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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Who's going to build this for you? You can bring in good CRM consultancy (humility prevents me from naming one), but the real resource will be people in your own company. The people who know not only what the sales methodology is, but why it works. The individuals and managers at process "choke points" who see the interactions across departments and know what works best in tricky situations.

But Nobody Has the Time

It's true: nobody has the time for crummy training. And nobody has the time to waste on mistakes or bad guesses or lost deals or unhappy customers, either. In comparison to traditional classes, the right CRM training takes less overall time yet delivers more leverage to users.

The first bit of guidance is "move away from long training sessions." They take more effort to prepare, and they take users away from their real jobs for too long. Most people don't have the interest or attention span for more than 45 minutes per session, so design the sessions to be that short.

The second bit is "stay out of classroom mode." The slide set should be short, presented by someone whom they respect. The sessions need to include task-oriented cheat-sheets that show the users exactly what to do on their screen during common workday situations.

Next is "let the users drive." It's best if every user is driving the mouse during the sessions, because that gets everyone focused on task-oriented training (rather than feature-itis). If users don't have laptops, don't make them sit in a room: do the training at their desks by Web conference.

Again with the KISSS principle

Finally, the KISSS principle applies to training: short, separate sessions that come in increments. Training is a process, not an event. Optimizing for recollection and effective knowledge, the sessions should be a series that happens on a regular basis (perhaps weekly), with "office hours" for people needing hand-holding and a response center to get people out of jams. The training should be self-paced and, in large organizations, asynchronous. So create 15 minute videos and podcasts, with workbooks and cheat-sheets that the user can grab at any time from your Wiki. You do have a Wiki for your CRM system, right?

When executed correctly, this all is cheaper than standard training. You aren't taking people away from their jobs for long, you're not flying them anywhere, and you aren't cramming data into their heads in the hope that it will stay there until next morning. Instead, you're giving them just what they need to be effective. On-demand training for an on-demand world.

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