People, Process, Technology; working in harmony

Mike makes the point very well that an effective CRM system is not just about the technology.  It should go without saying that it must also be about the people who will use and benefit from it. What is often missed though is the process.

A CRM system is like any other computer system; you get the business process right first and then you provide a computer system to make those processes easier to use, more efficient and more effective.  But what often happens is that the business processes are archaic, incomplete or full of compromises arising from having been originated from manual systems or systems based on much older technologies.  So, if you then install a CRM to “automate” or “computerise” those incomplete and compromised business processes then you are computerising an imperfect situation and this typically makes the position worse.

Another issue with CRM systems that we see all too often is that they tend to be primarily focused on helping the marketing function but they require input from the sales people to complete the loop.  This often leads to the situation where the sales people see themselves as providing data to the CRM system while getting very little information or knowledge in return.  I have heard it said, paraphrasing; “I have a really hard week then I have to spend my own time on the CRM doing admin!”.  If they at some point fail to enter the data and no-one notices or chases them, this also reinforces their admin/bureaucracy perception.

On the other hand, if the CRM system is in complete harmony with the way the sales people work then they are far less likely to see it as just admin.  If the CRM supports the sales people, provides them with selling aids and provides useful information then they will see it as a valuable tool and they will engage in using it properly.  To ensure this happens the CRM must not only reflect the way the sales people actually work, but picking up on a point made by Mike in his article, the CRM system must also reflect the sales cycle stages.  Only then will you see sales people treating the CRM as a tool to help them rather than as an onerous admin task.

I said above “..the CRM must reflect the way the sales people actually work ..”.  It would be nice if this was always true. It is common that companies do not have in place a complete, end-to-end, sales and selling process and therefore the sales people tend to function as individuals, within the confines of a set of loose rules.  It thus follows that if each sales person interprets their role in their own way then there is no common system and the CRM will not be a perfect fit for the way any of the sales people actually work.

For all these reasons we recommend that a company should define and install complete end-to-end sales and selling processes, then train the whole team in the processes and then launch the CRM system built around and supporting the processes.  The design of the processes should reflect the strategy for the business taking note of the way the business wants to take its proposition to market and eradicating anything that might have become established bad practice.  In this way the people, the processes and the technology will function in complete harmony to the mutual benefit of all concerned.
Strictly, we are now talking about Sales Process Automation (SPA) rather than CRM and we will expand on this in a future article.