The Number One Thing to Ensure CRM Success

We get asked all the time, can you tell me the number one thing we can do to ensure that CRM is successful at our bank? The answer is easy: executive buy-in! But, what exactly is executive buy-in and how do you know when you have it? Now those are hard questions.

What Is Executive Buy-In?

Often, we assume executive buy-in for projects like CRM results from meetings where executive leadership gives a “go-ahead nod” to proceed with the process. But, often this first approval is seen by the executive leadership as a low-risk way to explore options, understand potential benefits, and learn costs. It’s a great first step, but it’s not the type of buy-in you will need to ensure a successful CRM implementation, nor the type of buy-in you want. Even if you get the final purchase approval or an agreement to “cut the check,” you still may not have true executive buy-in.

The buy-in you are looking for is the type that comes from doing! Your executive leadership needs to have sweat equity in the process to really buy in and have the genuine authority to demonstrate approval to others in your organization. So, give your executive leadership specific tasks to accomplish through each phase of your CRM search, selection, implementation, and go-live. If your executive leadership seems unwilling to follow through on these tasks, then you can rest assured that you don’t yet have the type of buy-in you are looking for. 

Here are suggestions and tips for gaining executive buy-in through various CRM milestones.

Buy-in to Initiate a CRM Search 

The typical first step of executive buy-in is the approval for the search and license of a CRM tool. And while this is an important first step, the simple approval for a search should never be assumed to be true buy-in for CRM. If you are struggling to get this first buy-in step, here are some helpful tips:

  • Form a CRM Search Committee: Assemble a small search committee, normally 1-3 people from a mix of marketing, sales, and operations, and ask executive leadership to participate. It’s not necessary that executive leadership oversee this search process, but it is important that they are involved and that they participate. 

  • Define CRM for Your Bank: Agree on a definition of CRM. The definition of CRM will certainly vary from one organization to another, so it’s important that your search committee identifies which internal work processes CRM will facilitate and automate. This will help you determine your process pain points and better define the CRM system that will best fit your organization’s needs. At this point, focus your discussions more on processes and potential gains than on the actual technology. 

  • Identify Likely Paybacks or Measures of Success: There are two steps you should take to determine what a successful CRM implementation will look like for your organization. First, identify the likely paybacks you will receive from CRM, such as increased cross-sell from better onboarding campaigns, more efficient referral tracking that can lead to higher close rates, or increased customer retention as a result of better relationship tracking. Second, define measures of success that you can track (e.g. the number of referrals you generated per quarter or year prior to implementation compared with after implementation or the number of customer trouble tickets generated prior and after implementation).

Present your findings to your executive leadership. If you get the go-ahead to move forward in your CRM search, you have cleared the first hurdle in terms of gaining executive buy-in for CRM. But, remember, this first buy-in is a rather small ask from your executive leadership. You will need a much greater buy-in during the milestones that follow. 

Buy-in During the CRM Search Process

The CRM search process can be daunting and long. Most CRM searches take anywhere from several months to two years, mainly because CRM systems come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But, if you’ve already defined your CRM goals and the processes you hope to automate, you’ll be able to weed through potential systems more quickly.

Here are some tips to nurture executive buy-in during your search process:

  • Identify Potential CRM Systems and Costs: By simply searching for CRM solutions online, you’ll learn there are way too many options to thoughtfully sift through. Try narrowing your search to those that specialize in your industry, seek advice from industry organizations and thought leaders, and, most importantly, ask peers what systems they recommend. The more you narrow your search to include only solutions suited for your industry, the better your executive buy-in will be for continuing your process. 

  • Use Group Messaging to Align and Educate: Consider using a group messaging tool to enhance communication during your search process. Group messaging will help you keep your executive leadership in the loop without burdening them with endless emails or meeting updates. They can jump in and out of the ongoing conversation with your search committee. It’s important that your executive leadership be kept in the loop at this stage so they can arrive at the same educated final destination as you and the rest of your search team. If you don’t have access to such a system, you may consider appointing one person to assemble this information and provide regular updates via email to executive leadership.

