SFDC Implementation: ways SME can make the investment impactful

Many SME adopt SFDC to drive transparency and efficiencies of their sales operations. They initiate the roll out with a lot of pomp and gusto, but do not witness the outcomes they have envisaged.  The implementation process goes awry, frustration creeps in, staff loose motivation and despite all the right start SFDC implementation loose its mojo. Reasons for this are plenty. Based on our experience we find seven deadly sins listed below are the major ones.

  1. DIY woes: Often, companies with 5-10 licenses believe SFDC is easy to roll out and they know all that is required to about SFDC fall into a DIY trap. SFDC is simple, and yet can be daunting to the founders and management of SMEs if they are new to such software. The complex functionality and features of SFDC need deeper understanding of not just the software but how it would be used to extract value for their company. Companies pursing DIY route end up with broken process and demotivated employees. This creates confusion in process design and leads to low adoption and utilization in many organizations. Also, does not force fit your time tested sales process to SFDC. This not increases the cost of customization, but actually impairs adoption of best practice.
  2. Whammy Cycles: In our experience, many SME choose to pursue SFDC without due considerations of their business cycle faced stability and adoption challenges. Salesforce or any sales software is best to be implemented during lean periods not during the high tide quarters. SFDC roll out requires sufficient training and hand on experience to gain adoption and depth of use. Drawing sales resources away from the market during high tides affects revenue recognition.
  3. Double timing: Whenever salesforce is rolled out, companies need to plan how they would pursue the sales planning and review in their current format and also planned adoption of SFDC. Companies need to adopt a business as usual data capture and review process, till the SFDC adoption is complete and stable. Maintaining sales administration around both BAU and new process is key for sales management.
  4. Data Despairs: Generic tools like excel spreadsheets are used in company for data collection and reporting at various stages of the sales cycle. Data is crucial to glean historical insights. Different formats are used during sales planning, sales activity, sales review makes data migration a tough task. Unfortunately, many SME do not realize the time and efforts to clean up and migrate data and they believe SFDC roll out must wait till all historical data is ported into the system.
  5. Rush Hour drive: SFDC like any other software necessitates change management. Start with a broad 90 days adoption plan, with intermediate milestones for team training, leadership absorption, salesforce administrator review and beta roll outs. Without planned schedules, emphasis on compliance and rush jobs, companies end up pressurizing their resources, but end up with poor adoption. This is a primary reason for disillusionment of SFDC roll out.
  6. Misaligned teams and incentives: Many sales teams discourage sharing of information about networks & influence of client organizations across team members. A particular sales person may be approaching a client organization in a certain suboptimal way without privy to alternate courses. Other colleagues may have prior experience of the account and/or situation to tide over the apprehensions. Bereft of multiple perspectives, the sales cycle would linger, and eventually the sales resource will lose interest on the account and drop it from his hunt. Incomplete sharing of information and inadequate planning for a particular opportunity is another challenge sales team face. Weak alignment, between inside sales and direct sales teams or KAM teams with others is another area that leads to sales inefficiencies.  Role conflicts and tensions may also arise due to operational and personality issues.  Poor policies on account transfer between direct and inside sales team, weak sales operations, and ineffective review can exacerbate drop rates. A salient issue in solution selling companies is lack of comprehensive involvement, poor alignment and ineffective role management between pre-sale and sale teams across various stages of a customer acquisition. Diffused and selective ownership without a complete coverage of customer experience management leads to lengthy customer requirement cycles, protracted customer sign off process and potential financial loss.
  7. SOC Underinvestment: For many companies, sales operation is an additional expense. Usually they would have a personal secretary or a junior clerk do the data management and generate basic reports. Sales operations also need people person with enough tact to obtain information without stepping on the boot. SME do not recognize SOC has key role in ensuring data availability, data integrity, support and monitoring of the resources. Sales leaders in SME sometime don the role of SOC without dilution of their priorities.
  8. Measurement errors: One of the key problems in sales is to choose the right metric on which sales resources are measured. The metric chosen are often not in alignment with the sales objectives set by the management. If the objective of the business may be sales improvement by up-selling a new product to existing customers, then the metrics chosen must be aligned to this. Measuring coverage or addition of new customers to the pipeline because we always did so is a classic case of misalignment of metrics and objectives. Many SME measure their lead generation team by number of mails sent and calls made in a day. Lead generation representative earned their incentives irrespective of whether their efforts were meaningful and delivered any tangible outcome. Measuring performance against the wrong metric results in ineffective incentive calculation. Beware, you may be setting up your sales to loose, not win.
  9. Parsimonious Training: Sitting on shoe string budgets, SMEs take train only a few people or let leader train approach while implementing SFDC. With leaders juggling multiple roles, if only leader is trained, people on the field are ignorant of the features and purpose of SFDC implementation. Learning and adopting is seen as tedious and time-consuming by the busy sales force. On the other hand, if the sales resources are trained to use SFDC and no training for management, the roll out may not get the visibility required to make a difference. Either way, the lack of training hurts the overall purpose of achieving sales improvement through CRM.
  10. Acrimonious Reviews: In many SME reviews turn out to be generous expletive session which leaves an acidic taste for the participants and satisfy the ego of leaders. SME also suffer from data itch at inappropriate levels. It is not uncommon to see balance between big picture and details lost at several layers of sales organization. Functional focus and sales objectives get messed up and review meetings end up meandering around specific accounts or a customer at the cost of overall funnel.  It is not just what is reviewed, but how often it must be reviewed is another challenge for SME leaders. Some SME leaders resort to daily review meetings even when they are not in run rate business.

