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Two questions. That is all I need.

Don’t believe me? Well let’s get to convincing you.

There are many reasons why a Salesforce (or other CRM) implementation will fail, but they usually aren’t what people would think. When a new CRM is being put in place (more on successful Salesforce implementations here), there is a massive amount of attention paid to building processes, importing and QA’ing data, layouts, views, reporting and the such. Before the build begins and up to the day it is delivered, the leadership team is made to feel like the implementation will be a slam dunk.

You Forgot the Most Important Part

Data, QA’ing and processes are of course important things and they get focused on because no one wants to look foolish on launch day. But here is the thing – launch day (or week, or slow roll out over quarters) isn’t where projects fail. Even when there are launch day issues – they’re solvable; usually by a small, focused team who is ready to leap into action.

Salesforce implementations fail because budget and attention is focused on too specific a window in time.

The failures occur, most often when employees don’t see value in the CRM and do not adopt it. It isn’t the technical details, it is the people impacted by the new CRM that have the power to make or break it.

Common Reasons Salesforce Implementations Fail

  • Failure to invest in training for staff and separate training for managers
  • Failure to demonstrate to employees how the CRM is going to make their lives better
  • Failure to realize, formalize and communicate what internal processes are going to change. If you are implementing a new CRM and there aren’t substantial changes to internal processes, you’ve probably wasted money
  • Failure to get influential employees to buy into the project

Imagine what would happen if on Monday you issued all sales, marketing and support employees a Mac laptop and told them they’d be using it instead of their Windows machine moving forward. This Mac is a more powerful, superior device to what they were using – but the learning curve will cripple them in early days if you don’t provide support. Moreover, the old guard, the late adopters – they’ll resent you and openly seek ways to circumvent this new machinery. Just think about how irrationally angry people get every time Facebook changes its interface.

When you adopt a new CRM, you completely alter how a person does their work. You didn’t ask permission. You didn’t ask for any real input and it is probable that you didn’t allocate nearly enough resources to winning them over and training them on this new tool.

Why CRM Implementations Are Different

CRM’s are different from most enterprise software implementations because they impact so many employees and departments at once. Usually new software is rolled out to a small portion of a single department. A marketing automation tool for example (more on that here) might only have three users. But CRM’s – CRM’s are big. At a minimum your entire Sales team needs to be trained and convinced to use one. Ideally, so will the majority of the leadership team, marketing and support. Imagine how many people that is.

How to Help Ensure Salesforce Implementation Success

Many Salesforce implementations go off without a hitch, delivering huge value to companies. Here are some things those companies do to ensure success:

  • Implement Early: Every employee you add to your company exponentially increases how hard the adoption of a new CRM will be.
  • Get Power Users: Search internally for the employees who will love using the Salesforce, learn how to manipulate it to their needs and be open to helping others. Then spoil them with extra training, access and tools. In short, make them feel special.
  • Train Everyone Well: A generous portion of your implementation budget should be allocated to training. Search for a trainer that is willing to provide service on an ongoing basis or offers “train the trainer” options as part of their implementation fee.
  • Explain Why: Telling people what to do is a terrible way of altering behavior. Time needs to be invested in pre-selling a new CRM with the same precision and care that you sell your product. Convince employees that this new software they will be spending their entire day with is going to reduce their workload and help them win more sales.

Um – Well, What Were The Two Questions?

The two questions are simple. How much have you budgeted for your training and what is the budget for your overall implementation. Total implementation cost is an indicator of the complexity of the project and measuring that against how much is spent on ensuring employees have the help they need is usually indicative of the culture of the company where the implementation is being done. A company investing in onboarding and training employees, relative to their overall implementation budget is likely to succeed. One that is investing little or nothing will almost certainly fail.

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The author:

Gregg Thaler is a self-professed data quality junkie. A 25 year career in sales and sales leadership has instilled in Gregg a near religious belief in the direct connection between data quality and peak sales and marketing performance. Gregg is the Chief Revenue Officer of RingLead, a Salesforce ISV partner specializing in data quality. RingLead is entering its tenth year as a Salesforce partner. Gregg is responsible for RingLead’s overall revenue strategy and execution, encompassing sales, marketing, business development and M&A.