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There’s no shortage of advice if you Google ‘CRM project success’.

Set clear goals. Align the CRM project with your business strategy. Get executive buy-in. Manage stakeholders. Clean up data. Deliver training – lots of it.

I don’t disagree.

Yet I find there is a problem.

This advice is too generic.

These factors will influence the success of any business project. There’s nothing that applies specifically to CRM projects.

Do all of these things and your CRM project might still fail.

We are after something different.

We need the critical factors that deliver CRM project success. The drivers that apply specifically to CRM projects. The things that, if you don’t do them, mean that your CRM project is likely to fail.

For that, you need to look deeper.

10 Specific Drivers Of CRM Project Success

Here they are. Based on my experience of hundreds of implementations – the specific drivers of CRM project success.

Not every driver will apply equally to every CRM project. Use your judgement. However, they do apply equally to new CRM project implementations AND benefit expansion in existing systems.

1. Re-design your Lead to Opportunity process successfully

CRM project success demands that business processes are re-designed.

Nowhere is this more important than the Lead to Opportunity process.

Unfortunately, no business process re-design effort results in more confusion, ambiguity and CRM project failure.

This process goes to the heart of CRM project implementation.

Lead-to-Opportunity represents the critical set of activities that develop good quality, sales-ready leads. This puts them in the hands of people that can execute the sales process.

However, to achieve CRM project success, there are key areas to pay attention to when re-designing your Lead to Opportunity process.

  • Do not transfer leads to salespeople too early. Salespeople will quickly start to ignore what they perceive to be poor quality leads.
  • Convert each Lead to an Account, Contact and Opportunity before transferring it to a salesperson. This is critical for accurate Campaign ROI metrics.
  • Create separate pipeline reports and dashboard charts for early-stage opportunities. If appropriate, exclude these initial opportunities from core pipeline reports.
  • Educate salespeople and managers that it is acceptable to qualify-out early stage opportunities. If you are going to lose, lose early.
  • Create a feedback mechanism from Sales to Marketing or Inside Sales. Insist on feedback from every Lead transferred to Sales. Review this feedback regularly to improve lead generation and qualification processes.

The Lead to Opportunity processes often provokes fraught discussion. In effective re-design of this process puts CRM project success at risk. Use these principles to avoid that.

Key resource

 

2. Use this four-step approach to user adoption

If users do not fully engage with your system, then no matter what else happens, your CRM project will not be a success.

Too often, user adoption equates with training. That’s a mistake. Deliver as much training as you like and you still cannot guarantee CRM project success.

Apply four steps to secure full user adoption CRM project success.

  • Create an advantage to using the system. For example, for front-line sales people, it has to be easier to do their jobs using the system, than not using it.
  • Create a disadvantage to not using the system. It has to be easier for sales people to do their jobs using the system that not using it. Conversely, it has to be harder for them if they don’t use it. In other words, continuing to work with current methods has to be more difficult than using the CRM system. This also means all pipeline reviews, 1.1s and team meetings are based on the data in the system, not separately stored on spreadsheets.
  • Measure user adoption. You cannot manage it if you don’t measure it. Collect metrics that measure user adoption in your business. By the way, login frequency isn’t one of them.
  • Proactively manage user adoption. This is why you need the metrics. Make it clear what’s expected. Use your metrics to manage user adoption the way you would for any other topic. Reward and complement people for doing well. Take remedial action with those that fall below standard.

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3. Install the right set of dashboards

Getting visibility of the sales pipeline and sales performance is the number one reason why companies invest in CRM projects.

Yet often, these companies fail to implement the dashboard charts and reports that deliver that visibility.

Sales dashboards must provide three things for CRM project success:

  • Visibility of the size of the pipeline.
  • Information on the trend in the pipeline.
  • Key metrics on the quality of the pipeline.

Without this information, sales managers are flying blind. That’s a guarantee of CRM project failure not success.

