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3 Critical Elements for Successful CRM Adoption

By estimate, there will be approximately 70,000 people at this week’s spectacular Dreamforce event, Salesforce.com’s annual conference and expo being held in San Francisco. Its impressive agenda is all about how the social revolution is changing the way we do business. The event will impact and illustrate how business trends are adjusting to and dictating emerging technologies. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that an astounding number of companies use Salesforce. Although the company will not reveal its sales figures or its total customer tally, industry estimates have put the number of clients in the neighborhood of 132,000 organizations and over 4.5M subscribers. Without the risk of overstating the obvious, that is a remarkable amount of customers.

However, the view from the other side of the mirror reflects another surprising yet common industry estimate that over half of all (not just Salesforce) CRM implementations fail.  This very fact has been the prime subject fueling a broad spectrum and quantity of debates. Our genuine belief is that the underlying cause for this high percentage of failure is inherently due to poor CRM adoption, which in turn is due to the undeniable consequence of the WIIFM disconnect. Quite simply, due to the self-serving agenda of people in varying roles, sales reps and sales managers quite naturally focus on their own individual WIIFM or “What’s in it for me.”

As one would expect, this empirical necessity surely indicates that reps want CRM to help make their job easier and faster so they can sell more. With the pressure of revenue targets at the forefront of their (and the company’s) objectives, they need CRM to provide the right information at the right time, answering questions like:

  • Who should I contact and in what order to optimize my pipeline?
  • What do I need to know before I make contact so I can have the greatest chance for success?
  • What should I say based on prospect type or sales stage so I can get the prospect to engage?
  • What’s the right number of contact attempts before I should move on so I can maximize the return on my time?
  • How do I keep track of what happened without spending all my time on data input?

By the same token, managers will typically (and logically) want CRM for more insightful decision-making ability, so they can extract relevant and time-sensitive data for business analysis and coaching. They want CRM to tell them exactly what reps have been doing (and when) along with the most important, most productive, or most ‘potential’outcomes stimulated by or through those actions, answering questions like:

  • What’s the current forecast?
  • How much is in the pipeline?
  • How many phone calls are being made?
  • Are reps doing enough?
  • Are reps being realistic about their opportunities?

Can you see the WIIFM disconnect? Reps and Managers are motivated to use CRM by entirely different factors, yet both are inextricably interdependent. It boils down to a matter or operational dynamics. In order for managers like you to maximize what you need and what you want out of CRM, your reps must keep the system updated consistently and reliably. Needless to say, the evidence shows that reps are not even remotely inclined to keep the system updated, simply because the CRM system does not provide a sufficient WIIFM for them. The result is that there isn’t anything “in it” for anyone.

If you want to ensure the successful adoption of CRM within your sales organization, and make certain that you get what you as a manager need from it, there are three critical elements you must consider. And they all coalesce around the rep. That’s right. It is simply a matter of bending the WIIFM principle a bit. Give reps what they need and you will have no trouble getting what you need.  And in this instance, what you gain will far outweigh what you may have put on the table.

The 3 critical elements are:

1.   Make it easier for reps to do their job

2.   Make sure it saves reps more time than it absorbs

3.   Ensure that the system actually helps reps to sell more

You can take steps today, to determine how well you are providing for those 3 critical elements. Hint: if you have to hound reps to use your CRM system, then you are obviously missing one or more of these elements. If that seems to be the case, you might consider asking your reps the following questions to determine if you could be doing more to ensure the successful adoption of your CRM system:

  • In what ways does our CRM system cause you to spend too much time entering, or finding information? In what ways does it reduce the time?
  • In what ways does it make your job easier, and harder?
  • Are there other ways that the CRM system slows you down?
  • What are your biggest frustrations with the system?
  • What would you need from the system to help you prospect more efficiently?
  • What would you need from the system to help you prioritize your activities better?
  • Are you getting quick access to needed sales support materials?
  • Does our CRM system provide all the information you need to adequately prepare for calls?

What I am suggesting, is that you have a heart-to-heart with your sales team about the pros and cons of the system. There is no down-side to opening the communication pipeline to find a mutually beneficial solution. While it is certainly tempting to think that your reps just need to step-up and use the system, that approach still ignores the issue of functionality. By placing yourself in their shoes, you demonstrate your awareness of the fundamental difficulties they face. It is human nature to offer resistance against things that either make our lives more difficult or that fail to provide benefits that come close to the efforts applied towards achieving them. And by anyone’s motivational scale or measuring device, whether or not something is worth it, comes down to the WIIFM.

Jim Banks is a sales expert, with over 40 years of sales experience. He has watched CRM throughout the years and realized that it still lacked several tools that the sales professional needed. In 2004 he left his job as a Sales Executive and started improving CRM systems for other companies.
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