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Since the late 1990's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has been the go-to response for business looking to get control of their sales effort, better manage their opportunities, and deliver growth.

The question today for those looking to take advantage of all that “CRM success” promises is how do we avoid falling into the “CRM failure” bucket?

There are some analysts who put “the failure rate on CRM projects as high as 50% of all projects started”, with common complaints including everything from sales people and management seeing little value in CRM, to users feeling it is a distraction combined with cynicism around the data inputs and low value of any outputs.

To help shape up your approach even prior to starting, here are 5 of the most common causes we see of CRM failure, along with some advice on how to begin your CRM journey.

1. Lack of understanding and internal knowledge around the sales process

Similar to trying to build a house on unsteady foundations, leaping into a CRM project without being clear on your sales process(es) is dooming yourself and your effort to failure before you have spent a dollar.

Advice: Do not confuse your sales processes with your sales cycle, spend some time and attention to identify and understand your current sales processes, this will help you define a CRM solution with the right technology and suited to your needs.

2. Setting unrealistic expectations of what a CRM project can achieve

Too often we see the CRM project as the “solve all” for wider business problems from intranet hosting to audit compliance.

Advice: Keep the scope of the CRM project focussed on achieving a distinct clear objectives in the first phase, looking to extend this scope too far too soon will lead to a cost blow out and more failure statistics.

3. Attempting too much customisation

In looking to implement a solution that meets the needs of an overall project, do not be tempted to try creating too many bells and whistles: Attempting too much customization can even be more dangerous than not aiming for enough.

Advice: Set a defined list of 1st phase deliverables (often based on practical use cases) and stick to it. Park anything extra in a “next phase” project folder.

4. Not having the right “buy in” or support from the right stakeholders and champions

Quite common to CRM failures, is a lack of gaining and using the right stakeholder engagement. This can start at the top of management but can also be just as destructive at lower levels of an organisation or even at the coalface.

Advice: Ideally your project will be initiated, sponsored, and led by the right business function and supported by those needing to see it work.

5. Lack of real understanding around the true costs both of implementation and finished solution

Without fully and accurately calculating the cost in having a CRM operating across your sales effort and including the cost of the journey to implement one, how can you expect to deliver a successful outcome for the business?

Advice: Be brutal and realistic in assessing what the direct and indirect costs will be on your CRM journey. This will help inform you of the right solution as well as saving you time and customer credibility.

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