​A Compact Guide to CRM Leadership

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What does it take to make a CRM project successful?

A best of breed CRM system?

CRM technical expertise?

A detailed technical implementation plan?

All of these are important but alone they aren’t sufficient to guarantee rapid results, let alone long-term success.

These are crucial for managing the technology and your processes but this doesn't account for the importance of managing the people involved in this project.

We’ve encountered businesses that have invested in CRM systems that were, on the face of it, ideally suited to their organisation and processes yet still results fell a long way short of expectations.

All too often this is due to the belief among business leaders that users will immediately embrace a new system.

Surely, if the system is any good and resources have been allocated people should just use it, right? If you build it, they will come...

While that might be true for other applications the reality is different for CRM. Where problem arise they are almost always due to a disconnect with users.

At the initial stage a CRM project should begin with a leadership vision of where you want to be.

It is critical that all the key executives are involved in defining this vision, that you document the vision, and that it is understood by and communicated to everyone in the business.

From the outset CRM is a tool for leadership and if it is to be a success it must be focused on your people as much as it is about your processes and technology.

Getting people on board is essential for success.

Users need to be aware of your vision, the very reason why CRM is being implemented, why this matters, what CRM success looks like, and crucially, what is expected of them.

Poor user acceptance and a lack of internal leadership is a sure-fire way to undermine a CRM initiative resulting in wasted project costs and demotivated team members.

To fulfill their potential, any new system must be designed to meet the needs of their users, its benefits repeatedly communicated and teams understand how to use it.

Here are 10 leadership recommendations and considerations to underpin a successful CRM project:

1. Show People the Direct Benefit

You can’t assume that your people will have the same passion for making your business processes more cost effective as you.

Using the example of a sales team, they care about their sales commission. Sales users must be made aware of the benefits, not just to the company, but to them personally (improved productivity, increased win rate, shortened sales cycle, improved lead quality, less administration). Demonstrate to them that a new system will make their working life easier.

2. Begin with Priority Teams

Where will a new system have the most significant impact in your business?

A phased implementation begins with one or two teams where the greatest gains can be quickly achieved avoiding the expense of a long drawn out project.

Success breeds success driving widespread user empowerment to create a clear mandate to deploy the system to more business teams.

3. Build a Strong Project Team

Your project team should include:

An Executive Sponsor who lends their influence to the project by becoming its champion at a board or senior management level. Their support and participation from CRM planning to go-live and beyond is absolutely critical.

An Internal Project Manager who understands your business’s process to lead your project from an “in-house” perspective.

At least one person will be designated as a CRM Administrator to manage the system. This individual(s) will ideally be technical and well organized being responsible for adding users, managing security roles, importing data and providing level 1 user support.

To make sure that the CRM system meets the needs of your end users, Key Business Users should be included in the project team and involved throughout the planning process. These will be the team leaders and influential individuals within your organisation who people respect. Getting these people on board early is crucial.

4. Create a Training Plan

If individuals don’t learn how to use the system, it sits, untouched.

Sales and other teams will quickly fall back into their old ways of finding information in disparate systems and using manual processes.

Employees can’t be given a one-off Dynamics 365 training session and instantly be expected to become highly proficient users. A leading package like Microsoft Dynamics 365 may be intuitive to use but it contains advanced functions that require in-depth training which is customised to the individual’s role in the organisation.

Demonstrate its importance by allocating time for training sessions and developing training plans for individual roles that will support continued learning and create advocates. Provide plenty of notice for training and deliver training in an environment that is free of interruptions.

5. Communicate CRM isn’t optional

Your company has invested a chunk of time and hard earned money in CRM. Usage is not optional and nor is failure.

This implementation will likely prove disruptive to settled practices and result in change but if these processes were fully efficient there wouldn't be any need to implement a new solution!

Communicate that this initiative is not business as usual and CRM will not be pushed aside.

6. Leaders Must Use CRM

Few things undermine a CRM project as much as an executive who bangs the drum for CRM in the early days but doesn’t bother to use it themselves.

CRM project are initiated by leaders and if the system is to be ingrained into the culture of the business its leaders must be committed and conspicuous users.

7. Use CRM Data in Meetings

CRM helps people prepare for meetings and be more informed whether they are a leader or participant.

Quote CRM data and use these metrics as the basis for reporting, discussion and celebrating goals being achieved.

For example, a service team leader can share CRM data to report how many cases were logged last month, commend the individuals who resolved most issues and pinpoint which types of service issues are consuming the most time.

8. Embrace CRM Change

Your company and industry doesn’t remain unchanged and neither should your CRM system.

A healthy sign is when users request changes and demand improvements in response to changing client requirements and competitor activity.

If your team isn’t pushing for CRM change then they are unlikely to be getting value from it.

CRM is not “fit & forget” system. It needs to be considered in pretty much every decision a company makes.

Effective CRM strategies will continually evolve. After deployment, develop a recurring process to invite user suggestions and evaluate requests with the objective of making further improvements to the effectiveness of CRM.

Not every request can be actioned immediately, and some ideas may be impractical, but this is another example of where leaders must lead to manage expectations and communicate why certain requests cannot be progressed.

Your business partner or administrator may be able to apply changes quickly which will ensure an agile approach to maintain CRM momentum.

Aside from user driven requests, CRM change can also result from acquisition / mergers, adding new services / products, expansion into new territories and other milestone events.

Change will also come from technology updates. Monitor new feature releases to understand and communicate how these latest improvements can be profitably used.

In larger companies a “steering group” will often be assembled to run CRM who have representation at board level and meet regularly to discuss, plan and implement CRM change in a controlled manner.

For smaller businesses this might often be just one or two individuals that assume ownership and co-ordination of CRM with business goals.

9. Strive for CRM Integration

Doing the same thing in different systems is a productivity killer.

A successful strategy aligns processes so they can managed through a single interface.

Leaders should continually look to identify and eliminate duplication of effort by integrating processes with CRM. In some instances CRM can replace legacy spread-sheets and applications while in other cases it will integrate with specialist systems and services including ERP and marketing automation platforms.

A fully integrated solution gives teams more time to do their job, improves efficiency and avoids users from seeing CRM as yet another disconnected system that needs to be updated.

10. CRM Means Collaboration

Finally, never lose sight of the fact that CRM should foster collaboration to improve your processes and provide a better service to your customers.

Next Steps...

Whether you are implementing CRM for the first time, or you are replacing an existing system, Preact will help you develop a plan and support your businesses to leverage maximum value from CRM. Contact us to get started.

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