The Essential CRM Guide

Navigating the CRM Maze: This article is an excerpt from our free CRM Essentials ebook series.

Updated October 2022

You know those maps that say ‘you are here’? They’re a great help if you only knew where ‘here’ was. Then there are the maps that show you where you need to be, but they don’t always show you how to get there. The best maps, of course, are those that show you where you are, where you are going and, ideally, have the occasional ‘here be monsters’ warning.

Well, here’s your first here be monsters warning! If you’re new to CRM systems, or if you have limited knowledge of them, the last place you want to start looking for information is from vendors of CRM systems. Not that I have anything against vendors – on the contrary, I have been a vendor of one sort of software system or the other – but the fact remains that vendors want to sell you something and, as such, they are not the best source of objective information.

The journey to find the right CRM software system for your organization is full of hazards, with pitfalls for the unwary and wrong turns for the misinformed. The market is saturated with CRM products, with thousands of vendors and consultants looking for the next deal, and finding the right product for your business requires more than a perfunctory search. This book will give you tips on how to avoid the pitfalls, guidance on putting the right project team together, and advice on selecting a CRM system to suit your organization.

The only place to start looking for any business software system is within your business – by specifying your requirements. However, as we have already pointed out, CRM is more than just a software system. This means that not only do you begin with mapping your business specifications; you also have to take a careful and in-depth look at the soft skills within your business. Be aware that some of your greatest difficulties could well come from your own staff.

Generally, your employees should be the people you can rely on to deliver results, but is that always the case? Think about the relationship between management and staff. Is it based on mutual trust and respect, or is it a ‘what’s in it for me’ relationship? What have you done to ensure that your staff has the right mix of skills to do their jobs? Think about what your staff thinks of you and your business. Ask yourself how your employees feel about working for the company.

The bad news is that if you treat your staff as if you have done them a favor by giving them a job, they probably won’t use the CRM system – no matter what package you choose. If your staff training program has never gone beyond on-the-job training, they are unlikely to have the required skills – no matter what package you choose.

The easiest way to establish what your staff thinks about you, your management style, or working for the company is to look around the walls of their cubicles, on personal notice boards, anywhere they might pin up or stick the tell-tale signs. If you see signs that say ‘if you want loyalty, get a dog’, or signs that say ‘you can’t fire me, slaves have to be sold’ then you know you have a lot of work to do. These are the signs that tell you that the staff doesn’t care a damn about the organization, because they don’t believe that the organization cares a damn about them. These are the people who you will expect to support you during the installation, who you expect to help get the business through each installation and implementation crisis.

All staff in any given organization take their lead from the top. Their attitudes to each other, to the business processes, to customers and clients, are all based on their perceptions of management attitudes and behaviors. Look at this quote from In Search of Excellence and see how your organization matches up.

“Treat people as adults. Treat them as partners; treat them with dignity; treat them with respect. Treat them – not capital expenditure or automation – as the primary source of productivity gains. These are the fundamental lessons from the excellent companies … if you want productivity and the financial reward that goes with it, you must treat your workers as your most important asset.” (Peters and Waterman, In Search Of Excellence, Harper & Row, 1982)

Now think about your customers and all the people who might become customers in the future. What makes you think your attitude towards customers, your treatment of customers, will be any different from your attitude and treatment of your employees? Employees, like customers, are also people. If you don’t care about your employees, what makes you think you’ll care about your customers? Your employees deal with your customers, and if employees are unhappy, all their interactions with customers, on every level, will be tinged with that unhappiness.

Sooner or later your customers will sense the unhappiness, pick up on the tensions, and begin to ask questions. When they do, it will be your staff that they talk to, not management. Unless your company has a virtual monopoly by dint of niche market or geographic location, you are going begin to lose market share. This does not mean that a CRM system will not help you, but it does mean that you start from a negative position. Until you realize that your staff and your customers are people, and not resources to be exploited, you’re going to struggle to get a real return on investment, no matter what CRM software you choose.