Best Practices For CRM Onboarding
I know a guy (ok, many guys) who compulsively buy tools. It doesn’t matter if they need that particular tool, or even if they know how to use it. There’s something about the feeling of preparedness that the new tool brings which is the real draw. They could use it. When the need arises, they can be “that guy,” the Deus Ex Machina; the God From The Machine. Or more precisely, the hero with the machine – the magical solution bringer.
There is power in potential, in the mind of the compulsive tool buyer.
But the reality is that a tool is only useful if it’s used, and is only as good as the skill of the user.
The right CRM has the potential to be a magical solution for your sales team, but only if your team is skilled in its use. In this article, we’ll prepare you to be the Master of your Sales Workshop.
1. The Prologue
This is one job you should not delegate. It’s all you, buddy.
Get everything set up. Once you’ve chosen the right CRM solution, it’s time to make it blend in with your company. Start churning out some good old fashioned data entry; your company’s general info, user logins, email templates, company-specific terms (where customization is possible,) branding, data migration. Do it all without taking your existing system offline. Get everything street-ready, spinning rims and all.
As you know, it is your job as the Sales Manager to not only set sales goals, but to provide tools and environments that are conducive to those goals. If your CRM users feel like they are arbitrarily making a lateral move from one software system to another, then they (and you) will be fighting a very rational desire to revert to what’s familiar. Don’t make your users build the machine, just hand them the keys.
Give your team some advanced warning, too. This can be as simple as a few team-wide emails, informing them of the upcoming change. If it’s feasible in your case, I recommend providing notice at least three months out, with a reminder once or twice month, and several in the final month before the big switchover.
2. The Buy-In
Whether you are upgrading your CRM platform, or incorporating one for the first time, you’re essentially selling something to a sales team. In this light, you begin to understand the challenges ahead of you. You need to impart vision.
I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that if you already have a good sales team, your work is half done. The team has already “bought in” to the vision of the company. This attitude will make any major change (like the implementation of a new software system) much, much easier. If your sales team seems uncommitted, or if they are entirely new, that buy-in may be a harder sell.
The bad news is this; though your work is half done, half done is still a failing grade. We’re shooting for 100%, here. But surprise! There’s more good news; the job of advertising the new CRM solution can often be outsourced to firms that are endorsed partners of your chosen CRM, and this can be done on-location at your place of business. And perhaps it should be outsourced. After all, if these companies are endorsed by the software vendor itself, they’re probably very good at what they do; the vendor has staked its reputation on that fact.
Sometimes these presentations can entail full-fledged training, or they may simply be well-crafted hype sessions to get your team optimistic and receptive to the change. Either way, they are worth doing. As a salesperson, you know this truth; once you get your audience to agree with you about the need, you’ve paved the way for the solution.
Opting for these outsourced sessions is a great way to promote new CRM software to your own sales team, since the CRM’s features and benefits are so clearly presented by people who do software training for a living. Depending on the quality of the training firm available in your area, you might, might be able to skip Step 3. I’m going to trust your intelligence, and let you find the balance between Insufficient and Overkill in your training. Given the variability of CRM vendors, availability of partnering training firms, your physical place of business, and your unique team, results may vary.
Finally, if there is any older software which is conflicting with your new CRM implementation, I would definitely recommend backing up all of the customer and financial data (you’re not crazy for wanting backups done in triplicate and to different locations,) and then uninstalling the old software entirely. Do this after your new CRM platform is fully operational, but before your team has a chance to revert to their old habits. Clear transitions are good, in this case.
3. The Uptake
Once your prep work is done and your team is on board with the vision, it’s time for actual training. This process should be as polished as your best sales pitch. Refine your training program beyond the point of soporific slide shows and rehearsed monologues. And please, I beg of you, avoid alliteration and pneumonic devices that spell cutesy catch phrases. Don’t be a cast member from Office Space, mmmkay?
