So if you’ve already bought a CRM tool and are unsure as to how to use it, start with this piece of wisdom: nothing kills CRMs faster than big expectations and lofty goals that are implemented all at once.
If you go in expecting your CRM tool to instantly solve all your problems, you’re not managing your expectations and will end up disappointed. Your CRM tool isn’t going to solve all your business problems, but it should solve a defined set of problems. If you try to use your CRM tool for activities or data it is not intended for, it simply won’t serve its purpose. Here are some of the common mistakes companies make when it comes to introducing a CRM tool:
The reality of the matter is that there are only 9 hours or 540 minutes in a typical workday. So how many of those minutes can your salespeople spare to enter their data into the tool? The quicker it is for them to input their information, the better. Nobody loves CRM, and you aren’t magically going to make people fall in love with it either. But what you can do is make it as easy and efficient as possible for people to use.
The ultimate goal of CRM is to use the tool in order to simplify the business processes that are important to you and provide sales related reporting. For example, if you need seven sets of data in order to make a forecast, this should form your core CRM system so stick to that. Don’t simply add fields that you believe would be “nice to have”. I would go further and say do not include fields or processes that are not going to be reported on or analysed today.
The first step in getting the most out of your CRM system is to understand what it can actually do. In the beginning, it might be useful to work with an expert. They’ll be able to listen to your needs and vision. They can also guide you on how to use the tool, what it can and cannot do, the best way to set it up for your users, and how to build your reports.
If you’re going to invest money in a tool while also expecting your people to invest time into it, you should employ a designated CRM administrator. This person would help you understand the tool: its features, benefits, and limitations. They will also configure the tool to work the best it can be. A CRM administrator helps you determine and prioritize your expectations based on the complexity for the users, and impact to the business. They’d then make a plan on how to phase in the implementation of fields and processes into your CRM system over the next 6 to 18 months. Implement the most simple data entry that has the greatest business impact first.
The administrator would also play a role in making the tool as quick and intuitive as possible for your users to input their data. As a result, they’d play a key role in helping you see your vision for the CRM system through while also simplifying it enough for users to actually use it.
You also should evaluate your mindset towards the CRM system. If you start off trying to do everything with it, in a year you might find that you end up doing nothing. So if your CRM tool is being set up to solve a series of problems, start by implementing it at 20%, and incrementally increase this percentage. Every three months, for instance, you could introduce a new feature or field for data entry. Eventually, it will become part of daily life for all your employees because they’ve had time to get used to it. When your users adopt your tool, it becomes easier for you to slip in a new requirement for them to fulfill which further enhances your transparency and reporting.
How you set up your CRM tool can eliminate data entry mistakes, or even the perennial problem of blank fields. Think about the information you want to receive, and the most efficient way for you to get that information from an employee who has only a few minutes a day to devote to your CRM tool.
It is best to reverse-engineer your CRM tool. Consider the information you need for your sales forecast and the report you need to create. From here, define field types and methods of data entry, then create the fields and processes in the CRM tool to fulfill this report. Nothing more.
One good tip is to use pick lists rather than free text fields wherever possible. Not only do pick lists save time, they also eliminate human errors such as spelling mistakes. You may start off thinking that your pick lists should include 50 choices, for instance. At this point, stop and ask yourself if you really need this level of granularity. Historically, of all the opportunities, what are the choices that are used 80% of the time? This will give you a much smaller list to work with, and you can add an “other” section to capture what you have missed.
Indeed the 80-20 rule is a useful one to apply to get most of the data you need without complicating things for the user.
A company wanted to track ‘competitors per opportunity’. At first, it was simple: if an opportunity was closed, a text field had to be filled in. Being a mandatory field, the data entry was at 100%. However, there were spelling mistakes, some people entered the word ‘none’, and other small issues.
So the company came up with a brilliant idea to make data entry perfect. The field was replaced with a custom tool. First, you’d have to search for the competitor’s name in the database. Your selection was then linked to the opportunity, allowing multiple selections of real companies. However, the process was so complicated, it took almost as long to search for and select the competitor than it took to fill in the rest of the opportunity! This method also didn’t make the field mandatory. The company went from 100% filled pretty good and usable data, to 1% filled perfect data.
Another example of overburdening your employees would be naming conventions for opportunities. If you give employees very specific ways in which to name their opportunities (date-initials-company name-product), you’ll find that people will be put off from data entry in general. Or, they won’t do it at all, or do it improperly so your system does not work. It ends with both you and your people feeling frustrated.
A good CRM system that has been optimally configured for its users shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of their time. For example, if your tool requires more than twenty pieces of data from its users, it runs the risk of being too time consuming, and therefore less likely to be properly adopted. The goal is to simplify the data entry fields so that the user spends the least amount of time on it, but management gets the most data out of it.
I always said “one country, one division, one manager, one spreadsheet”. Even if you are not using CRM, typically every manager has some version of a master spreadsheet that they expect their employees to fill in. At the end of the day, if they have 20 people working under them, they will end up with 20 versions of the same spreadsheet. As a result, creating a pipeline or funnel by consolidating data across the team becomes a challenge and is hugely time consuming.
As suggested, it is relatively easy to reverse engineer and map the spread sheet fields to your CRM system. Once you show the manager how easy it is to run their live up-to-date report, they gladly become your ally. The same manager will then take responsibility to remind their 20 people to use the tool. While employees fill in a set of fields for this manager, don’t forget that the same fields can be used in countless reports across the organisation. The data collected can therefore be used repeatedly!
One of the most common errors that people make when setting up their CRM system is that they try to fit in their most complex and layered sales processes into the CRM. While it may make sense to concurrently evaluate ERP data and CRM figures, it’s better to keep them separate and not integrate your ERP data directly into the CRM system.
Instead, I would advocate that you adopt a “less is more” approach with your CRM systems. If you think you want to have 100 fields, for instance, go through each of them one by one, and by the process of elimination arrive at 20. You want the most concise, consolidated information. That happens when you don’t collect data you don’t need, and choose to work with a very specific set of goals for your CRM tool.
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VP Portfolio & Business Dev for Digital Buildings | Former Vice President APAC