You Can Succeed in Your CRM Sales Rollout


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It’s amazing that surveys are still revealing poor results from sales rollouts of CRM. Take for example, a December 2004 survey conducted by, which found that few of the people surveyed believed that their firms—and, specifically, their sales teams—were achieving significant performance gains from CRM.

Such findings are both disappointing and very telling. They say that CRM rollouts to sales teams are still overlooking a few very significant implementation points:

  1. Salespeople are afraid of losing contacts.

  2. Many businesses lack a true sales process.

  3. Too often, CRM implementations are attempted on too large a scale.

Yet, by paying attention to these points, you can avoid mistakes that are common in CRM sales rollouts and, perhaps, buck the odds.

Fear of losing contacts

The human factor is always the most important aspect of rolling out technology—and the most often ignored.

Many CRM implementations fail miserably simply because the sales reps were afraid to lose their contacts. We see many executives choosing to rollout CRM to avoid losing the reps’ contacts when they leave the organization. It’s a valid concern, but these same executives often overlook how that translates to reps while they’re still with the company. They are afraid that if they add their contacts to the CRM system, they will not be able to retrieve them when they leave. As a result, they end up maintaining their live copy on their own laptop and only updating the minimum information in the CRM system. The result is nobody wins.

One effective solution is to offer a joint ownership policy with your sales reps. If the sales reps leave, they are guaranteed that they will be allowed to download a copy of their data. And you as a sales executive have a much more effective CRM tool in active use.

Lack of a sales process

Rolling out a CRM system to a sales team that does not follow a standard sales process is doomed to be nothing more than a glorified contact manager. Without a standard sales process, it is improbable that you will get an accurate forecast and nearly impossible to effectively coach the team. Your sales process should have standard sales stages with clearly defined milestones describing each stage.

The recommendation: Roll out a standard sales process even before implementing your CRM system—or at least roll it out with the CRM system. No process equals no forecast!

Implement in small, but complete, segments

For reasons unbeknownst to me, human psychology seems to drive people to make their initial rollout of CRM software as big as possible, including as many people, departments and obscure, unrelated functions as possible. While this may be a fun challenge, it is definitely not the path to CRM success. Instead, focus on small, but related, activities when planning your CRM rollout.

Rather than starting with an enterprise wide rollout including sales, marketing, and customer service. Focus on implementing a couple core processes, such as the sales process and the forecasting process.

Remember that processes are cross-functional in nature and may involve parties outside of the sales team. For instance, the sales process may start in the marketing department and it may not end until an order is shipped. Take the time to really map out how these processes currently work and how they could be improved before rolling out your CRM system. Otherwise your team will be forced to “figure it out” on their own, and be assured: the salespeople’s different methods will not be consistent and, probably, not efficient.

CRM used properly will be a valuable tool for your sales team. Negative press about failed CRM implementations is discouraging, and the task of befriending your CRM system is daunting. But the rewards for the company that gets it right are enormous. They enable you to forecast accurately, reproduce best practices and more easily scale your sales organization. Just try it by considering these three simple tips.

Good luck and happy selling.

Lance Kyle
Lance Kyle consults for organizations nationwide on improving performance of sales, marketing, and customer service teams. He founded Seattle-based Acetta in 2000 to enable midsize companies to better leverage enterprise technology solutions to enhance customer relationships. Kyle holds a bachelor of science in civil engineering from the University of Washington.


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