Small Businesses Are Failing With CRM Software

(Here is what they can do about it)

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By Larry Caretsky

CRM software has a bad rap in the small business community and for good reason. The failure rate for the successful implementation and use of CRM software in this sector is higher than 70%. There are literally thousands of small businesses all telling the same story; we tried it and it didn’t work for us, but why? What went wrong? Outlined below are a few of the reasons small businesses are struggling with the implementation and use of CRM software, and what they can do to fix it.

First, let me take a moment to tell you that I have been in the CRM software industry for more than two decades and in the computer software industry even longer. As a sales executive, I have been engaged in hundreds of sales cycles with small, mid-size, and large corporations and I have found that small businesses tend to take short cuts when making decisions that can be critical to the success of their business.

Every business regardless of size is looking to streamline their internal processes in order to get a leg up on their competition. CRM software has been touted as the silver bullet for improving how you market, sell, and provide service to your customers. There is no cookie cutter approach to this, which is why it is critical that you put together the proper game plan for selecting the right solution for your business. I have found that small businesses tend to overlook three key decision criteria, which are often the culprit for failed installations.

Poorly Documented Requirements or No Requirements at All

Small businesses do not seem to appreciate how important it is to document their business requirements or pain points. How do I know this? Because the person inquiring tells us so. When asked what specifically is driving you toward evaluating a CRM solution they often do not know. They have been instructed to download several CRM solutions then recommend the best one for the business and if they have any questions, they will be in touch. You have to ask yourself if there are no specific business requirements how can they possibly decide which is the best solution for their business. If you are in sales this is a big red flag. Either the management does not have the time to discuss the business objectives for a CRM solution with the staff; or they don’t really care and think all products are the same so just select the one you like the most at the lowest cost. The sad truth is that is exactly what happens. Several months later the product is shelf-ware, and they become another story of how we tried CRM and it just didn’t work for us.

So how can you address this? It’s easy. Management simply needs to take the time to sit down with the staff and outline the 3-5 specific business challenges they need the software to address. If they do not have the time to do this, or they simply do not know what these challenges are then guess what? They don’t need a CRM system.

Underestimate the Commitment Required for Success

Small businesses do not fully understand that the successful implementation and use of CRM software requires a dedicated resource, a champion or someone with authority that can manage changes to internal procedures and ensure that the staff is properly trained on how to use the software. CRM is not an appliance that you simply plug in the wall and everything works according to the manual. It requires an investment and I think small businesses underestimate the level of commitment required for the successful implementation and use of the software. This contributes to the high failure, but can easily be addressed by treating the CRM system as a critical component of the business.

The Value of Vendor Engagement

Small businesses tend to overlook the experience and value added services they can take advantage of by selecting the right CRM solution provider. In fact, the majority of small businesses pay no attention to this and it is perhaps the most significant reason why so many are failing with CRM. For smaller businesses, it is hard to appreciate the value for the following reason. Most CRM solutions for the small business community are very inexpensive ranging from free to $30 dollars per user per month. In addition, to get buyers to move quickly they are offered a month-to-month payment plan that can be cancelled at any time. So if you are only paying a small amount for the software each month it’s hard to justify spending additional money for implementation and training, but this is foolish thinking.

CRM software should not be looked at like a gym membership.  Think of it this way. You cannot get yourself in shape in 30 days so how can you possibly improve your business in that same time frame. You can’t and if you do not have the resources or knowledge to design your own fitness program you will most likely hire a trainer. The CRM solution provider should be viewed as the trainer for your business. A good solution provider will have experienced people on staff to assist you and ensure the system is properly implemented and used by your staff. Yes, it will cost some additional money, but if you get the results you were initially looking for then it’s all worth it in the end.

If you are planning to select a CRM solution so that you can improve how you market, sell, and provide service to your customers, the winning formula includes:

  1. Document your business requirements and educate your staff about them.
  2. Don’t underestimate the time and commitment you need to make to manage internal changes and train the staff how to use the software.
  3. Select a CRM vendor that can act as your partner in your success.

About the author

Larry Caretsky is the CEO of Commence Corporation a leading provider of CRM software for small and mid-size businesses. He is considered an expert in the field and has written numerous articles about the implementation and use of CRM and an e-book, “Practices That Pay: Levering Information to Achieve Selling Results.”

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