Friday, February 22, 2008

15) Steps to converting an unused CRM system to PACT

If you agree with the premise of my research on "The CRM Dilemma", (Why would you be reading this if you didn't?) It probably means you have implemented CRM to great fanfare and promise, only to have your sales force ignore the tools you have given them. You may have tried various sticks and carrots resulting in no marked improvement in usage, or a move to "Gaming" by your sales force. The challenge then is how to resuscitate the system you have, without falling back into the activity control trap that your sales force rebelled against in the first place. It is my contention that this can be done, but it will require a determination to provide a system that your sales force will really view as a tool, NOT a threat. To follow are some steps you can use to achieve this important conversion in attitude.

PACT = Planning and Communication Tool
  1. Admit the problem: This may be the hardest part. I am no longer employed because I did this before the problem was identified in our North American role out (The Canadian implementation had failed because of the "CRM Dilemma".) To state that "Our sales force is not willing to record their activities, because they don't trust that we won't use the information against them" is a very bold step that will be welcomed by the sales force, but may be panned by others. This admission shows that we are virtually powerless to understand the day-to-day activities by sales reps, in a quantifiable fashion. You will be amazed at the audible sigh of relief you will hear from your sales force when you remove this tremendous burden from them.
  2. Restate the original goals of CRM for your company: You didn't implement CRM in order to control the activities of your sales force, activity controls are an unintended by-product stemming from the desire to offer better service to your customers. By restating these original goals, you set the stage for a new understanding with your sales force and open the door for a new PACT with them.
  3. Do an analysis of current planning practices: There needs to be an admission from the sales force that they could do a better job planning their activities. If I were hired by a company to perform this task, I would spend time travelling with various sales reps to identify gaps in activity planning. There needs to be a level of trust in identification of these gaps that does not single out individuals. Planning practices by department heads and executives must also be evaluated to ensure the messages that are reaching the sales force are clear and consistent. I have personally seen situations where sales reps are confused as to their objectives because different departments are giving them conflicting messages on what priorities they should be focused on.
  4. Evaluate the information needs of customers: I have always been a top salesman, not because I was a "close friend" to my customers, but because I was able to identify what they wanted to know. Not just about the products I was selling, but providing them information that they would be interested in, and that would impact their business or their lives. For example: A contractor customer is interested in your products, but provide him or her with a market analysis of their industry, and you become a hero to them. Help them to get more business and they will buy your products.
  5. Evaluate the information needs of your internal customers: Yesterday, I spoke with a friend that had a problem because she wasn't able to obtain a particular piece of business information on a consistent basis. I showed her how by creating a simple "Google Alert," she could have this information delivered to her as soon as it was made available. I suspect there are many people like her in most organizations. Now she will be able to plan her activities easily because she will be able to consistently get the information she needs. In previous posts, I outlined some ideas on the types of reports sales reps need in order to effectively plan their activities. Providing these reports is key to a successful PACT with users.
  6. Plan to provide all the required information: This is where I get into trouble with my friends in IT because I do not provide a magical application to accomplish this, nor do I offer a solution package. The key is that in order to plan activities, employees need to go to one source to find the information that is customized to the customer.
  7. Understand and declare what is and what isn't required to be communicated: For the new PACT to be successful, (Used consistently) "High Card" activities (Information that must be communicated in order to progress the sale, or provide feedback that MUST be acted upon) can be the only recording required in PACT. With the exception of training or disciplinary "One offs" identified previously, departments cannot be permitted to add "Low Card" activity recording to PACT. This may have the same implications identified in step one, so executive champions are required to keep consistency in this message.
  8. Remove all "Low Cards" from your current CRM application: As painful as this sounds, the days of the "Tick box fields" need to be over. You don't trust the information anyways, so in order to send a positive message of change, all quantifiable information on "Low Cards" needs to be deleted. You will hear yet another cheer from your sales force when they see this has been done! Please don't assume you can leave the information in and it is enough to say that your sales force no longer needs to populate the fields. Quantifiable data remains a "Threat" as long as it exists.
  9. Add "High Card" fields and tags to PACT: This step shouldn't be too difficult assuming your company email system is integrated with your CRM system. If "High Cards" are currently communicated through emails, there simply needs to be a link between the customer and that email. If you open the customer record, you need to be able to see the "High Cards" recorded against that customer. There also needs to be customer feedback fields, suited to your organization, that customer-facing employees can use to provide "High Card" feedback. As mentioned before, the ability for employees to view cumulative feedback is as important as managers viewing it.
  10. Conduct a pilot of PACT: CRM training has long been forgotten. Users need to be retrained and reminded what the new PACT is all about. Conduct a pilot study to ensure user understanding and acceptance.
  11. Make sure the PACT is being honored: With the removal of "LowCard" activity recording, comes new accountability in using the PACT system to its' fullest. Sales reps cannot assume the company has "Rolled over" but rather is providing new tools that are designed to help them sell, instead of watching and quantifying their individual activities. Users and managers alike must be held accountable for their planning and communication activities on a continual basis. Reports of appointments being recorded against customer records and the planning reports requested will be the key indicators of user acceptance.

In my next post I will continue to provide evidence of the value of the information gathered through the PACT system and tackle the issue of The dreaded pipeline.

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