I recommend the following as a template:
- Active Learning Sessions – Combine Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic (hands-on) activities. Break it down into
- Basics. Cover this quickly. (For emphasis: be thorough, be brief.) Include account creation (if needed), how to log in, identify any online documentation and video tutorials, show any intro wizards, and demonstrate the general layout of your CRM dashboard.
- What’s New. Spend a little time here if you’re migrating from another CRM platform. The changes and differences should be highlighted. This step turns frustrating speed bumps into easy action steps. For major features: mention them, but elaborate in “Special Considerations,” below.
- Daily Tasks. Walk your team through a typical day. Show them where to find the most common features and functions. Though the common usage of the axiom is “familiarity breeds contempt,” in this case, familiarity breeds contentment.
- Special Considerations. Can your sales agents now log in from home? Do they have new apps for their mobile devices at their disposal? If you’re adding any major changes to their work life, make sure you’re giving them a clear context. Let them know how these new features will benefit them, and if needed, give clear rules for their use.
- “What to do when…” Be sure to give your team a few tools so that they can help themselves when things go wrong. Make note of any common error screens, which can be especially troublesome for your less tech-savvy salespeople. To come full circle, this is a great time to refer back to the Basics, above, where you mentioned online help and training resources. This step should be covered thoroughly (but again, relatively quickly,) and then occasionally revisited in the form of ongoing training (see Step 4, The Follow Through.)
- Physical Resources – Sure, your CRM probably has copious online resources. But sometimes nothing beats a physical reference guide. And this is coming from a tech-obsessed, inceptive Millennial who only just now remembered that phone books still exist. Print up a quality booklet of instructions, screenshots, IT department contact info, etc. And again, find the balance between Insufficient and Overkill.
- Proactive Management – Whether it’s a team of management overseeing a large operation, or just you knocking on the door of your lone salesperson, an actively engaged Management can keep the momentum going. Be open to questions, do a little checking in, give some feedback. But don’t worry; your role as Mother Hen will be brief if your training process is well-honed. Your follow-through is a crucial, though tapering, necessity.
4. The Follow-Through
I really could have, and perhaps should have, started with this point to emphasize its importance. Many an overconfident SM will see a little initial success and check off “CRM Onboarding” as complete before they do this step. But whether we’re talking about your golf swing, your marriage proposal, or your Sales Team training, follow through is a make-or-break issue.
Follow-through can happen in a number of ways. You know your team, so I trust that this step is needful only to mention, and not to define. But here are a few ideas, to get you started:
- When you’re training your kid to ride a bike, you hold on to the bike. But as they begin to get a handle on the process, you incrementally let go. Incrementally being the key word. Try having a few more team meetings, with the explicit purpose of having a guided, yet open, forum for questions. Ask some questions, and allow your team to ask some of their own. Chances are that if one person is having a specific problem, someone else is too. Getting these out and into the open air will help your team members see that they are not alone, which is a huge boost to their confidence as they continue to appropriate the new system. Taper these sessions off, until your team is able to ride on their own. Then let them.
- Utilize whatever SM functions your CRM has. With most CRM systems, you can get customized reports to really drill down and see the performance of each individual employee. If you notice that a once-reliable salesperson has dropped a bit in their productivity, send them a quick email to find out how you can help. There are several reasons why they may not be coming forward with their troubles. Seek them out, and do so in the spirit of helping them succeed.
- Set up your own intra-company user forum. Let your team bounce questions and ideas off of each other. I recommend letting this forum be a place where they can say whatever they want; don’t butt in too much, if at all. They may be able to help one another, and the cherry on top is that a little team-building happens in the process.
Remember that long-term trends are more important than undeviating short-term progress. Glitches will happen, and mistakes will be made, but with the right perspective those are all opportunities waiting to be seized. This is true in sales performance, profitability, and definitely in CRM onboarding.
This guide is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but the preparedness you can derive here will certainly illuminate a daunting task. Preparedness only hurts when you go broke buying every tool on the planet. And even then, you’re all set to open your own hardware store. Just be sure to invest in a good CRM to keep track of your sales pipeline!