Lay The Groundwork For CRM Success

By Geoffrey James

The success of a CRM project is directly dependent on how sales management lays the groundwork. Here’s a six-step plan that will prepare your sales organization for a new or upgraded CRM system.

Step 1. Be objective. Don’t assume that technology can cure your sales woes or automatically generate massive productivity. Don’t become enamored of the idea of having a CRM system because it seems high tech. Instead, take the attitude that you’re investigating whether an investment in new technology will actually result in higher revenues and profitability.

Step 2. Gather perspectives. Bring together internal experts from sales, marketing, human resources and IT, and form a working group to determine the impact of a CRM investment. Poll top management to confirm they will support a CRM investment should the working group determine it would result in an acceptable ROI.

Step 3: Obtain a mandate. Make certain top management supports the idea that this working group is the single point of contact for all CRM vendors. Vendors have been known to do end-runs around sales management; the last thing you want is for top management to make a hasty purchasing decision without the working group’s input.

Step 4. Identify potential bottlenecks. Direct the working group to research and identify parts of the sales process that are ineffective or broken. Ask them to map out the basic elements of the sales process and then create a list of close-ended and objective questions about each stage of the process. For example: How much time do you spend each day following up on customer support calls?

Step 5. Survey the sales force. Email members of the sales force the questions created in step 4. Be sure your email explains that the purpose of the survey is to gather information that might lead to the purchase of new technology. This will help the sales reps feel involved in the process.

Step 6: Quantify goals. Using the data gathered from the survey, create a list of measurable goals that, when achieved, will improve the sales process and result in higher revenue and profit. Make the goals specific and include a measurable number that relates directly to ROI. For example, a goal may be to reduce the time it takes to confirm an order from 10 minutes to 10 seconds, thereby freeing up 450 hours of sales time each quarter. The measurable number for ROI would be the result: $2 million in additional revenue.

After you’ve gone through these six steps you’ll be ready to contact CRM vendors and ask them how their products and services will help your company achieve the quantified goals. By laying the proper groundwork you help ensure that the CRM project will stay on target and have a positive impact.

Adapted from a discussion with Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research Group, a CRM consultancy and research group based in Massachusetts.