

Sales managers should be more focused on how to define quotas and benchmarks in the system or create incentive modules, rather than building out unnecessary mandates or creating redundant data entry. Many companies suffer through ‘data-entry days’ that become the only time employees interact with the software. This is ultimately a failure of the system, your CRM strategy, and a poor use of the company investment.

How does this happen? Too often, organizations will see the CRM system as a static database rather than a dynamic, constantly evolving tool. When managers view the CRM in the same light as an spreadsheet, they will often then force sales people to enter comprehensive, redundant contact/lead data that is just frustrating for end users. Instead, managers and project team members should be working closely with the main CRM end users so that they both understand the enormous capability of a CRM system and can contribute to the way the software is built and aligned with their unique business processes.

  1. Bend The CRM Around Your Sales Process

Now, this pitfall is fairly straightforward and easy to understand. However, many organizations around the globe just can’t seem to get a handle on it—you need to mold your CRM system around your pre-existing (or desired) business processes, not the other way around. Organizations will often rely on the generic processes highlighted by their CRM vendor or package without analyzing how it could work with their own sales processes. They may also set future goals based solely on the promises that the new CRM system makes. While this is a tempting move to make, it will ultimately obscure your crucial business processes and restrict growth and revenue goals to stats that are not based in historical data or legitimate company information.  During implementation, project teams thus will fail to engage end users to develop use cases that are unique to their business and the end users that will be in interacting with the software on a day to day basis; leading to a massive misunderstanding as to how the user could best leverage the software not only to support their existing workflows, but also to help streamline and elevate business processes to meet new, ambitious goals.

How does this happen? When CRM strategy and tools are not integrated, users—particularly sales teams—hoard information in personal folders and neglect the powerful functionalities that CRM software can provide. This will erode the unique value that CRM can provide your sales teams and the necessity of closely integrating the system at every level of your business.

  1. Train Like Rocky

As mentioned briefly before, some sales people and end-users will quickly realize that CRM can also become a measuring device for their performance and a way for team managers to keep tabs on everyone’s activity and compare sales results. This can be a good incentive for a sales team to stay competitive, but can also quickly turn sour if users begin “gaming” the system or resenting the software as a means of micromanaging and petty oversight. The crucial CRM strategy point at which to avoid this kind of  attitude lies in the implementation training and user adoption strategy. If users are not trained enough on the system, they will do their best to avoid using it and input their data and sales transactions only when necessary. This will create an agonizing relationship between sales person and manager as the top level constantly puts pressure on their teams to just use the software (naturally, this will not work if they are not properly trained). Thus, simple software classes are not enough to train the average business user, especially sales people who will be working within the CRM every day and must know the complexities and technicalities back to front. Comprehensive training at every level should occur from the top down beginning at the start of the project and going right through to post go-live. As your system evolves and your business grows, consistent training needs to constantly remain of the top of your CRM strategy list.

How does this happen? Business processing inside the system is often misunderstood, especially if initial training activities are insufficient, and end-users do not try to seek assistance out of fear of repercussion or time constraints, especially if the project team is still busy on implementation. Thorough training strategy should be ingrained in your CRM strategy from day 1, and should remain a constant focus. Your project team should also encourage questions and collaborative work with end users, as the more they become involved in the software, the more they will understand about it from the get-go.

  1. IT is in the House

So you invested in the CRM license and your company already employs an in-house IT staff; great. However, the end result won’t be so great if you allow your IT team to simply pull the system straight out of the box and believe it is plug and play time. CRM systems are necessarily complex and cannot just be installed out of the box. Just as your business runs on unique processes, your CRM strategy will need to accommodate customizations and functionalities that simply don’t exist in shiny new software. An implementation of any size is a big project; emotions run high, big risks are involved, and people’s jobs can be on the line. Your IT team must be given time (and possibly outside help) to properly work through and deal with all of the twists and turns that can come on an implementation.

How does this happen? IT teams can lose productivity when they are tasked with a major project. These individuals are often not business process modeling experts; meaning they do not know the business intricacies that define specific groups and the niche issues that make them tick, and thus cannot thoroughly mold the CRM to every business process that it needs to support. The best way to mitigate this risk is to use a partner to implement the software, and get your entire organization on board not only in the training strategy but also in the modeling and construction phases.

CRM implementation projects are an ongoing, living and constantly evolving process. They need nurturing from the onset and a defined CRM strategy. All stakeholders in the company need to be on board with project and should receive updates as the go-live date approaches, and common pitfalls such as the five mentioned above should be actively planned around so you don’t risk the success of your project and the investment of your leadership. Don’t make CRM software a thankless task—treat it like the dynamic, highly capable and innovative tool it can be for your business!

For more information about how to de-risk your own upcoming CRM implementation, or advice on how to get your struggling project above, contact one of our CRM experts today!

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