CRM: Don't Flop--Start at the Top

It's widely known that many CRM initiatives fail, but the major reason for that glitch might be a bit of a bombshell. In the quest for CRM initiatives, which the business world realizes have the means to spin client/prospect management straw into gold, the breakdown generally starts at the executive level--failure rolls downhill. By definition CRM is a business model that provides the processes and tools for a firm's employees to accomplish a myriad of important business elements in the management of clients and prospects. Via a CRM system you can cultivate and enhance client relationships, maintain client information, track leads and opportunities, schedule business development tasks, and execute comprehensive forecasting and reporting. In addition, CRM can help companies conduct marketing campaigns, increase efficiency and profitability, and enhance the overall client experience. Any business-savvy person would agree these are all good things, and question why difficulty would arise in pushing such a positive initiative to fruition. The problem actually starts with the widely held misconception that the CRM software works the enterprise business magic on its own. CRM is much more than installing software--it is a business philosophy and a change management initiative that doesn't end once the software has been installed. This is an important takeaway that makes an incredible difference in the implementation of any CRM initiative. Without this understanding, the initiative moves on an increasingly uphill plane. The Fear Factor Companies have commonalities of fear surrounding CRM. Employees don't want to share their client information. Statistics will become readily available that make employees more accountable for their roles. Rewards and review systems may need to change as companies change the mindset of their firms. The commitment and discipline to see the initiative through can be daunting. Companies need to do a deep dive analysis of processes and capabilities across many departments to achieve CRM success. The end plan in mind needs to focus on increased revenues, measurable results, data integrity, and customer-centric strategies. That raises critical operational questions like, How do we manage our resources differently to make this happen? Who is going to provide training and support? How are we going to manage our time under this initiative? Will this change our sales processes? Do we need to rethink roles and responsibilities? It's because of these fears and the ensuing organizational questions that executives need to enthusiastically dedicate themselves to the ongoing direction and support of CRM--not just the initiation of it. Embracing CRM is a change management initiative that does not end once the software has been installed. The deployment of a CRM solution is a journey, not a destination. It changes the culture of an organization--and it's something that leadership needs to make a constant priority. Steps to Success
After embracing the CRM concept, senior executives should resolve to take a top-down approach in assuring the effort's success. They need to work to instill the value of the concept and build support and excitement about the initiative among employees. Most importantly, they should design a plan to stay involved. If the executive responsibilities are well executed, the following steps to successful CRM will happen with minimal conflict and more ease. What's next? Firms need to identify the right staff to build an innovative project team. These people need to be employees you can count on, individuals that have a personal stake in contributing to the CRM initiative and who have the opinion leader status to rally support and create excitement. From there it's time to design scaleable business processes for your organization during this effort, because in this case, it is a truism that you are only as good as your processes. Remember to do what makes sense for your firm. Make certain that the processes are thoughtful, mindful, efficient, and user-friendly. As your company determines these processes it's crucial to remember that they need to be easy to understand. As you build the foundation for your CRM plan, remember that technology is only a tool and that the software is only a component to CRM. Test drive new technology and let that endeavor help you implement realistic goals. Don't be shortsighted and forget to compensate for future growth and expansion--and along this same line, don't look at the CRM software as a standalone. Consider how you might use and integrate other mobile/virtual technologies in use in your organization. Another boost to ensuring CRM success comes with promoting a sales-focused mentality. Staff should be trained to identify opportunities, and be rewarded via sales incentives. Heightened awareness of sales goals and activities will keep the CRM initiative on an inspired and constantly refreshed course. It's important to develop standard metrics to gauge CRM success. Somewhere along the line, people need to understand the payoff of the initiative, and these milestones shouldn't be guesstimates. Elements involved in the pursuit of good metrics include:
  • determining what defines success for your company
  • having the discipline to measure
  • benchmarking over specified timeframes
  • defining the value proposition The final step ensuring successful CRM comes with realizing that it is never final. Companies need to constantly strive to improve the program, revisit and revise processes, manage strategic alignment with the firm's goals, and continually benchmark success criteria. In Summary With sustained executive championship, businesses implementing CRM can follow the steps to success without any fear of failure. The key is to keep in mind that continued success translates to a continued journey for all levels of your organization. It's a trip worth taking. About the Author Stan Bunn leads the CRM practice at BST Global. He assists firms with CRM strategies, system analysis, business process improvement, and integration consulting. Please visit
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