What must SME do get their SFDC roll out return higher moolah than what they have invested in terms of money and efforts. Simple, plan in advance, manage roll out and keep it simple. Here are the tips to get the best out of SFDC implementation.

  1. Work with partner ecosystem: SFDC ecosystem hosts partners from around the world who have experience and expertise in implementing SFDC. Involving partners will bring industry best practices to the company and help maximize ROI. Process design and training services are also offered by SFDC partners. Partners make a huge difference by bringing industry best practices and insights on salesforce administration and review.
  2. Blending Times: The management should understand the business cycle and choose a time when the sales force is not pre-occupied for roll out of CRM. If the company sees higher activities in Q1 and Q4, our recommendation is to roll out SFDC in Q2. This would give the sales team time to understand, absorb, and adopt before the start of the crucial last quarter.
  3. Parallelize rollout: In our experience, SFDC process roll out and existing process must be running in parallel for at least 45-60 days. Parallelizing the process addresses adoption challenges, especially the front end sales resources. In our experience, the ease of use and simplicity of the process is vital for SFDC adoption.
  4. Plan Data Migration: Encouraging the sales teams to clean up current data by provisioning some time for this activity eases post-implementation challenges. Outsource data migration activity to third parties, the cost is abysmally low and keeps your staff engaged in most value impacting sales activity.
  5. Planned change: Implementing SFDC in the relatively quite periods during the sales cycle gives enough time for the sales resource to understand the working of new software. We recommend a 90-120 day period before the company can achieve maximum utilization of the CRM. Providing time initially can go a long way in acceptance of the CRM tool. Setting a date for going live and working back from that day in a 3-4 month time frame can help achieve better results upon implementation. Setting milestones for data clean up, data migration, training for staff and leadership, designing sales process on SFDC and finally going live makes the process more efficient. Stage gating also gives agility to the process. Review at each stage helps the management identify any possible challenges and suitable alterations can be recommended. This reduces the chances of major upsets once the process is complete.
  6. Gamify metrics: As discussed in the earlier section, if the objective is to up-sell new product, to the existing clients, metrics like revenue growth from key customers or % of deals progressing in key accounts must be measured. Many CRMs like SFDC have gamification capabilities. Gamification is the process of creating a game experience in a non-gaming environment. It helps improve sales by rewarding and recognizing the individual or team performance against the metric chosen. Gamification can be used at various stages of sales cycle. If the objective is sales improvement by up-selling a new product to existing customers, creating a gamified experience which rewards the sales force every time they meet this objective can motivate the individual or team to perform better. Points can be awarded for collaborated efforts from members within a team leading to faster closure of deals. This will instill the spirit of collaboration. Hence, business result and behavior improvements can be achieved by the right use of gamification.
  7. Copious training & Ownership: It cannot be emphasized enough that educating all concerned about the purpose and use of the CRM is the key to implementation success. It can be argued that with proper training, all the other challenges that organizations may face can be negated. It is critical to enable the sales resources to use the technology provided to them. Unless the people on the field enter the data, mangers use it to review and plan; management cannot expect high ROI on the CRM. Through training, the sales department should be made aware that SFDC, will be their ‘single point of truth’ for all their data. Management’s forward looking aspirations must be clearly communicated. The sales force should know that SFDC is a tool to help them perform better and not to create a sales accounting system. Compliance through ownership of the process must be the goal of training. Reinforcing the idea of giving support and training them to use it should lead to success in CRM implementation. Decentralize teams across product lines or focus (hunting vs harvesting), define broad contours of ownership & tactics.
  8. Invest in SOC: Sales operations centre or coordination has different meaning for every company. In some, sales coordination does number collation and crunches data. In some they are responsible for system, programs and process. In some they are responsible for pricing and participate in large complex deals. Fundamentally, the role of sales coordination is to capture the data related to sales activities, and help sales team to make decisions based on data rather than subjective assessment. Sales operations more than just being a data sink, helps integration benefits to the organization by linking various sub-sales motions, right from inside sales to direct sales. While many sales resources may have love/hate relationship with the sales, creating and sustaining the sales coordination and review operations is a must for successful sales improvement plan.
  9. Focussed Reviews: SME leaders forget the sales review is to evaluate the direction (market and offerings), pace (movement between stages), and behavioural correction. Erudite sales strategies can only yield result if they are embraced and executed with right breadth and depth at various levels. Encourage your team to share the presentation in advance, keep the review period short, and stick to the set agenda. Leaders must come prepared with areas that need to be addressed and use the podium to invite suggestions and solutions. Effectively engaging and connecting with sales team at strategic and execution level is a must to see the intended outcomes. Sales leaders must demonstrate their ability to take tough decision based on data. Reviews must involve sales, marketing and product teams, and bring visibility across the company. Finally, reviews must go beyond sales activity to know what is working and what is not and how to improve it.

Peter Seller’s, Being there (1979) Hollywood film, has an interesting message. In the movie, US President asks a simple and sheltered gardener whether growth could be simulated through temporary incentives. Sellers who played the gardener makes a profound statement, garden needs to watered regularly, weeds needs to removed and roots supported to run deeper to survive across seasons and witness growth. Companies adopting SFDC must understand CRM is a cultural change and requires investment, management efforts and patience to yield results.  Sales team members must experience the trust and openness to share everyone view and the collective decision making.  To get the best out of your SFDC, keep the focus beyond template, keep the migration simple, involve all concerned and reap the benefits.

Bhavana S Kashyap and Dr TR Madan Mohan

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