Addressing this key issue is relatively easy. Start by installing our free GSP Sales Dashboard from the AppExchange. It’s fully customizable so you can adapt it to the specific needs of your business.

Key resource

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

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4. Train managers how to be a coach not a pundit

During the match, pundits sit in the TV gantry pointing out mistakes. They pore over errors. They point out the reasons for defeat. A critical eye examines performance statistics and metrics.

Coaches – at least good ones – do things differently. They explain how to do things better. They teach techniques that lead to improvement. Coaches recognize and accept that mistakes happen and that these represent learning opportunities.

Having the right set of dashboards is one thing. Knowing how to use them to drive sales performance across the team is another.

CRM project success depends upon sales managers and leaders using dashboards and reports to improve performance. It means each one has to be a coach, not a pundit.

Using dashboards as a pundit means you risk encouraging the very behaviour you want to remove. Sandbagging occurs – deals are left out of the CRM system until the sales person is confident an opportunity can be won. Dormant opportunities remain open. Updating of opportunities takes place only at the last minute.

The result? The real time, robust visibility of the sales pipeline the CRM project can deliver, goes out the window.

Effective sales leaders recognize no single chart gives the complete picture. They understand how to combine information from different dashboards charts to identify specific improvements available to each individual and team.

In many businesses, this will require a change in behavior and education of sales managers.

Do not assume this will happen automatically. In many cases, it won’t. CRM project success depends on training managers how to be coaches not pundits.

Key resource

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE eBook today from our website

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5. Start as you mean to go on (avoid a soft launch)

A soft launch means making the system available to users, but not insisting they engage with it to the maximum.

Sometimes a soft launch occurs when the project team believe the system is not fully ready and perfect. They worry about the impact. After all, there is so much else going on in the business.

Don’t let this happen. CRM project success requires a hard launch.

Let’s be clear. In many businesses, a pilot with a specific group of users is a sensible thing to do. It contributes to CRM project success.

Likewise, a phased rollout is also logical. Often you simply cannot physically train all the users in one go. Instead, do it country-by-country or region-by-region. Whatever deployment plan makes sense in your business.

However, as soon as the CRM project goes live, make sure everyone understands the importance of keeping data and records up to date.

For example, one of the biggest sins in pipeline visibility is opportunities with an out of date Close Dates. This distorts the accuracy of future revenue the CRM project aims to deliver.

In the first week, the first month, the first quarter, track down these opportunities. Don’t stand for them being out of date. Zone-in on salespeople that need to update their deals.

Here’s another example. Tracking the buying center on a B2B deal is often critical to success. So in the CRM system, make sure the stakeholders on the customer side are recorded as playing a role on the opportunity.

Here’s the thing. If you tolerate sloppiness in the early days, your business will find it mighty hard to recover the situation.

Instead, make it clear from day 1 what is expected. CRM project success in your business means you start as you mean to go on.

 

6. Include Target Tracking in the solution

Targets are key to salespeople.

There isn’t a salesperson worth her salt that doesn’t measure her performance against target each month or quarter.

Yet very often, sales performance versus target is tracked outside the CRM system. This waters-down the importance and usefulness of the CRM system to salespeople and managers.

Incorporate target tracking directly into your system. It’s a core component of CRM project success.

However, that can be more difficult than it seems.

For example, in salesforce CRM, many businesses find the Forecasts tab difficult to use.

Alternatively, if targets you base targets on scheduled revenue over time, then the target tracking mechanism needs to be more sophisticated.

In both cases, the target tracking mechanism needs to reflect both historical performance and compare future potential revenue against quota. In other words, it must compare pipeline and weighted pipeline with the target for next month or next quarter.

Fortunately, there are ways to do all of these things in salesforce and other CRM systems. Follow our recommended resources below for more information.

Key resources

7. Create a robust, scalable architecture

The best thing about CRM systems such as salesforce is that it’s easy to add a field.

