When It Comes to CRM, What’s Your Motivation?

“What’s my motivation?” Sounds like a corny question an overwrought actor might pose to a director on the boards or in front of a camera. But we all have motivations — and it’s smart to understand your own and those of your vendor when it comes to CRM.

No one wakes up one morning and decides, “What my business really needs is a CRM solution.” It’s not an impulse buy; nor is it the sort of thing that an employer provides as a nice “surprise” to employees out of the blue. You don’t buy CRM simply because you hear about a competitor using it. Or at least you shouldn’t.

What should drive you toward CRM — or toward upgrading the CRM solution you currently have — is a set of problems. If sales information isn’t organized or sufficiently portable through your organization, that’s a problem. If marketing is struggling to nurture leads and deliver qualified leads to sales in a timely fashion, that’s a problem. If service is unable to help customers because it is unable to connect customer information to the customers on the phone, that’s a problem. If customer loyalty is fleeting and it’s because you’re simply not able to do the small things to connect with customers on an individual basis, that’s a problem.

Keep It Real

So, as problems start to become too severe to ignore, you need to take your motivation from them: How do I fix these problems, how do I do it affordably, and how do I do it in a way that sets me up to fix future problems as they appear?

Those should be your primary motivations. Notice that they are not necessarily technical in nature: They’re business focused. IT has its role in the process, but if your initial discussions turn into arguments about the cloud, open source, SaaS or any of the other technical underpinnings of a given solution, you need to end the meeting. You’re not just wasting time — you’re starting to ignore your own motivations. You’re drifting away from solving your problems, and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

IT has a role in the CRM selection process, certainly — but only after the business issues are outlined in detail. These problems are symptoms of issues with your customer management and customer relationship strategies. The first step is to honestly evaluate what isn’t working and to use that as the basis for establishing a set of requirements for your solution. Only after those business-based requirements are in place should IT step in and play its valuable role in finding ways to fulfill those requirements in the best ways possible.

New Ways of Collaborating

IT’s motivations need to align with the business motivations of the process. I’ve written in the past that the era of cloud-based applications is making IT more of a strategic partner in CRM selection, rather than simply a team of people who make technology work. IT needs to be increasingly motivated to become attuned to the business needs of the organization, and to start anticipating them.

As the cloud removes some of the workaday tasks IT has traditionally handled, it’s vital to IT pros’ careers that they shift their horizons beyond the “what” and “how” of the technology and start focusing on the “why.”

It’s also important to keep the motivations of others in the process in mind. Remember that a CRM salesperson is motivated by the sale — not necessarily by the idea of a successful implementation. Try to find vendors, resellers and consultants whose motivations mesh with yours.

In this era, those should be based around the idea of recurring business and a long-term relationship with your business as it grows. And, if their commitment to aligning with your motivations starts to wane, it’s your responsibility to make sure they get back on track.

Ultimately, the responsibility for a successful CRM implementation or upgrade lies with the business using it. Avoiding distractions — even among IT and your vendors and partners — and remaining aware of the things that motivated you to use CRM software in the first place are critical to making your CRM investment pay for itself.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at Forecasting Clouds. He has been a technology journalist for 15 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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