Take your time rolling out CRM, hurry and you stumble!

Typical CRM life cycle

We have done over 50 CRM deployments with world’s leading brands of CRM solutions for the small and medium enterprises and this is a summary of our learning.

  1. Do not underestimate the time and effort in implementing a CRM solution for your company. You wouldn’t want to spend a few lakhs of rupees to replace existing Excel Sheets.
  2. Study what you want the CRM to achieve. For eg.,
    1. Tracking of daily sales activity
    2. Tracking of sales pipeline
    3. What are the sales reports that I need from the CRM, which cannot be obtained from an Excel sheet, or takes a great deal of time to compile
    4. Distinguish between must have features and desirable features.
    5. Whether you like it or not, Sales is a people driven function and not a process in most Indian firms. IT industry leads this with Sales people being portrayed in larger than life pictures.
    6. Drive the implementation top down, not bottom up. You need to firmly tell the users that CRM is a corporate resource just like office, laptop, mobile phone and everything else and the choice of CRM or the decision to implement them is not open to discussion.

3. Factors to be considered pre implementation:

  1. What data do we have to capture? Accounts/Companies, Leads, Contacts/People, Sales opportunities, forecasts, targets etc. Clarify from the vendor if a certain type of forecast is possible to be captured. Most CRMs will capture revenue forecasts, but not quantity forecasts. So if you want the number of bottles of a product to be sold, and not the value of sales, that may not be easily achieved.
  2. What are the reports that we need? Most of the implementations that we have done have clear description of the fields, screens and to some extent workflows. But reports get taken up only after the first three are done. It is better to realize that report formats also play a vital role in determining how the data is captured. If the data is not captured, there is no way of reporting it.
  3. How do I make this a success? Identify some users who you think will commit time and interest in testing the application, or give inputs to the implementation vendor instead of thrusting this down the throat of some unwilling users. The commonly heard excuse is, “I don’t have time to use CRM”.
  4. What are the infrastructure requirements? Most CRMs today are available in the SaaS model, but still you could have unforeseen issues like support for Firefox or Google Chrome, or availability of the software on an Apple Macintosh.
  5. Integration considerations: If the CRM is expected to integrate with your ERP, or Financial Accounting System or any other back office system, you need to be absolutely clear what is possible and what is not. For instance, if your organization uses Tally, it is not easily integrated with most applications. So if you expect Accounts Receivables to be made available online to your sales people, you will have to take a NO for an answer, at least for the time being.
  6. What is the credibility of the implementation partner? In order to conclude the sale, your product vendor will be happy to thrust upon you a partner who possibly is the cheapest. But how about the cost of failure of your CRM project? Make sure that you have a partner who has a proven track record of successfully implementing CRM solutions.

4. During the Implementation process:

  1. Most companies take into account only the time required for the vendor to customize the application. The big mistake in this assumption is that your organization will take a lot more time to test and roll out the application to all users. During this period, you will need the support of the vendor to handhold and make necessary changes requested by you, and that time has to be factored in and paid for. Product vendors will tell you that their CRM can be implemented in 6 weeks. That is the IT industry’s equivalent of “up to 50% off in a garment sale”.  There is no need to compare how much time others take to implement, what is important is how much time you need.
  2. Put someone who understands your sales process as the Project Manager from your side so that the queries the vendor comes up with are addressed quickly and correctly. Often, the answer given by the PM is overruled by a higher up which not only delays the project, but also leaves your credibility with the vendor in doubt.
  3. Have a good set of users from various geographies, product groups etc.  test the application for you. They can also double up as internal trainers at a later point.
  4. Take your time to roll out the application across the organization. Each location or team may come up with new suggestions, objections and queries. You will need to address them and get the buy in. Else, the usage of the application will vary widely.  Please remember that to a majority of users, this is their first time experience working with a CRM. This is especially relevant in non IT sectors of the industry where the usage of a PC is mainly restricted to working with Email and MS Office products.
  5. Keep the Integration piece as a separate part of the project. This can be the most painful and frustrating part of the implementation.  Two heterogeneous applications will never work together easily; let alone two different vendors and their teams.
  6. Incentivize your star CRM performers: During your quarterly sales meetings, if you have awards for top performers in various categories like revenues, location etc., add a couple of awards for 3-4 quarters to send a message that the organization takes CRM investment seriously.

That means that like any other application deployment, you have to give yourself a fair chance to reap the benefit of your CRM deployment.  Your customers will be happy for the fact that your processes are now in line with their demands and expectations.

Further reading can be done here: http://www.online-crm.com/risk_management.htm  http://www.smartsellingtools.com/blog/2013/08/the-9billion-crm-debacle/

And some more: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/572379433862928263/

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