Selling CRM to sales key

Most CRM implementations fail because IT does a rotten job selling such systems to their intended users, according to Mike Muhney, the US inventor of the ACT contact management tool.

Most CRM implementations fail because IT does a rotten job selling such systems to their intended users, according to Mike Muhney, the US inventor of the ACT contact management tool.

Muhney, who lectured an audience of CIOs on CRM failure in Auckland earlier this month, says poor system design is another obstacle to CRM success.

But the inability of IT managers to put themselves in the shoes of sales staff is the main reason CRM systems usually don’t deliver, he says.

“Salespeople are from Venus and IT isn’t even in the same galaxy,” says Muhney, who quotes a figure from market researcher Gartner of a 65% CRM project failure rate.

Typically, organisations embark on a CRM project lacking a CRM strategy and with no plan to create one, he says.

“CRM is a strategic decision, not an IT project,” says Muhney. Without an overarching strategy, projects run into the barrier of a company culture at odds with the processes that CRM seeks to impose.

“It becomes an issue for sales staff of ‘Do you want to me sell or do you want me to understand technology?’.”

The starting point of a successful CRM implementation is to demonstrate to the intended system users the benefits they’ll get from it. The next feature of CRM systems that work is user-friendliness, he says.

Muhney warns against the “800-pound gorilla” approach to building a CRM system, giving users an overwhelming level of functionality, which he likens to drinking water from a firehose.

When Muhney asked his audience how many had embarked on CRM projects, just a handful of the 40 or so in the room had, although several were planning to.

The information chief at auctioneer Turners & Growers, Keith Jesson, was one who could report having done so. Jesson’s experience confirmed Muhney’s characterisation of CRM implementations as fraught with difficulty.

“Training was the issue,” says Jesson, in explaining that Turners & Growers’ project had “not worked that well”.

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