For CRM, Partial Adoption is Total Failure 

Who could argue with the concept of keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers? From the CEO, to the VP of Sales, to the Sales Manager, right down the line to the sales team… everybody has a desire… a requirement actually… to know what is happening with their customers. Seems like CRM should be a slam-dunk.

CRM is worthless

It is not enough to simply “deploy” a CRM system, even Microsoft Dynamics 365. I find it amazing the number of companies that approach me with similar stories that their sales are flat, or they are losing customers because their systems can’t keep up. This is obviously a strong motivation for exploring CRM; you would think the strongest! I mean, these are real dollars either lost, or uncapturable. The entire purpose of a business is not making widgets; it is making revenue from the widgets they make. Often, this realization hits a company long before they actually take any real action, but eventually, necessity leads to an investigation of CRM. Many come in with the idea that CRM is something they can just “turn on”, and magically their problems will be gone. They soon realize that they should have started this process much earlier… and maybe even budgeted for it.

The Chinese Fire-Drill

I am not sure if my chinese friends would take offense at that, but basically I am referring to the concept of working like your hair is on fire. I find that once customers reach the conclusion that real revenue is being lost, they typically take one of two paths. They either, a) bury their head in the sand and hope that the problems will go away, or b) attempt to shift responsibility for the entire problem to the CRM partner, with a ridiculous deadline, all the while blaming the partner for the ongoing lost revenue every minute it takes to get them up-and-running. Believe it or not, there are actually partners who will stick their head up into that line-of-fire. Personally, I am not a fan of falling on someone else’s sword, but some customers will hide that sword until it’s too late. Obviously if they choose option a, then nothing to see here… move along. If they choose option b, well you just got a project… let’s hope it does not put you out of business. If you do a fire-drill project on a fixed cost, you are a moron, so these will always be time and materials. So what is the next question from that customer? You got it… “how much time will it take”?  This is the customer’s way of attempting to turn this T&M project into a fixed cost. But you are way too sharp for that so you respond with a wide range: “50 to 150 hours”, because you don’t know what you don’t know yet. The customers says “go”, and you are thinking to yourself, ha, I just got a 150 hour project, and the customer is thinking, ha, I’m getting this project done for 50 hours. This may end badly… but I digress. I know, I digress all the time, I can’t help writing what pops into my head even if it has nothing to do with my post title anymore.

Getting back on-topic

Which was… oh yes, CRM Adoption. It would be nice, if after all this time, we “experts” collectively had identified the single issue that causes lack of adoption of CRM, but in reality, there’s a minefield of things that can derail adoption. In my view, partial adoption is total failure. No customer has ever said to me “Ya know what, if even half of my users adopt CRM, I’ll be happy”. But, we can look at a couple of obvious mines. Let’s look at each end of the “all or nothing” approaches. At the far end we have the customer who buys CRM and nothing else. “We can figure this out on our own thank you; no need for a certified partner. Heck, we even installed a printer last week all by ourselves.” I find it fascinating that a customer, who might describe people who attempt to do what they do without any expertise as a bunch of yahoos, so quickly embrace yahooism. The opposite approach, and the one most often proposed by CRM partners is the “Boil the Ocean” approach. “Not only are we going to fix your losing customers problem, but we are also going to solve for every other problem in your business including a bunch you did not even know you had”. We’re gonna build the Taj Mahal of CRM! This is how a customer can spend 6 or 7 figures and end up with an un-adoptable CRM. Don’t get me wrong, I get how this works for the partner… but the customer ends up in the flotsam and jetsam of yet another failed deployment.

Turning the Deployment model upside-down

We have had tremendous success with taking a contrarian approach to CRM deployment. Save all of the “Requirements Gathering”, “Visioning Sessions”, and “Fit/Gap Analyses”, and other upfront efforts for later. Think in terms of a “Minimum Viable Deployment” with the goal being to get the users to adopt something simple. This is what our RapidStart CRM model is all about. Most efforts to accelerate this process, regardless of the client’s desire for instant full gratification, fail. A Partner needs to think beyond getting the customer to spend the maximum amount of money as quickly as possible, and instead place success and a long-term relationship as the priority. Unfortunately this approach is challenging in a commission based sales compensation model. Partners need to re-think commission based compensation for CRM projects if they want to succeed long-term.

Add your thoughts below, just don’t pimp your stuff on my blog 🙂


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