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Implementing CRM: how to deal with resistance?

Maxim Consulting - Agire il Domani - Rosario Carnovale - Senior Coach & Trainer - Coach, Sales Coach, Sales trainer, formatore, consulente

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I vividly remember my daughter’s first birthday. I was struck by the fact that she seemed to be much more interested in the shiny, colourful wrapping paper than in the actual presents, which she ignored for days.

This makes me think of what typically happens when sales and marketing directors get their hands on one of the most important innovations in recent times: CRM systems.

I’m speaking from personal experience as I worked for years as a sales manager for Oracle selling Sales Force and working with one of their main partners.

Whenever I checked on the implementation of the CRM systems in our client companies, I noticed that there was a tendency to make limited use of the tool because they had underestimated two main obstacles: adopting the new technology, and adopting new ways of working with clients.

Resistance to adopting the new technology

Once upon a time IT projects lasted 6-12 months, but now, thanks to the Cloud, they take much less time.

On the other hand, the system requirements of these tools require vendors to make fundamental changes to their work routines, e.g. uploading client data, and new approval processes.

The purchaser of these systems often, in my experience, underestimates the impact these changes have on their sales people and the resistance these changes generate, which can turn their investment into a problem rather than an opportunity.

Resistance to adopting new ways of working with clients

CRM involves adopting a very customer-centric approach, which is often at odds with the traditional product/service-focussed sales approach.

CRM requires sales people to focus less on quantity of sales and more on the quality of the sale, where client success is the vendor’s main concern.

In practice, this part of the process is often misunderstood and therefore not implemented, partly because vendors don’t understand why the system requires particular inputs from them, and in general because the means is confused with the end: the buyer believes they have a system that will bring about desired changes and doesn’t realise that the tool needs to be accompanied by a completely different approach to the market.

How to manage this resistance: two successful cases

We have developed a process for managing resistance to these tools, and recently helped a pharma multinational implement Aviva, and a Telecoms company develop a customer-centric approach to the market after acquiring Sales Force.

We supported change in both of these companies by making CRM implementation vendor-centric, in the same way that that CRM is customer-centric.

During the Kick-off of both programmes we used our Time to change solution, a day-long workshop with 3 stages:

  1. A presentation of the company objectives and how CRM will help the company achieve them.
  2. Collecting and sorting vendor experiences, (using images), and gathering ideas, questions, concerns and proposals (using post-its) with regards to implementing CRM.
  3. A presentation of the output from working with the vendors to the company decision-makers with the opportunity to address their main concerns.

Our Time to Change solution succeeded in both cases because vendors were involved in the implementation of the tool from the start, in a process which allowed them to learn about CRM and manage their concerns. The company decision-makers subsequently implemented change programmes based on the experiences, ideas, concerns and proposals of their vendors, greatly reducing implementation time and increasing ROI.

In my next post I will describe how to support the implementation of a CRM system, which, in my experience, begins when most companies think the job is done.

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