Not so long ago I wrote a post called ‘The coming Zombie CRM Apocalypse and what to do about it’. The gist of the post was that a lot of CRM systems, while technically functioning, don’t contribute much to the health of the organisations that run them.

While I outlined a number of steps to avoid a system becoming zombified, I didn’t, as someone quite rightly pointed out, suggest any potential solutions if it already was.

So the purpose of this post is to outline an action plan for reviving a Zombie CRM system.

Step 1 – Understand the current ‘as is’

The starting point is to really understand how your current system is being is used, by whom, and for what, and how far this differs from the original vision from when the system was first implemented.

Reviewing documentation such as requirements specifications, training guides, and user manuals should give a picture as to what was originally envisioned.

The actual usage patterns can be derived from observing and interviewing users, as well reviewing system data to see how closely, comprehensively, and consistently they follow the documented processes in the system.  Reviewing key outputs such as reports, as well as usage statistics (times logged on, new records created, system updates made etc.) by user, can also be telling.

But the end of this step it should be possible to identify what processes are being supported, how well they’re being supported, and gauge the business value being generated.

Step 2 – Understand why you are where you are

Assuming all is not entirely as you’d wish it to be, then understanding why you are where you are is going to be key to turning the system around. If you can’t understand what went wrong the first time around, then the likelihood is you will repeat the mistakes of the past with the same results.

Common issues include:

  • Ill-defined business objectives
  • Lack of clarity on how the system should be used
  • Poor initial system set up
  • Inadequate training
  • Weak user adoption support
  • Lack of support from senior management
  • Underinvestment in the system
  • Lack of trust in the implementation partner

One area to be a little circumspect on is blame placed on the technology itself. While this may be an issue, the software is commonly held responsible whereas the problem often lies elsewhere.

Step 3 – Understand what your CRM software can do

A lot of issues stem from a lack of understanding of the full potential of the CRM software being used, particularly as functionality may have significantly increased since the system was first implemented. Taking the time to really explore what’s available and how it can be applied to your organisation can pay big dividends at this stage.

Step 4 – Review the areas not currently supported

In step one, we established which areas of the organisation were using, or were meant to be using the CRM system. In this step, it’s worth reviewing all of the organisation’s customer-facing processes in order to identify if there are any which the system could beneficially support. It’s surprising how often there are good opportunities to extend the CRM system into new areas that are currently poorly supported by technology.

Step 5 – Develop a prioritised plan

Based on your understanding of how the system is currently being used, and how it could be used, develop a prioritised plan to revitalise the system. This may involve both better support for processes that are already supported, as well as deployment into new parts of the organisation.  Focus should be on the areas where:

  • You can make a difference quickly
  • Where you can get results cost-effectively
  • Where users will support the use of the system
  • Where metrics are available to track improvements

If your CRM system hasn’t been performing, then people are unsurprisingly going to be wary of investing too much energy into what’s seen as a failing system. Picking your shots and focusing on the areas where you can make a measurable difference is key to establishing a virtuous circle which will allow you to turn things around. Trying to do too much in one go is unlikely to be successful. The emphasis needs to be on tracking results and demonstrating improvement, in order to justify further investment in the system.

Step 6 – Put the supporting infrastructure in place

Building on the analysis as to what went wrong in the first place, make sure that measures are in place to address any identified shortcomings. Key items to include are:

  • Clear documentation on how the system will support each process
  • Defined data quality standards
  • Appropriate training
  • Monitoring of usage and data quality

The thing to bear in mind is that systems rarely under-perform because of, or, at least, solely because of, problems with the underlying technology. Addressing these softer, less-tangible, aspects of deploying a system is critical for success.

Step 7 – Focus like crazy on adoption

Having determined who should now be using the system for what, made any changes to the system to support these processes, then the remaining goal is make sure the people use it in the intended manner. As this is the point of failure for most deployments of CRM technology, this step shouldn’t be taken lightly. The main thing is to accept changing the way people work isn’t trivial, and involves a lot more than offering training. While user adoption is a multi-faceted process, and beyond the scope of this post at least, the core is to take a proactive approach, carefully monitoring usage patterns and taking action where appropriate.

In summary, there are a lot of zombie systems out there, but it is a condition that can be reversed. The key is to accept that the problem probably doesn’t lie with the technology itself.

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Sales automation technology

by Richard Boardman on May 31, 2015

One of the big movements in recent years has been the rise of marketing automation technologies such as Marketo, Eloqua, and Pardot (to name but a few). These systems are designed to help marketers move prospects through the sales funnel from initial interest to leads that are sufficiently qualified to pass to the sales team.

