By Chris Bucholtz
A couple of years ago, while researching an article for the now-defunct Forecasting Clouds website, I had an enjoyable conversation with an integrator about the best way to select a CRM application. One of the things we talked at length about was the composition of the CRM selection team – the people who mull over what’s important and what’s not in the technology you select.
Most companies pull in the big shots – the vice president of sales, the head of IT, maybe the chief marketing officer, whoever’s in charge of customer service, etc. They huddle up (and, perhaps, bring in their seconds-in-command) and out of this esteemed group comes a choice.
That sounds reasonable, right? Well, perhaps. The big killer of CRM is adoption – and that doesn’t mean the VP-types using the application. It means the people on the front lines in sales, marketing and service embracing the application and fully using it. When that happens, the VP-types get complete reports chock full of comprehensive and complete data.
But in order for that to happen, you need an application that the front-line folks will use. Sadly, the VP-types don’t always guess right; they look at applications through their own set of agendas and needs, and the choices they make sometime end up alienating the front-liners, thus setting the stage for adoption failure.
So, back to that conversation: I asked the integrator what he’d recommend to combat this. He said the ideal way to prevent a misalignment between the front-line users and the executives was to make sure front-line users were included on the CRM selection team. Not people selected at random, but people with some experience, knowledge of the processes that CRM is intended to help improve, and a decent understanding of their fellow employees’ behavior.
This is a fantastic idea, not only because it gets past the traditional issue of the application being selected by people who may not use it every day, but because it also creates a set of cheerleaders who can advocate for the application with their peers. The perception is not that the application is something picked by management and dropped on the front-liners, but something that their peers helped select. It helps with both the logistical and perception issues that can hinder CRM adoption.
So, in this integrator’s many years of experience, how many companies had taken this route and assembled a mixed team of the high and the low, the execs and the grunts, to make a decision informed by the entirety of the business’s experiences?
That’s it. Just one. No matter how hard they advocated, there was always pushback: choosing a CRM application was to important to be left to the people who would most frequently use it.
This is kind of heartbreaking to me – but it also gives you a chance to gain an edge in the race to ROI. If you can be one of the few to assemble the right decision-making team, you’re much more likely to have a smoother implementation and a quicker rate of adoption – which will mean that the CRM application can start paying for itself faster. And that’s what you want, right?