Selling CRM internally must be continuous and multidirectional or implementations will stall.
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Let me tell you the sad tale of a troubled telecommunications behemoth. (I'd love to tell you its name, but alas, I'm sworn to secrecy.) One division of this multibillion-dollar company attempted a CRM implementation in 1996. The project champion, a vice president of marketing, sold her boss on the project. She assigned two managers to drive the operation. They fought the odds to deliver. The marketing VP retired. The investment then languished, because no one else at the VP's level wanted to claim the project under their departmental budgets. Shortly thereafter the two project leaders were reassigned.
The problem? The marketing VP stopped selling others on the implementation once she got the project going. She needed to keep selling upper management on the benefits of CRM, and get those managers to sell up as well, to the C-level. She also needed to sell the program laterally. None of her peers were sold on CRM.
Now, believe me when I tell you this company needs CRM. Its services group is lucky if it closes on 10 percent of its bids. It has divisions that bid against each other on multimillion-dollar projects because each doesn't know what the other is doing.
A dose of CRM won't cure this company's woes, but it certainly would put in the type of processes necessary to get divisions working together and to help conduct the research and analysis required to close more deals. Fortunately, the company has rekindled the project.
This company's initial CRM failure is an example of why CRM project leaders need to create and use a communications plan that continuously sells the benefits of CRM throughout their companies. Because, well, you and I might be sold on CRM, but there are still many out there who need to be first converted and then reminded. Acceptance is hard enough; permanent change is an ongoing battle. It's human nature to forget. "It's not really important that I update my sales pipeline information this week," salespeople might think when their schedules are tight and the novelty of CRM has worn off. Without an internal communication plan to continuously sell the benefits of the program, CRM is sure to stall.
Now let me tell you the happy tale of the multimillion-dollar publishing company (which in fairness also will go unnamed) whose education division realized the importance of communication from the inception of its CRM strategy. The three projects leaders--one from sales, one from sales management, and one from IT--created a cross-functional team with both staff and management users included. The team helped with the software selection process, but more important, it helped create buy-in among peers by acting as evangelists. The team created a communications program including email and an intranet that reported on the progress of the program, answered frequently asked questions, and offered information on training and support.
Once the software was installed, the communications--to the CRM users, their supervisors, and top management--continued. Highlights included success stories and ongoing training and support options. The program was so successful that the business division began clamoring to be included. Happily, this is currently in the works.
If you prefer your CRM story to have a happy ending, I suggest an internal communications strategy that sells CRM company-wide. It may be extra work, but after all, the most important sales pitch is often the hardest sell of all.
Contact Ginger Conlon at email@example.com
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