‘I don’t worry about the detail of our systems, that’s for one of my team to think about’ and ‘I signed off the investment and so it’s down to the team to implement’ are comments I hear regularly when I meet with business owners of growing businesses and discuss CRM implementation with them.
For some reason, the key tools which look after the most vital elements of information within a business, namely existing customer relationships and potential new customer details are ‘detail’ and not worthy of real quality Managing Director time
It is of little surprise to me, therefore when I check back in 6 months later to see how projects are going, that I am met with troubled looks and pained expressions. ‘It’s not working’ and ‘we have had several challenges’ are common phrases used and these are some of the better ones!
For others, the whole implementation and discussion about CRM and Sales and Marketing Automation has become a nightmare.Customers have complained about information being held that is wrong. Salespeople have moaned that the system takes time to use. Marketing complain that they can’t communicate properly without the right data and the customer service or admin team have reverted to using spreadsheets again.The beautiful vision that was discussed and agreed at a meeting only 1 year ago, has turned into an ugly picture that no one wants to be responsible for. But worst of all is that the core reasons for needing the systems haven’t changed. Yet now the words ‘CRM’ and ‘New System’ send fear and despair into the whole company when someone new is charged with getting the ‘beautiful vision’ back on track.Does this sound familiar to you?If not, then get back to the Financial Times, this article is not for you.If it does, then as you can tell you are not the first business owner to find CRM implementation a challenge. Many have been through this journey before and will happily sell you the T-shirt.Some have given up, it was too big a challenge.Others have persevered because not having effective systems to manage the lifeblood of your business is simply not an option. They know it’s essential.They understand that unless they can deploy systems that match the journey their customers and prospects go on with them, then they will fall behind.They know in the modern business era, clever systems can propel their company to another level if implemented well.How have these businesses achieved success with their CRM implementation? What have they done to get results where so many others have failed? In my experience, they understand 4 critical elements which are key to the implementation of ANY successful CRM, sales and marketing system:
1. THE SYSTEM WON’T WORK UNLESS YOU LEAD FROM THE FRONT
There is a great saying which goes ‘If you think you are too big for the small jobs then maybe you are too small for the big jobs’ and it’s so true when it comes to new CRM implementation. Most MD’s pass the job and responsibility for the project onto other leaders in the business but those who get it to work don’t.
They understand that to really change the behaviour of a company which is what any new system does, they need to lead that change. They are the executive owner of the project and ensure they put the right team and emphasis on the project being implemented within their organisation. They rely on their team to lead the implementation but they constantly challenge delivery timescales and always look to try new changes and systems out to see if what is being delivered is meeting their requirements.They don’t look to their PA to do the work for them, they challenge themselves to get to know what the system does and how it helps their business. By doing so they can respond with confidence when someone in sales moans that they don’t want to use the system.Most importantly these MD’s know that having systems in place, that manage engagement with prospects and customers is key to their long-term growth prospects. It also allows them to stay grounded and engaged with their customer base, which in turn allows them to spot strategic opportunities and trends which are key for their business.These MD’s want the project delivered so that it can have the intended impact on the business. These MD’s understand that there is no one better than them to lead, so make the CRM implementation a priority, which in turn makes others follow suit.
2. THEY KNOW IT WON’T WORK UNLESS THE COMPANY IS VERY CLEAR ON IT’S REQUIREMENTS
The most successful implementations I have ever seen were laser like in their requirements. I worked with an organisation whose owner set out clear, defined goals of what had to be put in place when, within a project document. He outlined not only what had to be done but most importantly why it was key to the businesses. Each phase had a clear set of tasks which needed to be done and he chaired the project board meetings to monitor progress against the goals set.
All projects have a core business reason as to why they are being implemented, but in many cases, those reasons are flimsy and too generic. We want to ‘improve our customer satisfaction levels’ or we want to ‘increase our conversion rate’ are nice ideas to work towards but without very clear SMART goals they are fanciful dreams.
The best business owners know that for any project to be successful, very clear requirements should be defined upfront, which provide the direction for the project to travel towards. They are specific on what they want to see and what success will look like. They know the exact problem that this project is going to solve. They allow others to contribute at the start but then build collective agreement from everyone on a plan to move forward.
The key to success here is clarity on the vision of where they want to get to and what it will take to achieve this.
3. THEY KNOW IT WON’T WORK UNLESS THEY TAKE A PHASED APPROACH TO IMPLEMENTATION
Those who run marathons will tell you that the keys to running a successful marathon are to be effectively prepared ahead of the race, have a plan for how you will run your race, break the race down into different phases and keep visualising the finish! These elements alongside boundless amounts of determination help get them to the finishing line!A recent London Marathon competitor that I spoke with said that his knees started to cause him real pain at mile 19. He knew by that stage he was in the final phase and so he adjusted his pace slightly and kept focusing on the end goal he had in mind!
The best MD’s know that any new project implementation which involves people from different areas of an organisation need to be approached in phases. They know that you don’t complete a marathon after mile 9, but at mile 9 you can tell if you’re heading in the right direction and whether you need to up your pace to complete the 27 miles in the time you wanted to at the start.By setting clear goals for each phase and working on that phase only, projects get completed. By breaking down the overall project into smaller chunks which are easier to deliver gets success, which in turn builds momentum. Everyone gets behind the project as they can see the benefits it will offer and this then makes subsequent phases easier.
Those who only focus on mile 27 whilst at mile 1 rarely succeed. Those who focus on reaching milestone 1 do.
4. THEY KNOW IT WON’T WORK UNLESS THEY INVOLVE DIFFERENT TEAM GROUPS AND MEMBERS IN THE PROCESS
The final key element to successful CRM implementation is the way in which the project is implemented with the team and not to the team. The best business owners know that whilst they can lead from the front, set out clear requirements and adopt a phased approach, if the system is forced on staff it, will fall at the final hurdle.Every project has difficulties and challenges to overcome but if the project has involved the different areas of the business that will use the system from the start, then team members themselves are the ones who find the answers. When the project starts, involve team members from different areas of your organisation and bring them together into one overall project team. If the CRM system will be used by Finance, have a Finance person there. If it will be used by Field Service Engineers then have a Field Service Engineer involved.
Not only do they feel empowered to have been brought in to start with but if the project vision and business reasons are explained to them they will get behind the project and want to own it for their area of the company. They want to show colleagues in their own area how they will use the system and why they need to use it. They can be the first point of contact for any questions that others in those areas have and they can also respond if any negativity starts.Engaging ‘functional champions’ into the project works and ensures the company doesn’t feel the project is enforced on them. Being told what to do invariably fails. Being asked what should be done and then implementing those ideas invariably works.
Getting any implementation right is important but in the modern business world a CRM system that works for the business rather than against it is key. It really is a key component to success and can transform both the reputation and numbers of companies when done well.
Become the case study of how to implement change and not the example of how to waste money and time and achieve nothing. CRM systems can change your business fortunes and lead you onto a new bright path!Understand the 4 key elements above, lead with conviction, communicate effectively and you are on track for successful CRM implementation!
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