Your CRM becomes a tool when it subtly helps to guide your salespeople through each step of their process. - IMAGE: Getty Images

Your CRM becomes a tool when it subtly helps to guide your salespeople through each step of their process.

IMAGE: Getty Images

If you Google “CRM Implementation” or “CRM Adoption,” you’re likely to come across an endless number of companies that you can hire as consultants to improve your sales teams CRM usage. Notwithstanding many contributing factors such as industry, organization size, average employee age, etc., it is a huge challenge for organizations to implement and/or increase adoption of a CRM across their sales teams. Whether or not salespeople have current experience using a CRM, until you can effectively show them how it is a tool that will make their job easier, all they see and hear is “homework.”

There are a handful of key elements that can improve your success of increasing usage of a CRM across your sales team: 

  • Customization to fit your sales process
  • Training on the platform with a focus on how to use it for your specific sales process
  • Ongoing access to support
  • Consistent reporting availability and automation for your teams 

A true difference will only be seen if you implement a plan across your organization that encompasses all these factors.

There are CRM platforms on the market that have an out-of-the-box solution ready to go with generic fields and pipeline stages that you can fit your process into with little to no thought or effort. This may work for some, but it will probably result in mediocre usage or understanding from your sales team. Finding a CRM solution that provides the ability to customize sales funnel stages and other components throughout the platform, along with making the upfront time investment to decide on those customizations, can be the difference between a CRM being simply a data storage hub and a tool that benefits your business. 

As someone who has implemented CRMs for various size businesses, my experience has shown it is most beneficial to create a team or committee to collaborate on these decisions. This team may be made up of a top executive of the company, a sales team leader, marketing lead, senior salesperson, and additional sales team members as needed. Having diversity across this team ensures input from multiple perspectives surrounding the customer journey and sales process. 

Effectively Driving Efficiency 

Your CRM becomes a tool when it subtly helps to guide your salespeople through each step of their process. When they log an interaction with a prospect, are they prompted to schedule their next follow-up? Or when they move an opportunity into a deal stage, can they clearly see the next stage in the sales funnel that they should be working towards? These are important considerations when deciding on and customizing a CRM solution.

Once you have completed the customization process and run tests to ensure you are clear on exactly how everything flows through the system, you are ready to train (or re-train) your sales team. Most CRM companies provide training as part of their support. However, it is also crucial to have an internal team member that can jointly conduct the training for your staff alongside the CRM’s support team. The CRM support team will do a great job of teaching the technical aspects of utilizing the platform, but your team member will be able to supplement that more general training with guidance on how the platform works with your specific sales process and why certain fields are critical when they enter data into the platform. Educating the sales team on how the platform acts as a tool to drive their sales process will help them to see it as a resource, and something they should be investing time and energy into. 

The combination of an internal “owner” of the platform as well as a support contact through your CRM provider can make or break your adoption success. A one-time training may simply not be enough for some of your sales team members. They will fare far better knowing that they have an open-door resource to contact as needed with questions, for refreshers, and with ideas that may make the platform more efficient. If salespeople don’t find an easy way to access help, they will typically choose not to ask a question or confirm they’ve done something properly. This can lead to a domino effect of data entry errors that negatively impact usage of the platform, salesperson frustration, and inconsistent reporting (incorrect or missing data).

Reports That Make Sense

Reporting and the ability to generate the right reports is a major consideration. This should be discussed in depth with potential CRM providers before making a decision. It is important to find a CRM partner that has an interest in learning your business needs and commits to spending the necessary time to help you adopt their platform and build the reporting tools to meet your needs. 

For reports, think about what you and your team need to accomplish from the data. For example, do you want to see time an opportunity spends in a Verbal Commitment pipeline stage so you can identify opportunities that need attention to close? Do you want to see salesperson activity counts to determine if they are hitting the metrics you have established for proven success? Your reports should be built with an action item at the forefront. The Verbal Commitment report mentioned above can be a trigger for your salesperson to follow-up if an opportunity has been sitting in the pipeline stage too long, or it can be a trigger for a sales manager to get involved if a salesperson is struggling to progress an opportunity. Deciding on the action you’d like to be taken will help you determine what should be included in a report, who should receive that report, and how often is should be generated. The initial time investment to build reports and dashboards can be large, but taking advantage of automation tools within your CRM’s reporting platform will help to save a ton of time in the long run.

It is important to set proper expectations of time and resources when implementing a new CRM process or “fixing” an existing one to increase adoption. By investing in the right digital technology and providing training you are empowering your sales force to have more time to devote to other tasks. Set yourself up for success with the right team, time, and resources, which will lead to success in tackling all the components discussed here. Always be sure to celebrate small wins along the way, strengthen collaboration efforts, keep your team in synch, and you will realize great improvements.

Danielle Cumbee is director of sales integration for Spectrum Automotive Holdings.

Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today