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Implementing a CRM strategy

This guide to implementing a CRM strategy covers the stages of evaluating and implementing CRM software, and includes an implementation checklist to help organize the implementation strategy and process. This chapter from "CRM for the Common Man" includes tips on how to choose appropriate CRM software and build the right evaluation team.

CRM for the Common Man


Excerpted with permission from "CRM for the Common Man," authored by Russ Lombardo. Copyright 2007. Published by Peak Sales Consulting, 2003. ISBN 0972826300. For more information about this book and similar titles, please visit Peak Sales Consulting.

Chapter 10: Implementing a CRM Strategy

A CRM strategy is a major undertaking that needs to be dealt with and planned properly. What will it take to successfully implement your CRM strategy? First, you must build a team. The members of this team should include a representative of every department who will use, or may use, the system either initially or ultimately. You should include members from sales, marketing, customer support, customer service, management, IT, finance, and sometimes others. A key member of the team should be an external, or outsourced, individual who is experienced in planning and implementing CRM solutions. Second, you need to market the project internally. Give it as much exposure and hype as possible in order for the entire organization to understand the project so they accept it as a positive effort that will benefit the company and its customers.

Make sure your CRM strategy has a business case focus. In other words, ensure there is a clear understanding that this project has a direct contribution to the company's bottom line, there is a return on investment that is definable and understood, and this is not just a project for technology's sake. One of the most important aspects of successfully implementing a CRM solution is to plan for a phased rollout. Sales people are busy selling. If you give them too much to learn and then ask them to use it too quickly, they simply won't use it. So you must feed them small, manageable pieces at a time. The initial rollout should include some core functionality -- perhaps just basic contact management and scheduling. The second phase can introduce additional functionality, such as opportunity management and forecasting. The next phase could include integrating email, custom letters, and reporting, and so on. Doing a CRM project in small phases is infinitely more successful than attempting to implement the entire project at one time.

Training is critical to the success of your CRM strategy. It's unadvisable to just throw a sophisticated product at an individual and expect them to start using it productively and successfully without some formal training, at the same time that they're trying to do their regular job. Don't just provide training either, instead you should allow for the individuals to be out-of-pocket and non-productive for the brief time that's required to learn the new system. It is also useful to allow sufficient time for a learning curve so the user can ramp up their skills over time. For instance, once they go through classroom training, they'll still need time to acclimate themselves to the new system and use it in their day-to-day operations.

Finally, the path to success must include a benchmarking phase. You'll need to establish milestones to measure against and audit your results. Without measuring how you're doing, you'll never know if you have succeeded. Of course, you first have to know where you want to be, so make sure you establish that before beginning your implementation. Once again, this is where your puzzle becomes a necessity. Let's discuss each of these points in more detail.

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