The great news is that more and more organisations are investing in a database system of this sort, and I have spent a good number of years recently helping organisations to implement their CRM into their sales operations. The main challenges these businesses have come across during the implementation were around getting buy-in from the salespeople. In many cases, there were casualties as salespeople felt it would become a 'monitoring' or 'Big Brother' tool and hence sought positions elsewhere. Salespeople I have spoken to could not see the benefit of a CRM to them. They could not see the WIFM. Without a WIFM, there is little motivation to use the tool, and if not used, there is little or no return on investment. I am proud to say that I have been able to change the mind-set of hundreds of salespeople on the subject and now I want to share with you some tips or proactive measures that I think you can take to avoid the casualties and rebellions.

  1. Let them into the secret
  2. Train the leaders the language
  3. Make it easy to use

1. Let them into the secret

Anytime you want to implement a tool that directly affects the way a sales team will carry out their daily activities then it's crucial to let the team in on the 'secret' before you implement it. There will always be objections to something like this and its better to handle them before you ask them to use it. My suggestion would be to hold forums or groups with key influencers and top performers in your teams and ask them to get involved in the process of finding the right tool for the job. The psychological impact you want here is that they feel like they have an important role to play in the decision-making process so that they start to own it. Once they own it, they can champion its implementation and become ambassadors of it to the rest of the team, thus helping you to eliminate further objections and push backs. Make it your objective to engage your teams from the outset.

Discuss with them how they currently work and what the system would need to be able to do to make their lives easier in terms of keeping all the relevant information together. Of course, it is wise to employ the help of an experienced professional to help facilitate the discussion, handle objections and influence a more realistic solution. The plan should involve piloting or testing stages allowing the focus group to see how the tool can work and falter when applied to the real world. The launch plan should have continuous follow-up meetings to ensure all parties are utilising and championing the system as you hoped they would and primarily to get feedback from the end users.

2. Train the leaders the language

Sales leaders and team managers need to understand the bigger picture. A common shortfall in the successful implementation for a CRM is when a manager is at a loss of how to handle objections from their team and resorts to allowing some of their team to disregard it for fear of upsetting them. So while you engage the salespeople from the outset, you should also be having similar discussions with the managers so that they can understand how it helps them to manage performances in their teams. A CRM system should never be used as a remote sales manager. Far from it. It is a tool which is created to support the manager in understanding some of the competences of their team individuals. If a leader resorts to reading every word a salesperson writes into their CRM then they too will become resentful of the hours they have to give to it. Hence the Managers view of the sales data should include detailed statistics to look at and analyse, such as the margins and GP and anything that relates to other such KPI's that might or might not be in the salespersons' control but can be impacted upon by their activities or approaches. The manager's role is to translate then the data given into competencies and development needs.

So spend some money and time to secure the initial investment by employing an expert to help your manager convert information found on a CRM and align it to KPI's (key performance indicators). The info analysed should support any other field observations the manager could have made and so will help a manager to delegate SMARTer objectives for the team members’ development.

3. Make it Easy to use

CRM systems vary greatly, and that usually depends on the size and structure of a business. Some CRMs are designed only to be used by sales and marketing, and others for use by all front line or customer facing teams and have multiple platforms. The latter is the most ideal and probably most effective use of the CRM; however, you can still achieve a great deal from the system even if only the sales team uses it. Here are some accurate quotes said in context "the system is only as good as its user". "You will only get from your CRM, what you put into it". I'm sure you will have heard those words from more than just me. They are true though and should be noted. I have seen how salespeople have been able to turn their approaches from 'cup of tea' calls to strategically planned meetings with customers because they have used their CRM tool to help them analyse and plan effectively. Planning is only possible if enough information has been gathered and retained. I'm sure our human memories can stretch far beyond a notebook and an iPad but do we have enough control to be able to recall information as fast as the gadgets and when you need it? For some, perhaps but as the lines between one fact and another become finer, then its easy to start mixing up information and hence missing essential words that were said during a meeting. I always suggest that salespeople use their notes section on a CRM in front of the customer rather than taking notes on a notepad that they will later need to transfer to their CRM. The common misunderstanding which leads to this kind of duplicated work habit is that the CRM needs a summary note which not every bit of information whereas the reality is that the CRM needs every bit of information and not just the summary. The devil, as they say, is in the detail. So encourage your sales individuals to note everything they discuss into their CRM in whatever format they wish to. From this information, they can then analyse it.

Another barrier to the effective use of a CRM system in sales is the complexity of it. Salespeople do not like admin at the best of times so when you ask them to take on an additional regular administrative task, then you might find that they take shortcuts or start to lose their commitment levels. To avoid this, I would suggest you look at what they need and scale it down so that’s it’s easy to use, eliminates misunderstanding and promotes consistency. For example, drop down boxes are open to interpretation, so the marketing feedback you get from it, might not be accurate. If you have to have a drop down box use language that will be interpreted the same by everyone using it. The three parts of a CRM crucial to have for sales activity are;

a. A section to insert planning notes and a sales objective for a call or meeting.

b. A section to make notes during the meeting or other communication (copy and paste emails)

c. A section for follow up actions as a result of the meeting/communication

A link to their diary is a must. So all follow up actions should link to a diary and the ability to copy

By keeping it this simple, a salesperson can see how it benefits them. Outside of their activity, the CRM can be layered with analytics for the marketing teams, but this should not distract the salesperson from their part. To get the right feedback from the above sections, you can simply add times of meetings. Outcomes can be categorised in simple formats such as 2follow up call, meeting or non-scheduled.

If you are looking to get a CRM system and want to talk it through, call me. I'm happy to share more of my experience with you.

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