CRM Implementation Strategy: A Guide for Success
So, what makes CRM implementation successful? Here's everything you need to know to make sure you get the most from your CRM system.
Warren Mathusek had a problem.
As the owner of one of North America's largest installers of world-class performance sports courts and sports floors, he said, "We spent so much time tracking and managing projects that we couldn't get out as many new job proposals as we wanted. We knew if our sales team could increase the number of proposals on prospects' desks we'd be able to increase business and grow the Company."
He decided to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) software to bring his team together. The new CRM, he says, “helps me develop my business processes, keeps me in contact with my customers and helps me focus on the things that are most important: sales and customer service.”
Customer relationship management software exists for one purpose–to help you centralize your customer data and optimize your sales workflow.
Most systems have similar components:
- an address book for companies and contacts
- a notes section for tracking phone calls and meeting results
- a document management section for letters, mail merges and emails
- an activities area for calendar and follow up tasks list
A good CRM system will also have a sales forecasting module with team selling, a customer service module, a campaign manager for marketing and email campaigns with tracking statistics, and a way to access data remotely either via web or synchronization.
Mathusek, who uses Maximizer Enterprise CRM, says that it has helped him on more than one occasion to keep things straight. One time, he says, he spoke to a prospect while one of his salespeople was out. The prospect tried to finagle a lower price with him, but when Mathusek checked the notes in his database, he saw that he had already agreed to a higher price. Armed with that information, he closed the deal at the originally quoted price. Had he not had immediate access to such important information, he says, he would have entered into another long negotiation with the prospect, wasting both his and the previous salesperson’s time, and probably ending up with a less favorable deal.
How to Choose the Right CRM for Your Business
Choosing a CRM vendor that is right for your company will depend on your business requirements, such as the number of users, how technically savvy you and your salespeople are, what internal IT support you have, your budget, how much customization you need, the timeframe you desire for implementation, and the availability of integrators to help you set up the system.
There is a wide range of CRM systems available on the market to suit different industry needs. For small businesses and mid-sized companies, Maximizer has built its reputation as one of the best choices because of its flexibility, streamlined processes, functionality, and user-friendly interface. This platform distinguishes itself from the enterprise software by focusing on achieving the operational goals in an accessible way. The goal is to get what you need without encumbering the organization with a software that requires it’s own department just to maintain it.
For those in physical retail industries like hospitality or real estate, there are cloud-based POS (Point-of-Sale) systems like Lightspeed which integrate with existing e-commerce solutions allowing for enhanced purchase tracking across web and physical stores.
Ultimately, the key is to do your research and choose a CRM system that fits your company's unique needs and goals, while also considering the software’s scalability and flexibility for future growth.
While it is important to find the CRM solution that best suits your company's needs, the software product itself, no matter how good it is, will not guarantee the implementation process will be a success. All too often, money is spent on a CRM platform that is rolled out to a sales force, only to meet with a lukewarm reception. At best, a few power users will latch onto the software, while the rest of the users put in what is minimally expected of them. At worst, the business phases out the software after a year or two and the search for a "better" product commences. If at all possible, get a trial version of the software to try it out before committing to buying it–and put effort into deploying properly with help from experts.
A Successful CRM Implementation Process
Once you’ve made the decision about which system to buy, follow these CRM implementation best practices to ensure success:
Get Management Buy-In
If the higher-ups in the company don’t care about the project and give it solid backing, then the general users can’t be expected to care either. To ensure user adoption, top management must have a clear strategy for how the company will use the CRM tool to enhance their current business process and productivity. This doesn’t mean that management needs to be breathing down the backs of their users; in fact, if a system is being used properly, management will be able to pull the reports they need in order to check on the activity level in the database without ever having to call a meeting.
Get the Sales Force Buy-In
Salespeople that are new to a shared database system may think of it as an intrusion upon their privacy and one that make it too easy to be checked upon. Users need to know that the CRM solution will make their life easier too. Sharing data has its benefits; for instance, a database that shows a clear definition of who owns a record will help to define territories, which in turn reduces the chances that two people will call on the same company. Reports such as call and activity reports will become easier for them because it will be based on the notes and activities they enter into the database.
Get IT Support
Your project plan will be doomed if your IT staff is not prepared to support the application with hardware, network and helpdesk resources. Slow performance will hinder the practical effectiveness of the database, and downtime for any reason will give the impression that the software is unreliable. Someone with strong technical skills should be given the responsibility of database administrator and be prepared to handle all first level helpdesk support calls.
There should be a long-term commitment from the IT staff to support the database technology, since turnover in personnel can tend to bring in new ideas of better technology despite a successful track record for a particular software.
It is critical to clearly define expectations for the software and its practical application to your existing business needs. CRM software is designed to adapt to your already existing business process. While oftentimes it is purchased in the hope that it will give structure to a sales force, if good selling practices are not already in place, it will not magically create them for you.
All too often, CRM implementation training is thought of as the expendable part of the project, “if there is time.” A good training program will give the users the base knowledge they need, so that they can focus on using the software effectively. Having a clearly written training guide as a handout is a good reinforcement for training as well.
The “do-it-yourself” mentality might work when doing home improvements, but with a new CRM system, it is better to hire consultants who offer customer support and have expertise to help you get started. Make sure that they work hand in hand with your IT staff and database administrator during the implementation so that they get the training they need to support the system later on. Also, creating a good relationship with a reliable consultant now will ensure that if you have a critical problem in the future you will get better, faster resolution.
Give It Time
Keep checking in with your users to see how they are doing as they begin implementing the new system to their daily lives. Listen to any issues that arise and work to resolve them. Offer follow up advanced level training. Be willing to hire someone to help you get past any technological bumps in the road before giving up. Upgrade your software to keep up with the latest improvements, especially those that may address any open issues you might have.
And remember, you will get out of your CRM implementation plan exactly what you put into it.
Another Successful CRM System Adoption
Mathusek Inc. has realized significant results since implementing a CRM system more than a decade ago. Revenues grew from $1.8 million in 1991 to more than $8 million today, and customer service response times have increased by an estimated 50%.
Says Mathusek, “It’s a beautiful thing.”
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