For all of the successes I’ve had with CRM implementations over the years, the one thing that alludes me and many of my colleagues is always adoption.  I think many consultants like to talk about how successful their implementations have been in the past, but the reality is that most, if not all, organizations will face a CRM adoption issue.  It’s also true that this issue persists over many years for organizations and it takes a lot of work to get the entire organization on board.

If you’ve worked with me before, then you know that I always talk about the 3-5 year plan of rolling out a CRM within an organization.  It simply takes time because of the number of steps involved in the entire process to roll out a complex system across several different departments.  The larger the organization, the longer that period is as well. It takes time to really engrain something into an organization.

I also like to point out many of the so called “success stories” that you hear from time to time from major CRM vendors out there.  I’m sure there has been some success but I do know that some of it is typically well overblown. I know of a telco in Canada using the largest CRM vendor in the world who touts them as their greatest “case study” for a telco.  I know people that work there and believe me, that product isn’t considered a success within the organization. Not yet at least. There’s a lot of show when there is still a lot of work left to do.

I wanted to set the stage for a realistic discussion on CRM adoption.  I can’t promise everybody in your organization is going to use the CRM the way you intend it to.  It’s going to take time, patience and adjustments.

Now that I set the stage, here are a couple of ways we work with businesses to increase adoption and buy in from their CRM users.

#1 Create a reason to be in there

Years ago, I worked with a client that was moving their team to a new CRM.  Their challenge was that even though they didn’t have a CRM, every sales person managed to find their own.  A couple of people had Maximizer, one person had Goldmine, and another was simply using Outlook. I think our clients get excited about the idea of all contacts being in one spot until they realize that their sales people might not be so thrilled about it.  Those same sales people basically said: Why do I need to go into the CRM when I’m able to get their contact info in my existing system?

All of sudden we had a new CRM that everybody had access to except nobody was using it because there was no reason to use it.  What did we do?

Created a reason.

As part of the consulting process we looked at other pieces of information in the organization that could be considered quick wins.  We found that the company already had an ordering system for all of their purchase orders for vendors and invoices for customers. The sales people didn’t have access to this system unless they were at the office and if they knew how to even use the system.  What we did was pipe that data directly into the CRM and connected it to their contacts. We then created dashboards and reports that they had access to immediately upon logging into the CRM. The sales people were blown away that they would be able to have a dashboard with their order information at their fingertips.  Goldmine, Maximizer and Outlook couldn’t do this.

I do this same approach with many of my clients these days and it’s even more powerful when they can see the information directly on their mobile phones.

#2 It’s OK to say failure

If your staff hate the CRM, you hate the CRM and you feel like you’re pushing the system down their necks – it’s time to kill it or even better – rescue it.  It happens and it’s usually a result of poor execution. I’ve seen it a few times where the CRM has become so bad that anytime somebody mentioned the name of the CRM, people would run for the hills or cringe.  It’s time to revisit the whole CRM and you wouldn’t be the first organization to do so.

How do you tell if it’s failure?  I mentioned hate, which is a strong word.  That’s probably the greatest sign but sometimes you’ll have some people who love it and the other half who hate it.  How do you handle that? This is where a rescue works well. The CRM is close but not close enough. There are a few tactics to cover off.

The first is understanding why half like it and the other half don’t.  We’re looking for the reasons to be in there but obviously there wasn’t enough to get everybody in there.  Once we uncover some winning formulas then we address this.

The other thing to consider is training.  Depending on your organization, you may have a mixture of baby boomers, Gen X’ers and millennials or one segment.  The training styles between these groups are incredibly different and require attention. It may be a simple issue of just not knowing how to use something and it requires a bit of care and review.  Sometimes retraining is all it takes.

Finally, is it the right tool.  There are a lot of CRM’s out there.  You may find out that the CRM you picked just isn’t what you hoped it would be and this is where the kill switch may be critical.

As you can see, there’s a lot that can go into understanding CRM adoption.  It’s a lot of work and it needs a lot of attention to detail to ensure that it succeeds.  If you spend the time upfront understanding a lot of these things it will help you determine the best path forward for your organization as you look to implement or continue using CRM in your business.