CRM investment has exploded over the past decade with organizations big and small. However the value of CRM applications are limited to its weakest link. Hobbled with the absence of pervasive use, what can we do to motivate widespread adoption, avoid mistakes, and measure its value?

CRM FAILURE — something worth examining.

Like a traffic accident and the curious “rubber-necker” stopping traffic to get a glimpse, isn’t it human to be drawn to the failures of others? We can identify with it, we can draw from lessons learned, and we are more receptive to hearing the humility of personal experience versus the preaching of “how to.”

Understanding this behavior has its use for implementing change. Reverse psychology; devil’s advocate; the optimistic cynic; whatever you call it – proactively addressing fears, uncertainties, risks, and reasons CRM fail, communicates empathy and understanding at the very least with your user communities. You understand the challenges of their job. What’s the old adage? Seek to understand before being understood.

In CRM, the accidents and horror stories are plentiful. Over the years, the speed at which one can make a mistake has accelerated. SaaS, Cloud Computing, and On-Demand CRM have accelerated the “time-to-benefit” AND “the-time-to-get-burned.”

I have witnessed three (3) sure-fire ways of failing to achieve CRM adoption. Enjoy the wreckage and hope this never happens to you.

Mistake #1: Ignore the unique culture of sales

“Automating sales is like herding cats”

A sales operations director of an enterprise software company once told me that their sales force did not understand process. Odd, I thought that a sales organization successful at selling enterprise solutions could succeed despite lacking this important skill. After further discussion, it became clear. The director misunderstood choice with lack of knowledge. After all, we reward sales with being able to expertly circumnavigate process, assess the shortest distance to cash, and prioritize activities that lead directly to revenue. Understand this and you’ll have the keys to their hearts.

And how do we measure adoption for sales? Is it time spent in CRM or the number of logins? Don’t we expect our salespeople to be visiting with customers instead of tooling around software? Or, is it completing customer data profiles? Kind of an expensive data collector, don’t you think?

Measuring sales adoption can be tricky. Most sales executives want less time in CRM and more time selling. A more meaningful adoption metric may be forecasting accuracy, efficient use of resources or conversion of administrative time to selling time.

Mistake #2: Create resentment early in your CRM planning

“If it came from anyone else other than me, it must be bad”

CRM often hatches in one department implemented with a self-centered design and then is exported to others without ever obtaining their input. The gravity of a CRM strategy is centered on a 360 degree view of the customer — bridging department silos of people and data. Failing to incorporate other stakeholders into the design is an excellent way to create resentment and perceptions that CRM was built for someone else. The trick lies in selecting delegates that will add value during the design effort, a topic for later discussion.

Mistake #3: Motivate your employees to input data outside of CRM

“Pay your employees to use another system and they surely will”

A Director of IT once complained to me that no one in sales was using their CRM. The VP of Sales was pressuring IT to solve the problem of grossly inaccurate forecast reports. Despite attempts to mandate compliance, they still found that the transactions were not updated even after they received purchase order commitments.

In CRM (or any system), if you can’t understand the outcome from data input, is it worth doing? In the above mentioned case, opportunities were only updated by sales to manipulate forecast reports, while another system was used to fulfill sales orders and pay commission to its salesperson. Which one do you think the salesperson used and surprising how often this happens? If decision making, recognition, or compensation is derived from every other system but your CRM, guess what? Your CRM has become irrelevant credenza-ware.

What can be learned from the above blunders?

“Change your plan to plan for change”

Don’t sweep it under the carpet. A CRM strategy usually represents significant change for an organization. With change, you can expect fear and apprehension towards the unknown. If users haven’t said it, you can be sure they are thinking how CRM will replace them, micromanage, or add administrative burdens. Proactively addressing fears, uncertainties, risks, and reasons to not use CRM may preempt these objections. Make a Top 10 list and don’t take it too seriously. At the very least, you’ll communicate empathy and understanding of these issues – perhaps with a little humor.

For the people and by the people. Incorporating delegates in your CRM task force and design can ensure you address critical needs from user groups intended to use CRM. Delegates have a keen perspective on the job requirements, business processes, and culture of their business units. If you play it right, your delegates will evangelize the CRM agenda to convert non-believers in a grass roots approach. Leverage your steering committee members to help you navigate across organizational boundaries.

And Kaizen! Your CRM. If you’re experiencing adoption issues – it’s not too late to turn the ship. Institute a continual improvement process by which performance tweaks are implemented in bite size increments at the behest and benefit of the business and its users. Chip away at the negative perceptions. Incorporate an internal PR campaign to highlight the improvements.

Feel free to contact CRM Evangelist for more information and help on your next project.