“Anything that helps me sell more effectively, I will employ, but not at the expense of ineffectiveness” – Mike Muhney
Last week, I had the opportunity to have one of many conversations with industry pioneer Mike Muhney, co-founder of ACT! Software, and the sales person’s advocate in the conversation about CRM.
In our conversation, Mike makes a number of thought provoking statements that challenge the conventional thought process leading up to the beginning or advancement of a CRM initiative. Some of the topics you’ll hear include:
- Sales people are the “untethered element” of the organization
- Who does a sales person really work for? The customer or their company?
- CRM software is traditionally too complicated for sales people
- Technology isn’t always unencumbering
- Why sales people sabotage CRM deployments
- CRM needs to revert backwards to less functionality
- What to do when your top sales people refuse to use the system
Each of these topics could be a blog or podcast on their own. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of Mike’s opinions, he makes some great points and brings a convincing voice for those venturing into, or deeper into, the world of CRM systems.
While CRM failure can ultimately stem from a number of strategic, procedural, or organizational factors, end user adoption (and more specifically end user adoption by the sales team) is one of biggest hurdles to overcome.
Paying insufficient attention to user needs and benefits.
Engaging users is critical to the success of any enterprise software deployment, but particularly so in the case of CRM, where users can sometimes sidestep the technology and still accomplish their job function.
A research note from AMR Research explains why this aspect of CRM is different from other enterprise software categories:
In applications such as ERP, supply chain, or financial management applications, the users have much less flexibility or choice in whether or not to adopt an enterprise application standard. And when was the last time you heard someone question why financials were implemented?
A quick search reveals that many observers believe poor user adoption is a key driver of failed CRM projects. In a SearchCRM interview, SugarCRM’s former CEO, John Roberts, links adoption to end-user perception of value (emphasis added):
“In a lot of cases, companies deploy CRM, and there’s a lot of euphoria over it for the first couple of months. Then, people stop using it. They look at it as ‘Big Brother’ watching them. CRM is sold as a tool to make an organization more effective and efficient; but the end user doesn’t see CRM as making them more efficient and effective.”
In my view, poor user adoption is not the direct cause of CRM project failure. Rather, it’s a symptom the organization has not anticipated obstacles that may interfere with users embracing the new system.
Adoption may lag for many reasons, including:
- Software that is complicated or difficult to use
- Sales people that don’t see adequate value in the new system
- Poor communication of benefits to users
Get users to adopt a new CRM system by focusing on the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) factor. I asked independent analyst, Erin Kinikin, for her thoughts on engaging users:
“The sales person is quarterback for the customer team. Give the sales people good reasons to login and use the system. If the sales person feels the system saves time, makes money, or helps ‘keep score’, he or she will be much more likely to use the system — and enter customer data.”
One banker involved with CRM efforts told me:
Frontline users, particularly the most effective “top-producers,” will adopt the system only on the basis of real or perceived value.
Engage users early and often during the system planning and implementation phases, so they understand what’s in it for them. When users do not adopt a system as planned, seek their honest feedback on how to make it more usable, helpful, and valuable.
Have a listen. Share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from sales people, executives, consultants and CRM vendors.
Also, which of the bullets above would you be most interested in discussing or hearing about on future blogs and podcasts? Sound off!