The worst thing about CRM systems such as salesforce is that it’s easy to add a field.

Over-enthusiastic creation of fields and other features quickly swamps salespeople and other users. Be judicious.

Think about it like this. If you are writing a 20-page slide deck, it’s best not to start by typing the first bullet point into slide 1.

Instead, get a sheet of paper and plan your presentation. Start with the end in mind – the key message you intend to deliver. Work backwards, structuring your slides and specific points within this context.

CRM project success requires the same approach. The best starting point for a CRM architecture is not the creation of the first field.

Better by far, to stand in front of a whiteboard with the project team and plan out your architecture. Think about improving your processes. Translate this business architecture into a system design that is robust, scalable and meets the objectives.

One more point on this. When the design of CRM projects goes wrong, it goes wrong at the start.

It may not be immediately obvious, but the underlying architecture of CRM systems like salesforce is logical and robust. Work with this architecture, don’t fight it.

Key resource

If you are in any doubt about how the core architecture of salesforce works then call us. We will jump on a web meeting and I’ll explain it to you.

 

8. Import (reasonably) clean data about at the outset

Your business already has a myriad of data about leads, contacts, customers, prospects, current and past opportunities.

This data may currently be in a legacy CRM system. Perhaps it all currently sits in spreadsheets or Outlook folders.

In either case, for CRM project success, import this data into your new system before you go live. If you leave it until later, it will never happen.

Here are examples of the benefits of importing this data at the outset.

  • User adoption will improve significantly. Salespeople (in particular) and other users will not want to enter data that already exists elsewhere. They will quickly revert to using their existing tools.
  • Productivity and efficiency is increased. For the same reason – manually typing large volumes of data is not a good use of anyone’s time.
  • Realize marketing and customer communication benefits from the outset. No need to wait until there is a critical mass of data.

One other key reason.

This is an excellent opportunity to clean up and consolidate the data. In fact, that’s an imperative before you import the data. The result doesn’t have to be perfect. However, CRM project success demands an intensive effort on data improvement and migration to bring it to an acceptable level.

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9. Use Products (irrespective of what you sell)

This is not an article on CRM features or functionality.

Nevertheless, there’s one feature that successful CRM projects consistently use.

Products.

It doesn’t matter whether you sell physical items, services or something in between. Using the Products feature has multiple benefits. It:

  • Turns bland opportunities into specific deals. This means visibility of the sales pipeline and sales performance is dramatically improved.
  • Improves management reporting and analysis. For example, margin and average deal size analysis.
  • Opens the door to multiple other benefits. For example, discount control, electronic signatures, streamlined fulfilment processes.
  • Increased pricing flexibility. For example, tailor prices to specific customer segments, geographical areas and distribution channels.
  • Improved forecasting of scheduled revenue over time. This means understanding how committed and pipeline scheduled revenue compares to target.

However, Products is also one of the more complex functional areas to set up in CRM systems. That is especially true if you already have an ERP or other back-end system that controls pricing, availability and fulfilment.

Nevertheless, the extensive range of benefits makes it worth it. Successful CRM projects invariably use Products.

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10. Get independent help

You would say this, wouldn’t you, Gary?

Well yes, I would.

I started implementing cloud-based CRM systems in the late ’90s. Just as the concept of business web computing was taking hold.

At that time, CRM systems such as salesforce were simple, uncomplicated. They offered rudimentary sales force automation and customer support features. Businesses implemented them as tactical solutions, to solve specific issues in sales or customer service.

Now things are different.

Today salesforce is gargantuan. There’s a wealth of features. Companies implement CRM for strategic and compelling benefits.

Ironically, that means full benefit realization is harder to achieve. However when you do, the benefits are so much bigger.

To secure those benefits, CRM project success requires independent expertise, experience, advice and guidance.

You’ve read the 10 specific drives of CRM project success. For further advice on how to make your CRM project successful, then please, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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