CRM Is No Magic Bullet
CRM is not, by any means, a new topic. Yet, many of my client engagements begin with reeling in the wildly pervasive notion that CRM is a magic bullet. Moreover, I routinely hear from organizations that have implemented expensive CRM solutions and experienced varying levels of success. What's shocking is that they are calling to evaluate vendors for another go at it, without addressing the issues that led to their previous disappointment.
There still seems to be a misconception that the mere implementation of a CRM system will bring about miraculous organizational change. While a well-thought-out and executed CRM system can contribute to the overall health of an enterprise, executives are still operating under the assumption that a CRM system alone will:
increase the predictability of the forecast;
increase the sales force's productivity or decrease the time to close;
decrease the cost of sale;
provide a single customer view.
Successful CRM implementation requires organizational assessment
CRM is a great communication vehicle for customer information, but an organization wishing to realize CRM's potential value needs to do some critical organizational evaluation first, preferably facilitated by a CRM expert. The organizational change required to deliver on CRM's promises, whether that be increased forecast predictability or a decreased sales cycle, requires a good, hard look at the enterprise-wide sales process.
You must have answers to the following five key questions before any substantial discussion of a CRM implementation can begin. These will save you time and money, and will help you to avoid a less than scrupulous vendor pitch.
Q: Are your people following your current sales process?
A: Assess your sales force's current practices.
If a company is going to attempt organizational change the right way, it should do a quick analysis from its existing sales records to obtain a baseline of its standard metrics: revenue predictions, timing predictions, etc. The company should then look at the activities that its salespeople are performing, and compare that to the existing sales process.
Q: Are you providing your people with an effective sales process?
A: Assess the sales process.
Review the sales process and determine if you have the right sales stages. For more complex sales, is there sufficient time dedicated to needs analysis and solution development? Are there defined criteria and activities for each of the steps so that a salesperson doesn't have to guess if he/she's in the right stage or can proceed to the next one?
Q: Does the new process make sense?
A: Test any changes to the sales process.
Before you think about committing these changes to any system, you should try them out. Take a subgroup of your sales force and get them working on the new process. Solicit feedback and be willing to change your approach or defend it because of the business goals. Measure the performance and evaluate. Getting salespeople involved earlier in the change also facilitates acceptance.
Q: Do you have the right people and skill sets?
A: Consider and evaluate the entire organization.
Given the changes to your process, do you need to assess the skills of your organization in order to deliver to the process expectations? For minor changes to the process, this may not be necessary. However, for changes from product selling to solution selling, an organizational assessment of skills and desire should definitely be performed.
Q: Are you teaching and reinforcing the correct behaviors?
A: Reinforce the changes via training and incentive compensation.
Regardless of the scope of the change, the organization will need training to reinforce the changes. More importantly, especially when you're introducing new sales ideology (e.g., when selling solutions) if you're using outdated compensation plans that are not aligned with your current business goals--guess what?--You won't get the behavior you want.
In considering people, processes, and technology, technology should always be last. Results of software can only be as good as the resources it analyzes. When an organization takes the time to consider the caliber of their people and the processes that they are following, first, only then can they set themselves up to have a successful CRM implementation.
About the Author
F. Phil Cartagena, Jr. is a CRM expert with more than 10 years of experience in project management, business process redesign, and technology implementations. Currently a consultant with BusinessEdge Solutions, Mr. Cartagena advises large financial services organizations on CRM consolidation strategy and design. Mr. Cartagena's professional development includes a BA in Computer Science from Harvard, an MBA from Columbia Business School, and certifications from Siebel and the Project Management Institute. Mr. Cartagena is also an Adjunct Professor at Boston University where he teaches Systems Analysis and Design.