CRM Implementation Best Practices: Your Nifty 4-Point Checklist
There’s dirty data everywhere—especially in your CRM. Your CRM implementation best practices checklist may talk about data cleansing but does it cover how to make sense of what data and when?
This quick post talks about:
1. What a successful CRM implementation looks like
2. A sales manager’s role in this successful implementation
3. The CRM implementation best practices framework
4. Dos and don’ts for a smooth CRM implementation
Most companies today seem to find themselves in one of two scenarios with regard to CRM. See which one sounds the most like you:
You’ve implemented a new CRM system, and you’re struggling with user adoption. Even more troubling, you aren’t seeing the lift in sales performance that you used as justification for your substantial investment.
So, what do you do now?
Re-do the software?
Update your resume?
You are currently implementing a new CRM system, and you’re six months away from Scenario #1 as listed above.
It would be impossible to count the number of times we’ve encountered the scenarios above. It’s literally a daily occurrence. And sadly, this story has been playing on a loop for more than two decades.
CRM burst onto the scene in the 1990s, and the technology has steadily improved ever since. And yet, Scenarios 1 and 2 have remained a constant. CRM in 1998, 2008, or 2018. Different date, same fate.
What Does a Successful CRM Implementation Look Like?
What can be done to make sure that the CRM implementations of the future don’t meet with the same fates of those of the past?
Well, part of the solution will certainly be to continue improving the technology. Getting complete, trustworthy data into systems without excruciating manual entry is still a barrier for user adoption—both at the rep and the management levels.
This has steadily improved over time, and will continue to get better in the future. But the business reality is that we need to improve the impact of CRM now. Not after your CRM vendor releases its next five user interface updates.
The real question isn’t “What can we do to improve the technology tomorrow?”, but “What can we do to improve CRM’s impact today?”
What Role Does a Sales Manager Play Here?
There’s a lot of data being reported in your sales force right now. In fact, probably too much data. One of our clients was distributing 28 sales management reports every month to its front-line sales managers. And each manager was using, on average, three of those reports.
Were those managers using the same three reports? No. Were they using the reports in a consistent way to manage their reps? No. But they had a lot of data, whether they wanted it or not.
Use (act on) the data you already have
We believe that organizations already collect the data that their sales managers need to manage and coach their teams to higher levels of performance. The issue is that these organizations haven’t taught their sales managers how to select the right data and how to use it in constructive coaching conversations.
Instead, sales managers are taught how to log into their CRM tools, navigate the screens, and run reports. But what then?
- How many CRM deployments include training on which sales metrics are the most important?
- And what that data means?
- And how to use it in a coaching conversation?
In our experience, none.
To use an automobile analogy, it’s as though sales managers have been given the operator’s manual to a really fast car, but they haven’t been shown how to drive it. They are taught what the steering wheel does, but they’re not told how to decide which direction to turn it.
They are taught that the accelerator makes the car go faster, but they’re not told how fast to drive in different situations.
Back to the sales world, sales managers are told they need to achieve quota, but they’re not given instructions on how to get there. In essence, they’re taught the technology, but not what to do with it. Sales managers need driving lessons for CRM.
CRM Implementation Best Practices: Framework for Sales Managers
My company, Vantage Point, has made quite a few contributions to the sales force driving school, based on our research into how leading companies use data to manage their sales teams.
By studying real sales data and real sales management practices, we discovered straightforward models that accomplish a few important things.
1) Categorize your sales data
We uncovered a sales metrics framework that helps sales managers wade through the morass of data posing as insight. It categorizes all sales data as either a Business Result, a Sales Objective, or a Sales Activity.
It also demonstrates that of these three types of metrics, only the Activities can be managed. This helps managers focus on the things that they can actually control.
2) Use activity data to prioritize time
We discovered causal relationships between the Activities, Objectives, and Results that allow sales managers to isolate the few Sales Activities that will have the highest impact on sales performance. This helps managers make better decisions about how to prioritize their time and the time of their reps.
3) Use data in constructive coaching conversations
Finally, we discovered techniques that help sales managers use data in constructive coaching conversations. Rather than using data as a weapon of mass inspection, sales managers can use sales data to re-frame their interactions with their sales reps as high-value sales coaching. And that is the best use of data, no doubt.
In the end, CRM is just a machine that does what we tell it to do. And all machines are useless without a good set of instructions. If we want to turn CRM into an amazingly powerful tool, then we need to train our sales managers to understand what to do with all the data that resides in that fantastic reporting machine. And now there are some simple frameworks to help managers do just that.
CRM Implementation Dos and Don’ts
DON’T think of CRM as the solution to your problems.
CRM is a great decision-making tool that enables your sales team to solve their own problems through timely insights.
DO educate your sales managers on how to use CRM productively.
Until managers understand the difference between lagging indicators (Business Results) and leading indicators (Sales Activities), effective coaching can never take place.
DO focus your reps on their most important activities.
You don’t need 28 reports to manage your sales team—you need only a handful of key metrics that will point your team in the right direction. When it comes to sales metrics, less is best.
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