I spoke to a CRM software prospect today.  They have about 25 people in sales, and another 10 at the home office who are internal support or management, so roughly 35 CRM seats to start.  A very typical small-mid size business. I have spoken with her several times over the last year.  The first time I spoke with her she told me that I had missed the opportunity and that they had already decided on a CRM software.  Ok.  Sometimes we don’t make it to the race.  I tickled her in my CRM system to follow with her several months later just to see how that had worked out for her.  Turns out they didn’t actually implement the CRM solution company wide.  They ran a “test” with a few people and in this test no one was using it.  The result of that test was that until sales could prove to management they will use it, by using the Excel solutions they have put in place in the interim, they are not going to pursue CRM further.  AAAHHHHHH!!! (That was an exasperated exhale.)


Ok.  Allow me to start by saying that is NOT how you implement a CRM solution.  I have about a hundred questions I want to ask this prospect to help guide them along the path of how to do this correctly. To name a few of those questions,  I would like to ask if sales was consulted prior to making the original software selection?  Was there an understanding of what the needs were of the sales department and the other departments that would be utilizing the solution?  I would like to ask if there were any discussions about aligning current process and culture to the intended software solution?  If so, have they identified areas where change needs to occur? How will they communicate that change?  I would like to ask what exactly it is they want to accomplish by implementing CRM?  What is the goal?  What do you hope to gain?  I want to ask what they intend to give sales as a result of the implementation?  Do they want to give sales better reports? Better visibility to all accounts? Better ability to manage prospects and customers activities and opportunities? Does sales understand what they stand to gain by using a new system?  Does everyone understand what the company stands to gain? Is it increased sales? Reduced costs due to improved efficiency? Is it both?  Ok, I’ll stop here.  I fear I sound like I am ranting, which I am not.  These are REALLY important questions.


The first step to selecting a CRM solution is NOT to pick a software.  It is actually one of the final steps!  I would also like to point out, that although CRM “free demo’s” are available online for you try, be very leery of using that as a companywide test of a solution.  A successful CRM solution is about company-wide collaboration.  It’s about defining what information you want to collect and measure and clearly articulating to all of the users what they as individuals and the company stands to gain from the collection and sharing of this information.   So, that being the case, how then could a test with a couple of individuals be a measurement of success?  If everyone isn’t using the solution you technically still have little or no visibility to information and without everyone using it, you have no ability to use it as a management or reporting tool, which is one of its greatest benefits.  So why would you be surprised that it’s not performing to your expectations? 


A “test” also carries a pass/fail connotation with it, and I don’t know about you, but if I have a choice, I choose NOT to take a test I’m not prepared for.  So, unless this is a top-down mandate, and you have extensively trained the users on the solution you are asking them to “test” they are going to opt out (not participate).  Training costs money.  Money that companies are typically not willing to spend on a solution they are not yet entirely committed to (which is pretty clear  to all when you call it a “test”). Can you see the problem here?  A CRM test is typically a very bad idea because it is destined for failure before it starts.  The worst part about it is a company will walk away from one of these tests and believe their organization is not “ready” for a CRM solution, when the one thing this whole exercise did prove is how incongruent their communications really are and how much they really do need a better communications solultion!


I have planted the seed that the CRM selection PROCESS was likely the culprit here, not the poor sales guys who are now under the gun to use a tool that is not designed to make them effective and efficient.  A single department alone cannot change corporate culture.  I believe this company is serious about change.  I believe they will evolve to using technology that will make them better at what they do.  Perhaps this article finds them and guides them along that path.

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