Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Effective Training Improves Your Chances of CRM Success

October 1, 2015

How do you get your sales team to embrace your CRM solution? Training is the first and most critical step.

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The statistics are grim. The percentage of companies who have successfully implemented and continue to use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is rising, but there are still a lot of salespeople who are hiding their Rolodexes in a drawer, maintaining their customer contact records in overflowing file folders, and trying to use Microsoft Outlook to track their interaction with clients.

What are the barriers that separate salespeople from their CRM solutions? There are many, including:

The complexity of the application. CRM software and websites are — necessarily — deep, multi-function, complex solutions with a lot of moving parts. They contain in-depth customer information templates that can help salespeople build exceptionally thorough profiles of every contact. They track historical and current interaction, and, sometimes, real-time social network engagement. They document the sales pipeline. These are very different types of activity, yet they function as integrated elements of the same system. Quite the challenge for both developer and user.

The time required to keep the system updated. State-of-the-art CRM applications make use of existing data, letting you import contact and other information. Some support connections to social media sites, and most can have their functionality extended by integration with third-party add-ons like marketing solutions. Older software requires more data entry, and even the newer ones need attention every day. Salespeople would rather be chasing leads and closing sales than updating their CRM data.

Impatience, frustration, and unwillingess to wait for results, understanding, and insight. It can take months for a CRM solution to start providing the kind of feedback that can help salespeople paint detailed pictures of their prospects and customers — and see when and where they should be engaging with them. A great deal of data input is required first. Which is not to say that CRM applications can’t be of use from day one. They just grow “smarter” as they learn more.

Training can help your sales team overcome all of these obstacles. Here are some suggestions for you to consider as you take on this task.

  • Write and distrbute a problem/solution/benefits summary to get your salespeople thinking about this new tool in general terms — before you start getting into specifics.
  • Involve everyone.
  • Learn what you’ll be using. Don’t overload staff with training on features they won’t need.
  • Encourage the salespeople to develop their own daily routines. Make CRM engagement a habit. This is your golden opportunity to stress general CRM best practices.
  • If it’s feasible, break the training exercises into chunks. Cover one area, like creating profiles, and let the team start entering their own live data. When they’re confident at that, move on to the next feature.
  • Check in with everyone individually to see how they’re absorbing — and liking — the new application. This is a process you should continue even after everyone is off on their own with it. Consider refresher training courses.

Ideally, of course, training should start as soon as you’ve chosen a solution. But if you’re already using one without much success, it’s not too late to back up and get a fresh start.

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