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Mastering CRM: Moving From Adoption to Utilization

by Doug Davidoff | Nov 17, 2023 4:54:56 PM

Adoption and utilization blog If you want your CRM to drive performance and revenue improvement, your focus shouldn’t be on adoption.

Let me repeat that. Adoption is a bad objective. Not only is adoption not enough, but making it the objective will take your implementation down the wrong path.

If adoption is the wrong objective, what’s the right one? Utilization.

What’s The Difference Between Adoption and Utilization?

Adoption seeks to answer the question, “Are people using the CRM and taking specific actions (for example, adding contacts, logging deals/opportunities, etc.)?”

Utilization seeks to answer the question, “Are people using the CRM how they should be using it?”

It’s not what you don’t know that hurts you; it’s what you think you know that ain’t so. -- Mark Twain

When the focus is on adoption, here are some common and unexpected consequences:

  • It confuses “compliance” with “commitment.” Merely following instructions isn't enough. Sales reps need to understand the “why” behind it.
  • You greatly reduce the rate of learning and improvement. Adoption views non-use as a violation rather than an opportunity to dig in and understand why it’s not being used.
  • You violate what we call the Lift Prime Directive: the business processes should drive the technology, not vice versa. With adoption, the technology gets put into the driver's seat. 
  • Worst of all, the likelihood of your CRM delivering misinformation or incorrect data increases, while at the same time, your ability to realize that decreases. 

Here’s an example of the last point. If your entire sales team has adopted the CRM and you see they regularly add deals and even update them, it would be reasonable to assume that they’re generating good data about opportunities. However, your sales team is likely adding deals later than they should, which destroys the value of the data and insights you’re generating. It turns out that because deals are getting added late, 20-30% of deals that should have been added aren’t, so your win rate looks higher than it is. Additionally, your sales cycle looks shorter, and you think you’re generating efficiencies when you aren’t.

Utilization starts with the business process. The focus is on the business process while using the CRM becomes a natural byproduct. When your mindset is on utilization, your approach becomes more iterative as you continuously work to optimize your underlying business processes.

5 Tips to Boost CRM Utilization

Be Clear on the Job to be Done

Nobody hires us because they want to win a blue ribbon for “best CRM implementation of the year.” When we work with companies on their technology investments, we advise them not to buy technology; instead, they should hire it. If you’re familiar with the “jobs to be done” approach, hiring means you focus on your desired outcomes, so any investments are tools that accelerate your business.

What’s the real reason you’re investing in CRM? If your answer is something like, “We want to have information on what’s happening in different accounts so the right hand can know what the left hand is doing,” start over and dig deeper.  

Chances are, it’s something like revenue growth, sales performance, growth velocity, or higher margins. When you have clarity around CRM success, determine the various motions and actions that need to be supported and enabled to generate those outcomes.

Update your answers on an ongoing basis, and use them to define the requirements and adjustments for implementing and maintaining the CRM.

Build The Business Process First

It takes a lot of planning and work to make it easy for the user. 

When we touch a CRM, we live by Lift’s Prime Directive - the business process must drive the CRM; the CRM should never dictate the business process.

Here’s the reason that often doesn’t happen: it’s so much easier to let the CRM drive everything. I’ve been involved in hundreds of CRM implementations, optimizations, and fixes. I’ve seen CRM implementations that are an absolute mess. But, and this is the important part, while my client complained about the CRM, the CRM wasn’t the problem. The problem was a lack of clarity and conflicts in the business process.

There’s no such thing as the perfect CRM implementation. The job of your CRM is to enable and accelerate your go-to-market execution, generating and retaining more revenue at higher margins than you would otherwise.

It needs to create resiliency and efficiency. It does this by providing a centralized and standardized forum for communication and transparency to empower decentralized execution.

This requires a strong, clear business process to serve as the fulcrum to navigate the hundreds (or thousands) of trade-off decisions that must be made on a continuous business. 

Don’t let this overwhelm you. If you feel your business process isn’t complete, don’t worry, it never is. If you don’t feel your business process is ready, that’s okay, too. The lack of a clear business process is no reason to wait, but you want to start there.

For additional insights on defining and developing your go-to-market processes, check out our OnDemand Webinar: The 5 Keys for a Successful Go-to-Market Strategy.

