The Hard Sell

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Getting top management to buy in to a CRM initiative can be trying; ensuring that end users actually utilize the system can be even harder. From budget-minded CIOs to old school sales reps bent on their own way of doing business, the culture change inherent in CRM initiatives is enough to stop a project in its tracks. "CRM is not part of a business strategy, CRM is the business strategy," says Claudio Marcus, a research director at Gartner. CRM does not end when the initial implementation is complete. That is why getting both executives and users to embrace CRM must be an ongoing process. But even with commitment-shy executives and change-fearing employees, it is possible to sell CRM into your enterprise successfully. The following are some tips and examples of how to get top-down support of your CRM initiative, and some sure-fire ways to get everyone to actually use the system you fought so hard to put in place. C-LEVEL STRATEGIES Put Executives in Customers' Shoes
It is surprising just how disconnected upper-level management can be from the customer touch points within their own companies. Sometimes a little wake-up call is needed to show executives the actual pain points inside the contact center or other customer-facing areas, Marcus says. "Many executives are amazed to see just how many hand-offs there are, the lack of follow-up, and how long it takes to resolve an issue. If you can explain how CRM can effectively solve these problems, you can really drive home the value proposition." Push the Metrics One certain way to sell management on a CRM initiative is to present a business case that identifies very specific metrics, details ways to measure those key metrics, and names who will be responsible for reaching them. For managers to sign on to a project, they have to be sure that those leading the campaign are going to keep close tabs on the process, according to Bill Henry, vice president of strategy at PeopleSoft Global Services, the consulting arm of PeopleSoft. "There is an old saying, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets done," Henry says. But simply putting clear metrics into place is not enough, he says. You must constantly go back and reevaluate where the project is headed and whether it is meeting its goals. "Also, a willingness to take tough action must be apparent," Henry says. "Holding people accountable for getting the expected results is a must." Use Peer Pressure Another great way to open management's eyes to the need for CRM is to have them talk to industry peers who have successfully implemented a similar CRM strategy. "This type of wake-up call can really help them see just how much more effective their operations can be," Henry explains. "And if their competition is doing it, they will usually want to bring it on board." Take the Quick-Wins Approach As many analysts have proclaimed, the modular approach to CRM initiatives can be the best way to build confidence in the project for everyone involved. CFOs are more likely to sign off on a project that requires less money up front and that can promise fast ROI. One company that followed this approach was Bruce Power, one of Canada's largest power generating firms. As the company added 600 workers to the staff, it needed a resource that could easily answer employee questions, according to Tony Sheard, human resources manager at Bruce Power. "The IT department and HR shared the costs of what would be an enterprisewide rollout of a huge knowledge engine," Sheard says, describing how the firm was able to get buy-in for a rollout of KANA's IQ knowledge management system. "The company wanted something scalable, and we knew the solution would solve our long-term needs, but also show results immediately." KANA's solution allows Bruce Power's employees to quickly find answers to the top-100 commonly asked questions, and Sheard says that the quick-win scenario has kept C-level interest high. He also notes that the firm is actively looking to expand the project into other areas of the business since the initial rollout was a success. Beware: Too Many Vendors Spoil the Broth Often executives do not have the time necessary to pick and choose multiple best-of-breed vendors, according to Karen Smith, a research director at Aberdeen Group. Thus, she says those championing a CRM system should narrow the choices they present to the C-level team. This will expedite the total implementation process. The executive team at Waters Corp., which sells laboratory equipment, found itself in a similar situation. "We were looking at 47 different requests from various departments for individual point solutions, including Siebel, Onyx, and other CRM vendors," says Paul Newton, CIO at Waters. "So we decided to simplify and look only at suite vendors, instead of trying to build a best-of-breed solution." Waters chose SAP for its ERP and CRM needs, and Newton says it sped the project along, as well as saved money. "Once we realized that a best-of-breed approach would cost five times more than a suite, the executive team was behind the project all the way." USER ADOPTION STRATEGIES Take the Carrot-and-Stick Approach Perhaps the easiest method for getting employees to actively use a CRM system is to offer financial incentives for doing so. And this can apply not only to sales and marketing associates, but also to data-entry personnel. "Most data-entry employees are paid per record, not for the quality of the record," Gartner's Marcus says. "If you give even a $50 bonus to employees who have 98 percent data quality, it is a small price to pay for getting the right data into the system." Of course, the hardest to sell are always sales reps--often the front-line opposition to business process change. That is why it's important to set up a situation where commissions are based on whether a sale is put through the CRM system, says Chris Selland, president of Reservoir Partners. "A lot of sales reps are going to tell you they can make more sales without using the system, but you need to stick to your guns. It's the only way to get utilization of the system to increase, and really make CRM work," he says. One company that uses this strategy is the restaurant-rating guide Zagat Survey, which began a company-wide deployment of Salesforce.com's hosted CRM solution in June 2000. According to the director of corporate marketing, Abigail Hamilton, the sales representatives were the most difficult to convert to the new system. "Getting our sales force on board was a real challenge. We had to convince them to not only use the system, but embrace it and see the true benefit of it," she says. "To solve this problem we set up a system where any sales opportunities that were not entered into Salesforce.com were not recognized by us." Hamilton says this tough approach forced the representatives to use the system and realize the benefits. "The whole sales team is confident that we are now closing sales that would have slipped through the cracks if we didn't have Salesforce.com in place," she says. Keep It Simple Although financial incentives may prod employees into taking CRM seriously, a simplified approach to CRM can make a huge difference as well. That was the case with IMI Bevcore, a firm that services beverage industry parts and accessories. The company was using PeopleSoft for its HR and ERP needs, and when the time came to add CRM, the choice was clear, says David Womeldorf, IMI Bevcore's CTO. "We had put in place a PeopleSoft employee portal where users could access all of our PeopleSoft applications from one spot," he explains. "Thus, the culture change to CRM was minimal since everyone was already used to the look and feel of the PeopleSoft applications." Ben Holtz, CEO of CRM consultancy Green Beacon Solutions, says that having an easy-to-use system can be an additional way to get stubborn sales associates to use a system. "Linking use of the system to commissions is one way to force [sales associates] into it, but if you sit down with sales representatives and show them that the system will really make their lives easier in the long run, they'll probably start to use it," he says. Secure Management Involvement Once top-level management gets involved in a CRM initiative and actively preaches the benefits to all employees, mass usage will usually follow, according to Selland. Aberdeen's Smith makes a similar point: "Many times a CEO comes in and gives the weekly pep talk, and never really gets involved in the project. That cannot be the case if you really want employees to use the system and not have it sit on the shelf." Newton says that at Waters, management's involvement in the project has significantly helped user adoption. "With the visibility that managers have now into the pipeline, they can call up a representative and ask why five percent of opportunities do not have a phone number attached, or something like that," he says. "This involvement really prods the users to start using the system." Use Role-Based CRM To get users on board the CRM system has to be tailored to the business role, not necessarily to individual associates' specific desires, experts say. "Any business tool has to fit the role in which it is going to be used," says Chris Rooney, vice president of CRM sales operations at SAP AG. "Order-entry screens for a contact center representative are going to be different [from those] of a sales representative." Find a Champion All of these strategies may work in getting associates to use the CRM system, but there must be someone in the organization driving the initiative. Finding a champion can be just as important as choosing the right solution, Rooney says: "By having an outside consultant interview the sales force, for example, to find someone who really 'gets it' you can set up a CRM champion that can see that things actually get done." Tom Morrill, lead principal of the sales effectiveness practice at management consulting firm PRTM, says that much like a C-level executive, a CRM champion must be able to hold people accountable for using the system, but also must push the positives. "Advertise internal successes frequently, things like the amount of time saved, deals closed, and number of opportunities uncovered," he says. With all of these strategies in place, the likelihood of users embracing a CRM system should skyrocket. "After all," Smith says, "what good is a CRM system if it's going to sit on the shelf without user involvement?" The Change Factor Research study upon research study tells us the reluctance to support new CRM systems is mostly due to a corporate fear of change on all levels. Karen Smith, research director at Aberdeen Group, says there is a five-step way to manage change effectively: 1. Identify key objectives 2. Establish and plan a realistic strategy 3. Implement the system and follow through with objectives 4. Measure, prove results, and make improvements where necessary 5. Repeat Contact News Editor Martin Schneider at mschneider@destinationCRM.com
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