  • Include Executive Leadership in Software Demos: Once you have narrowed the field a bit, you should ask each vendor to perform a strategic high-level demo for your executive leadership. This type of demo is different from the very detailed demos vendors lead to show the complexity of their systems. The executive demo is geared to the big-picture functions of CRM and can normally be done remotely. When you have two or three final vendors in the mix, ask each vendor to come onsite for a formal presentation to your executive team. It’s key that your executive leadership sees first-hand the differences in how each system is presented and has the opportunity to ask questions to the different vendors. 

  • Include Executive Leadership in Reference Site Visits: After narrowing your field down to two CRM candidates, schedule reference visits, and include your executive leadership. This is an important step for long-term executive buy-in. Your executive leadership needs to see first-hand how a similar organization is using the software so they can understand how CRM will benefit your organization and provide vocal support during your CRM implementation. If you have managed to get your executive leadership to participate in meaningful ways during your search process, you are well on your way to true executive buy-in.

Buy-in During the CRM Implementation Process

The CRM implementation process normally does not all happen at once, but instead takes place over many months. In fact, it’s likely you will choose to roll out your CRM in phases so as not to overwhelm your internal resources with too many process changes all at once. It’s better to aim for small wins during this phase than big ones.

Here are some important ways you can ask your executive leadership to show buy-in during this time:

  • Announcing Your CRM Choice: Once you have chosen a CRM system, ask your executive leadership to announce it to your entire organization. This sounds like a no-brainer, but so many forget to do this step. It’s important that this announcement come directly from your executive leadership, as this helps highlight the importance of CRM to the organization. Employees simply need to hear executive leadership announce the choice, explain why you went with this system (e.g. what made this vendor and system stand out from all the others), and understand why CRM will play an important role in future strategy and growth of the organization. This is normally the first public opportunity for your executive leadership to be a cheerleader for CRM. Don’t let them miss this important moment. 

  • Making the Case for CRM: Task your executive leadership with making the case for CRM to your entire organization. What processes is CRM going to help automate and improve? Why is CRM important now? How can CRM help the company better understand the customer? These are just a few examples of questions your executive leadership needs to answer during this time. This is not going to be accomplished in one grand meeting, speech, or email, but rather as an ongoing task that will require continual effort and communication. People are hesitant to change. Your executive leadership will play an important role in promoting the value of this change. 

  • Supporting a Culture Change: At this point in the process executive leadership should start talking about CRM as a culture change and not simply a technology implementation. In fact, the proper mix for a successful CRM implementation is something like 50 percent culture change, 30 percent process change, and 20 percent technology change. The biggest piece is the culture change, and this is only going to happen with executive buy-in and promotion. It doesn’t matter as much how this message delivered, but simply that it is delivered. 

  • Developing and Delivering a Simple CRM Mantra: It’s at this point that executive leadership needs to begin sharing a simple mantra, or a speaking point, that can be repeated time and time again to sum up how executive leadership sees CRM. It could be something as simple as, “Going forward, if it’s not in CRM, then it didn’t happen.” It’s important that everyone hear a clear and simple message of support from executive leadership every time CRM is discussed.

Your executive leadership needs to be the biggest champion of CRM within your organization in order to successfully effect a cultural, process, and technology change.


Buy-in After Go Live and Ongoing

Once you go live with CRM, executive buy-in and support will be more important than ever. This is really where your executive leadership can have the most impact on the long-term success of CRM in your organization.

Here are the two most important ways your executive leadership can show buy-in during this phase:  

  • Managing through CRM: The top way your executive leadership can support CRM once you go live is to manage through CRM. When executive leadership is conducting a meeting, they should use data and reports taken from CRM to facilitate their discussions. When employees learn that executive leadership is relying on CRM to manage and reward their efforts, they will start using CRM. It’s that simple.

  • Leading by Example – Use CRM: The next most important way executive leadership can demonstrate buy-in for CRM once you have gone live is by using CRM! We can’t tell you how many times executive leadership complains about their lackluster results after implementing a CRM only to discover they themselves have never logged into the CRM. Don’t let your executive leadership miss this moment of opportunity. Impress upon them their need to use CRM!

We hope this article has helped you understand why executive buy-in is the most important thing you need in order to ensure the overall success of your CRM. While executive buy-in may be elusive, the suggestions we have offered should help make it easier for you to gain. Remember, true executive buy-in is about doing, not just talking. Share these tips and suggestions with your executive leadership and help them walk the talk to ensure your organization gets the most out of your CRM.