The rise in marketing automation technology went very much hand in hand with the advent of content marketing techniques. The idea being that by making useful content, such as white-papers and newsletters, available on their websites via sign-up, marketers could nurture and develop the relationship with the potential buyer and turn them into a sales-ready lead.

Managing large volumes of sign-ups, and working out which were genuine leads, was something that was difficult to manage without supporting technology. Marketing automation allowed marketers to set up drip marketing campaigns where a sequence of emails could be sent over time with the objective of both educating and building a relationship with the prospect.

Lead-scoring functionality allowed the marketer to score prospects and identify ‘hot leads’ by monitoring how they a reacted to content such as website visits and email opens.

Interestingly these sorts of techniques are being applied to the world of direct sales. This perhaps reflects a renewed regard for traditional outbound sales techniques in a world increasingly saturated with content.

Companies such as Toutapp and Outreach.io (and others I’m sure) provide salespeople with capabilities such as:

Email tracking – allowing salespeople to see who is opening, for example, prospecting emails, whether links are being followed, attachments opened, and monitoring subsequent web-site visits – thereby offering potentially critical intelligence about who their best prospects may be.

Template management – allowing companies to build a suite of reusable email templates , which can be reviewed and A/B tested over time to improve response rates.

Run drip campaigns – allowing the sales team to set up an automated sequence of email communications and phone calls, which, again, can be tested and optimised over time to increase effectiveness.

CRM integration – both these packages currently integrate with Salesforce.com, but I imagine we will see integrations with other CRM systems in due course.

These sorts of technologies are very interesting, and I suspect have the power to transform a sales team’s performance, particularly if they’re involved in cold outreach. Though I suspect there are a wealth of other potential use cases.

I think this is likely to be a big growth technology sector in the coming years, and, if you’re running a direct sales operation, well worth exploring, or at least keeping tabs on.

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How to implement a CRM system – fast

May 17, 2015

We’ve worked on a few projects in recent months where there was a compelling need for the system to be implemented quickly. This isn’t as easy as it might first appear. There’s only so much that you can compress the major building blocks of a CRM implementation, such a requirements definition, vendor selection, design, build, [...]

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The increasing power of CRM portal technology

May 4, 2015

One interesting area of CRM technology whose potential seems yet to be fully realised is the use of portals. A portal is a website that serves as a gateway to the CRM system, and allows third parties, such as customers or partners, the ability to create and update records within the CRM system without being [...]

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How to gather and document a CRM requirements specification – The ebook

April 23, 2015

I’ve written a lot over the years about the importance of requirements gathering when implementing CRM systems. For me, the CRM requirements specification is the foundation of a CRM project, and I don’t believe there’s any other element that has as much influence on ultimate success or failure. What’s surprising however is that there’s so little [...]

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The zombie CRM apocalypse and ways to avoid it

April 6, 2015

In October last year I passed the ten year milestone as an independent CRM consultant, and at some point in 2015, all being well, I’ll pass the twenty year mark of working in the CRM industry. I mention this because back in the early days tales of CRM project failures abounded. Perhaps this reflected the [...]

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Getting people to use CRM software – two key foundations

March 15, 2015

It doesn’t matter how successful you may have been in selecting the right CRM technology for your organisation and customising it to fit your specific needs, if you can’t get people to use it in a consistent and structured way, then it’s not going to generate much value. Despite the progress that’s been made with [...]

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Specifying CRM functional requirements – twelve things that often get missed

March 3, 2015

In the ‘how to document CRM requirements’ series (part one, if you missed it, can be found here) I noted that there were a lot of areas that people tended to miss when setting out their functional requirements for a CRM system. So the following is a list of twelve items that commonly don’t get [...]

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Waterfall V Agile for CRM projects – why the choice of implementation approach matters

March 2, 2015

If you’re implementing a new CRM system and have been talking to potential vendors about how they would approach a project, I suspect the word ‘agile’ features strongly in their presentations. Go back a few short years though and you would have been hard-pressed to hear the word ‘agile’ being used in many conversations about [...]

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A guide to phasing a CRM project

January 11, 2015

In my recent series on requirements gathering, I noted the need to document the phasing of a CRM implementation. I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that phasing is one of the most critical aspects of implementing a CRM system successfully, and so figured this might merit some further elaboration. Perhaps the starting point [...]

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