You implemented yet another CRM system, and deep down, you felt that this one was “the one”. You were going to share everything – where you’d been, who you met, what you said, everything. But a few months down the line, it’s not working out as you expected. You’re not spending much time with each other, communication has broken down, and you’ve been dreaming about that new CRM that keeps showing up on Google.
STOP! I’ve seen and built many systems over the years, and more often than not, most of the problems people find with their CRM isn’t actually the fault of the CRM, it’s them.
I’m going to tell you about five common reasons for breakups, and I’ll also explain how to overcome them so that you can build a long-lasting, happy relationship with your customers and your CRM.
1. You’ve jumped straight in and haven’t thought this through
I know it’s tempting to just get the fields in and start putting data in, but you’ve probably learnt the hard way that it’s the wrong approach. This is regardless of the types of CRM. Its the same for Zoho, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and others. Don’t get suckered into building straight away, even if it looks easy.
You need to do four things first:
Step One – Find out what you do and what needs to go in the CRM.
I don’t mean what industry you’re in or even your business model. I mean, what steps do you actually do when managing prospects and turning them into customers. You don’t need to do time and motion studies, but you might be surprised by what you think you do and what you and your team actually do.
Step Two – Name the steps!
This might sound weird, but by naming the steps, you actually define the actions that need to happen and can see what’s a rule and what are the exceptions. Don’t just number them, make it descriptive such as “Draft Quote Generated”.
Step Three – Design your ideal process flow.
To see just what you’ve made and it’s complexity, you’ll need to record them in diagrams — writing down as bullet points hides the complexity of what you do.
Use Data Flow Diagrams, Entity Relationship Models or Object Orientated design if you’re comfortable with that. This may be new to you, but show the steps of your processes and how they get from one to another, including decision points such as product-specific steps. It’s a good idea to ask someone else to look at it and provide critical feedback.
Step 4 – What does the chosen CRM do and can it match your processes?
Look at the CRM system’s functionality. How does it work? You may need some help on this, but you need to make sure that what you’ve designed can be fulfilled by a CRM system.
When confronted by a process, I ask my clients why certain things have to be done in a particular way. Sometimes the CRM system solves a problem such as multi-level approval processes dependent on a product being sold. You might find that a good CRM system will simplify your processes, and you may also be tempted to make your process more complex because now you can. Resist the urge to just rely on the CRM’s functionality to dictate the process.
How do you decide what’s essential to keep and remove? Set priorities and make a list:
- Must Have
- Should Have
- Could Have
- Won’t Have At This Time
People tend to get fixated on CRM features, and this can be a trap. Don’t focus on these exclusively and make sure your business processes can be mapped effectively.
Having said that, be flexible! Sometimes there’s a better way of doing something, and your existing processes are likely to have been built up by your previous system. You can now think of better ways to achieve the same outcome.
2. You don’t understand relationships (or relational databases at least)
This sounds technical but isn’t really. Most good CRMs allow you to define your processes through the use of records and fields. If multiple records are required in your process, then these can be linked together, whether manually by the user or automatically.
Here’s an example: a Quote can be generated for a prospect and sent out. This involves two or more records, the Prospective customer and the Quote record. These are naturally linked if you use the CRM correctly, i.e. you create a Quote directly from a button on the prospect’s page.
Some people assume the CRM behaves like a spreadsheet and try to treat it like that. That won’t work. A spreadsheet is flat, even if you use multiple tabs in the spreadsheet, it isn’t a relational database.
Good CRMs allow you to customise their tables to fit your processes, rather than cramming all the details onto a single page of the CRM. I see many companies with a CRM strategy of trying to imitate their old spreadsheets or system – trying to get your new CRM to behave like your old spreadsheet is plain wrong.
Chances are one of the reason’s your CRM is not working for you is that you’re not taking advantage of the structure. An understanding of the ideal database structure will help you work out if your current CRM can handle your process.
3. You’re not sharing enough with each other (your data is incomplete)
So we’ve talked about the processes for generating the data and the CRM structure to support the processes. Let’s talk about the data itself. One of the reasons your CRM system is not giving you clever insights into your customers is because you haven’t given it the right information either. Your CRM is only going to be as good as your data inputs. Garbage in, garbage out.
This brings us back to your process (they really are critical to getting this right). When you enter information in, you need to make sure it’s complete and accurate so it can be used. Let’s look at an example.
The CRM system can generate a Contract document which can be sent directly to the customer for digital signing. In order to generate the correct contract, you may need to enter some data in fields such as dates and prices, maybe even some descriptions and SLAs. If that information isn’t in the CRM system because not all the fields were filled in, then the CRM can’t automatically generate the contract.
There are ways you can get the CRM to help fill in the gaps in your data, either by calculating information such as dates based on a built-in formula or through external APIs. A well designed CRM will help you rather than hinder you.
Pro Tip: Use mandatory field rules to make sure important fields aren’t left empty.
If you’ve just migrated data from another CRM and are finding that it doesn’t work in the new system, chances are you’ve got incomplete and missing records. My advice is to use spreadsheets to fix the data and then reimport it. I’ve written an article on the best way to clean up data and import it into Zoho. Still, the data clean-up part is also applicable to other CRM systems.
4. You didn’t find out enough about the CRM (building a system you don’t fully understand)
If any of the steps required to build your CRM or reviewing whether your current system is fit for purpose seems difficult or time-consuming, then you’ll need professional help in building your CRM.
One of the most common reasons customers end up going to a CRM specialist regarding their implementation is because they’ve tried to build it themselves. Even if they understand their processes, the system they’ve ended up with still doesn’t do what they want. This could be because they lack the detailed product knowledge of how to set up a CRM process for their unique situation.
Make sure the system allows you to use your existing or improved processes. One of the reasons I see lots of systems underperforming, even after it was implemented with an understanding of the business processes and CRM structure, is that the person building the system couldn’t say no. They end up saying yes to every request from the business and the system gets designed by committee.
It requires a critical eye and the ability to sometimes say no to requests by the business if they’re not necessary at this time. This might mean phasing the functionality in, so not everyone gets their wish list at the same time.
5. You’ve stopped learning about each other (train your staff, improve the system)
The best CRM implementation in the world is useless if the users don’t know how it works. This might sound obvious, but some people don’t realise that it’s often the CRM training phase that makes or breaks a system. I’ve had people tell me that their system isn’t very good because it can’t do what they want. When I take a look, I sometimes find it does what they need it to, but they just haven’t been taught how to use it.
A very common sight is that all users have admin privileges. There could be a number of reasons for this, such as, poor implementation or staff haven’t been trained properly, so they rely on the admin privileges “cheat mode” which enables access to everything, including the settings. This breaks processes and is a common indicator of poor training and set-up.
Training can take multiple forms because different users learn in different ways. Also, people forget, so you’ll need to keep their understanding of the system refreshed. I’ve found the following training methods particularly effective for training users:
- Hands-on classroom-based user training, usually run by an internal champion
- Online training courses which allow you to learn at your own pace. Ahem, like mine đź™‚
- Training manuals and guidebooks made specific to your processes
What to do next?
You may think that the CRM you picked isn’t a good fit anymore because you’re growing and it can’t keep up with your needs. That could be true. You might also have picked a bad system at the outset because you didn’t understand your business processes well enough.
To avoid a costly breakup with yet another CRM system, think through the points above first. If you have any questions or need “CRM counselling”, get in touch, and I’ll do what I can to help.