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7 Steps to a successful CRM Implementation

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is experiencing a resurgence of popularity.

 Gartner research has found CRM is back on many CIO and CTO's top-10 lists for the year to come, and 25 percent plan to implement the tool soon. As with any major technological initiative, a successful implementation isn't guaranteed. The most common pitfalls that affect up to 50 percent of companies include the following:

◾Difficulty creating a CRM strategy
◾Trouble redesigning sales and customer service processes
◾Technology selection difficulty
◾Struggles to implement a customer-focused company culture

 While initiatives can fail for a number of reasons, companies all hope to deliver the project on time, within budget and appreciate significant value from the implementation. Here are seven critical success factors for launching your CRM internally within scope:


1. Build an Implementation Success Team

Implementing CRM isn't entirely a technology initiative. It's also not the responsibility of sales, customer service or any other department. There are key roles to a successful initiative and your program likely needs each of the following to win:

◾CMO and sales leadership
◾Network engineer or infrastructure experts
◾Business analyst
◾Information security expert
◾CFO and finance leadership
◾Project management

 In some cases, outside consultants are necessary to build and fill certain crucial roles within the CRM implementation success team.


2. Involve the Whole Company

Who needs to ensure the initiative is successful? Every member of your leadership team, even if they're not directly responsible for technology, customer service, sales or marketing. Salesforce's Eanna Cunnane writes that a lack of executive sponsorship is among the top three reasons why CRM implementations fail. Ensure all management and employees are kept informed on the initiative and related goals. Task your senior leadership with playing the role of evangelists.


3. Make It Easy

Recent technology developments, including mobile and social CRM, have transformed the way business users interact with their tools. Instead of time-consuming data entry, it's often as easy as a double-click for sales professionals to log communication with customers. Social listening add-ons can auto-fill data insights on prospects. Invest in CRM vendors and add-ons that make this tool as simple and fun-to-use for your employees as possible.

4. Train the Trainers

Designate power users of your new CRM and provide them with tools, resources and a timeline for ensuring all employees are up to date on your software in advance of your go-live date. Expert Geoffrey James recommends designating your managers as internal trainers. This will involve leadership in a successful initiative and put pressure on leadership to learn your new tools.


5. Prioritize Metrics

In the planning stages, it's critical for organizations to understand the value they're hoping to derive from their CRM initiative. Author Susan Clarke suggests the following value statements as the potential basis for initiative metrics:

◾Consistency in customer communications
◾Transparency of sales activities
◾Centralized, accessible data and reporting

By understanding exactly what value you're hoping to drive through your CRM initiative, you can develop quantitative metrics.


6. Eliminate Antiquated Systems

Ensure your sales, customer service, marketing and management employees understand that your go-live date is exactly that. Employees who cling to antiquated systems of managing customer relationships will need to give up their spreadsheets. Allowing employees to maintain multiple methods of tracking CRM data can lead to quality issues or diminish your chances of adoption.


7. Develop Carrots

If you're facing hesitance from sales professionals over adopting this tool, it can be important to develop "carrots," or incentives for CRM adoption. James is a firm believer that companies should "entice, not force." Performance metrics and awards can be put into place to recognize employees with the best adoption records. It may be equally effective for sales teams to discover efficiency gains via CRM on their own. Demanding immediate adoption can create an environment of hostile attitudes toward your new technology.

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