How to Escape the CRM Training Trap

CRM users need to be trained. But they don't particularly like training, and they sure don't remember it. Is there a better way?

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by David Taber, CIO - We all know the drill: as a software deployment draws near, it must be time for training the users en masse. It's the only cost-effective way to get people up to speed and through the inevitable pains of transition.

But it's only cost-effective on the surface, because if you look at what users are actually capable of 6 weeks later -- and the resulting adoption delays -- the standard training really isn't very effective no matter what it costs. What if "how do we train everyone" is the wrong question?

With most enterprise applications, there are standardized training courses that will cover 90% or more of the operational knowledge required of the user. With real CRM systems, though, the percentage is much lower. Why? Because a killer CRM system must be an amalgam of software, business process, policies, and the "secret sauce" of your sales and marketing. (You may not think it's much of a sauce, but it certainly is a secret.) So training the CRM users to be effective isn't about screen navigation or using special features. It's about having a good set of reflexes that result in responses that customers like.

The key elements of user CRM effectiveness have more to do with interactions with customers, partners, and internal organizations of your company. For example:

* How you do e-mail blasts and lead cultivation to get the highest yield on your marketing efforts.

* The specific questions your phone reps ask, and the ways they introduce cross-sells or upsell products.

* The management techniques and metrics you use in your call center.

* How you qualify prospects, and the meaning of converting a lead.

* When you hand off a prospect to a channel partner, and how you follow up with them.

* The incentives you put in place for your reps and channel managers, and the behaviors you look for and monitor.

* How to handle recurring revenue deals, multi-phase product sales, and long-term purchase agreements.

* How customer references are cultivated and allocated to sales teams.

* How you handle customer support, case / bug tracking, and SLAs.

To be really effective, a CRM system must be tightly integrated with your marketing campaigns, sales techniques, customer support methodology, and customer satisfaction philosophy. So user training must include these elements, as well as the feature "how-to" drill.

Clue #1

Take a look at any CRM vendor's training syllabus. Do you see any of the words from my previous paragraph? You can't buy this course from them. The right training is built, not bought. Just like the most comprehensive CRM systems.

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