By John Paterson, CEO, Really Simple Systems

The features and functionality on offer within CRM may have changed beyond recognition over the past few decades but to what end? The truth is that user adoption – or lack of it – remains a huge, yet unspoken, problem. It is time to face up to the elephant in the room.

CRM Conflict

There is still a huge conflict between the desire of management and marketing to collect valuable, in depth customer and prospect data and the perceived burden on sales of recording that information. Simply adding social CRM or integrated Outlook to the mix is not enough to overcome what is perceived by sales to be both inconvenient and an oppressive ‘checking up’ culture.The result is that sales people do not update the customer information as often as they should; the quality of the information within the CRM drops and, with it, any perceived value. The rest of the business loses confidence and adoption levels plummet. It is a vicious circle familiar to far too many companies that have invested in CRM over the years.

So what can be done? Without doubt, those organisations that get CRM right are gaining significant benefits – for management, marketing and sales. There are some simple steps that can be taken that can ensure CRM attains and retains adoption across the board.

1. Appoint a CRM advocate – Nominating one, fairly senior, individual tasked to ensure the CRM system is adopted and continually updated is key to creating a valuable, up to date information resource. This individual should continually work with the sales team to encourage usage, ensure new joiners are immediately trained in CRM and, if the CRM advocate leaves, it is essential to make sure a new one is appointed.

2. Create a strong CRM culture – Management need to use the CRM. This top down culture is key to reinforcing the value of the information to the business – if a manager routinely refers to information within the CRM when discussing customers or prospects with a sales person, that individual will quickly recognise the importance of ensuring that information is up to date.

3. Spring clean the CRM - Keeping the CRM simple is key to ensuring sales people remain committed to updating information – those companies that add too many fields, especially mandatory fields, will rapidly disenfranchise the sales team. Routinely checking and simplifying the system is key to ensuring the information requests tie into current business and marketing goals rather than including fields relating to last year’s marketing campaigns.

4. Platform choice – While there are far fewer technology resistant sales people around these days, a multi-platform CRM enables a company to offer choice of device. Enabling individuals to use the tablet, mobile or laptop of choice to access the CRM will help to encourage higher levels of adoption.

5. Simplify Sales Tasks – From automatically creating sales forecasts to integrating CRM with other systems such as marketing to provide better insight into customer activity, with the right approach, the CRM should reduce sales admin and enhance the sales process.

The information within the CRM should be an invaluable resource that supports management, marketing and sales activities – it should not be an admin burden that results in sales people feeling put upon or disempowered. A combination of carrot and stick is key to embedding the CRM culture within the business – and a continual process of review and update will ensure it remains an essential corporate asset.