Keep It Simple…And Complete (Build the Genius into the CRM)

It's the nearly universal request we hear when implementing CRM, and on the surface, it seems spot on. Keep it simple. If only it were that simple.

What’s wrong with keeping things simple? 

There are two challenges:

  1. Keeping a CRM simple is very complicated.
  2. Simple is not enough.

Why Simple Is Hard

The first question you must answer is what part of the implementation process you want to keep simple. While the intent is typically about things simple for the user, it mistakenly focuses on trying to keep the design and configuration “simple.”

We often joke at Lift (though we’re really not joking) that the four most dangerous words we can hear when someone wants to launch a new CRM or improve an existing one is “All we need is…”

“All we need” doesn’t provide the clarity required to create the constraints needed to make the CRM simple to use.

Don’t Make Me Think - Why Simple Is Not Enough

If the goal is to eliminate the friction to keep things simple for the user, you must manage the complexity in the design and configuration of the CRM. We call this The Inverse Friction Principle - the ease or effortlessness of a user’s experience has an inverse relationship with the complexity involved in the design and configuration that makes the experience so easy or effortless.

To do this, you must build the genius into the CRM, which means you must account for the complexity in your go-to-market motions and ensure that, in addition to the implementation being simple to use, it must also be complete.

What does complete mean?

Complete means that a user can use the CRM fully to support all of an activity or motion expected to be a part of this CRM launch. (I go into this more below in “Always Be Launching.”) Here’s an example of where overfocusing on simple prevents it from being complete and sows the seeds for a less-than-successful implementation.

Two common components when we do new implementations are defining a deal profile and configuring the ability to create, manage, and track account or sales plans. Doing this right requires hard work defining/refining the business process. You’re also establishing an operational point-of-view for how your organization should approach the sales process.

It’s not unusual that we’ll face resistance from an executive saying something like, “That information would be nice to have in the CRM, but we want to keep things simple. This is going to require reps to do too much.”

Here’s the problem with this concern. It’s not too much. Reps should and likely are doing this in some way or form. The problem is that they’re doing this outside of any defined system. It could be a notebook, Google Doc, spreadsheet, etc. If you don’t build the capability into the tool and require (or at least heavily influence) using the CRM for these functions, then the rep won’t be able to replace whatever they’re currently using. So, while you may be simplifying the configuration, you’re complicating the workflow by adding and bifurcating how they must manage things.

The best way to ensure you keep things simple while ensuring it’s complete is to create user stories to define the capability you’re creating and then address the user story fully.

Lead, Don’t Drive

Stop telling, or even teaching, your team how they should use the CRM. Instead, demonstrate by how you use it - every day.

The fastest way to generate resistance to utilizing the CRM is to ask a rep for information already logged. Stop asking reps to explain what’s happening in accounts. Review the CRM to provide you with the basic contextual information, and use that to ask better questions and to coach your people to better performance.

Treat your team like the adults they are. Don’t arbitrarily use the CRM as the reason for what you’re doing or asking. A CRM designed to prioritize utilization requires less micro-managing.

Remember, the goal isn’t increasing the adoption rate but enhancing performance by enabling the underlying motions.

Always be launching

There is no finish line when implementing or managing a CRM.

What fascinates me is how most organizations deal with this reality in the worst possible way. They view the launch phase or reconfiguration as a single, permanent project. Then, because in the world of sales, marketing, and customer success/service, everything is always changing; they are always changing or tweaking the CRM and extended application ecosystem configurations.

This creates three problems:

  • Your RevOps team, or whoever is managing/administering the tech stack, gets stuck in a hyper-reactive loop, which has the net impact of reducing both their productivity and the quality of their work.
  • Things feel like they’re constantly changing, reducing your team's comfort and confidence in using the tools. 
  • When you’re managing CRM in a reactive way like this, you get myopic, and the technology takes the lead, further reducing the effectiveness of your efforts.

This is why we advise every company to “always be launching.” Depending on the size of your organization and your desired growth rate, you should be launching your CRM at least twice per year, and for most organizations, it should be 3-4 times per year (every 90-120 days).

Each launch should be focused on a set of user stories designed to create or enhance key capabilities. Each launch enables you to address the next level of completion. It provides a structural approach to keep your focus on what’s important, to manage priorities effectively, and to create great organizational change without everyone feeling like everything is changing.