• September 1, 2006
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

Invest in CRM Beyond Applications

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In CSO Insights' CRM project-benchmarking research we look for trends that can improve the success rates of these CRM initiatives. One particular development surfaced in the 2006 Sales Performance Optimization study: a noticeable rise in the amount of training that companies are providing to end users of their CRM systems. In companies that have implemented CRM systems (see chart below), 43.5 percent are planning to increase the level of training they provide, versus 7.3 percent that are decreasing their level of investment in this area.
This is a very favorable trend, because one of the key contributors in projects that have fallen short or have failed is a lack of sufficient end-user training on how to work the systems. To cut project costs companies decreased CRM training investments in 2002 through 2004--this was a shortsighted decision. Organizations had been giving their front-office teams the technology to help them sell, but were often failing to understand that the first sale they needed to make was an internal one, that is, these firms needed to sell their own people on why they should want to master CRM systems. This trend has reversed itself, but CRM project teams should use caution--more training is not the road to success, but, rather, the right training is. End-user courses need to go beyond the basics of enter this data here, click here to go to this screen, press F8 to generate this report, et cetera. CRM--system users need to know why these tasks are important, to both themselves and for the organization. That is why the most effective training programs we have reviewed start by focusing on the business processes people use daily to generate or qualify a lead, create an account plan, update a forecast, submit an order, send out correspondence, or handle a service request. Once these routines are fully understood trainers can then create scenarios for how those processes can be done more efficiently or effectively using the CRM system. Users can begin to fully comprehend the benefits that result from consistently using these applications by taking this approach, as opposed to focusing on the extra data entry work they may feel they are being asked to do. In regard to CRM end-user training, a telecommunications firm we interviewed observed that "too much never is." The company not only trains the users on each new software release, but it creates help screens for each business process the application supports so that users can get access to virtual training as needed. Because of this, the firm has one of the highest adoption ratings we have seen. I hope this trend continues over the coming years. Investing not just in the applications themselves, but also in the support services necessary to make users productive, is still needed if we are going to maximize CRM's return on investment. Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at www.csoinsights.com
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