6 Tips to Effectively Manage Change for CRM and Salesforce Initiatives

By Senthil Kumar

It is a well known fact that “Change Management” is very critical to the success of any CRM initiative. While there are a lot of methodologies available on effective approaches to managing change, sometimes the end user is forgotten and there is not adequate focus on user adoption. It is important to keep it simple and follow the below key best practices.

1. Communicate the threat of not changing

Any Salesforce initiative needs to be internalized for your business. You need to identify the key tenets of your business strategy that are linked to the CRM initiative and communicate the threat of getting left behind if the new processes and applications are not adopted. You can showcase highly successful employees that have adopted new processes introduced during past initiatives at your company as examples to inspire your teams.

2. Provide an incentive for the end user to change

Very often changes to policies, processes and applications happen incrementally over a period of time and before you know it, sales people are accessing five different systems in order to do their job. Defining the end to end user experience in a user experience map can be a valuable tool to determine how changes to processes impact productivity from a user perspective. You could also identify the “Sticks and Carrots” based on each user role and ensure there is adequate value for the user in using the system. For example, a diversified manufacturer designed a CRM system with the idea of providing a “Sales Cockpit” to each sales person with complete integration to their ERP systems to enable quotations, order management and other capability to make Salesforce the one stop shop for all sales people.

3. Actively engage all the key stakeholders

Salesforce implementations are very successful at organizations where it is used as a collaboration platform for employees to focus on customer needs and revenue growth. So the more you can integrate all customer facing processes and support processes like Product Management and Technical services on the same platform, the greater value you are going to extract.

It is also critical for senior management and sales management to be using the platform and actively conducting review meetings using the data straight out of Salesforce as opposed to using presentations and spreadsheets. Once sales people see that their activity directly impacts revenue forecasts for the business and other key metrics, they are motivated to actively adopt the application.

4. Be transparent in your communication

Clearly communicate the value of Salesforce and the change. For example, a hi-tech firm coined this simple but effective tagline — “We chose Salesforce because it provides value to the sales person, not just the sales managers and executives”. Identify the key milestones for the CRM initiative and communicate consistently.

It is also important to identify user champions throughout the organization. A good rule of thumb is to identify a champion for every 20 to 30 end users. You can have a lot of fun with the adoption campaigns by associating an overarching theme. A hi-tech firm used the Star Wars movie theme and used the imagery in their communication and also called their champions Jedi Knights.

5. Develop a personalized learning path for each user and stakeholder

While Salesforce is an intuitive application, it is important to create a personalized training plan for each user role to focus on the process training combined with the application training. Focus on the managers first and ensure they are fully bought in to the new processes. Leverage the managers during the user training and have them reinforce the importance of the changes and how they are going to use the new processes to achieve the organizational objectives.

There is also a need to follow up after the go live, monitor user behavior closely and hand-hold the users that are falling behind. Create a dashboard with key adoption metrics such as login percentage, account and contact updates, opportunity creation, past due opportunities etc. and monitor this closely during the first few quarters after go live. Create learning paths specific to each user role and plan for ongoing training even a year after go live. You could also leverage some of the AppExchange applications that can enable in-app training videos to assist the user as they are performing certain activities in Salesforce.

6. Celebrate successes and iterate for the long haul

CRM is an ongoing journey and you cannot implement Salesforce and walk away. You need some level of investment in managing adoption for the long term and there needs to be a focus on continuous improvement. The customer facing processes and Salesforce need to be constantly improved by identifying what works and what does not.

The above best practices can work very well as long as you contextualize them to your specific initiative and the culture of your organization.

About the Author

Senthil Kumar is a Customer Success Director at Salesforce. He has over 20 years of experience primarily in business process and technology consulting. He works with Salesforce customers to define CRM strategy, roadmaps and to help drive adoption.

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