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How To Gain Executive Sponsorship For Your CRM Project
You know you need a CRM system. Most of your colleagues agree with you. But what about the key person in the organisation – the person who signs the cheques? Without their buy-in you will struggle to get your project off the ground.
This buy-in is essential for any investment a company makes, but is especially true for a CRM project which will probably entail not only an investment of time and money, but a commitment to review and improve working practices. This is not an instant process, and enthusiasm can wane.
CRM systems have been proven to transform the performance of SMEs, but for you to release this potential you will need to gain more than simple buy-in from the firm’s leadership. You need a long-term commitment. You need them to become as passionate as you are about the CRM project, you need them to be active sponsors. So, how to do that?
Selling in, without selling
The first step is to view this as a sales task. If possible book in a time to present your proposal to the company leadership, and then consider putting together a presentation. Whilst in some organisations this might be overkill, in many it will be seen as a positive statement about how seriously you take this issue.
You need to sell the idea to the senior executive, but be careful not to come across as too ‘salesy’. No one likes to be sold to and this may put them off. Focus on a calm, rational portrayal of the business case, and let the conversation develop in a natural way.
Equally, be concise. Decision-makers are all busy people, and if you sit them down in front of a 30-page presentation their attention will wander. Trim, trim, and trim again so your proposal is as focused as it can be. Hit them straightaway with your most compelling benefit: this is your best shot at getting their attention, so don’t bury it in the proposal. Get them interested from the outset.
Focus on benefits
Benefits of CRM usually fall into three main buckets: increase revenue, reduce operational costs or increase staff / customer satisfaction. But which particular benefit(s) matter most to that individual? Are they keen to retain customers, offer the team more interesting roles, increase conversion from lead to sale, grow profits or something else? For every business owner there will a different answer, and it will vary over time. So, do your research to understand what matters to your senior executive right now, and focus in on that benefit.
Give them clear, verifiable facts. People spending money like numbers, so show them how much time this will save, the efficiencies it will create, the sales uplift it will produce, and so on. Offer examples of comparable firms that have used a similar CRM system, and quantify the benefits they gained from it. Consider showing examples of firms your senior executive aspires to emulate. Your vendor should be able to help you with ROI estimates and examples that make your case.
Before you present your proposal, make sure you are entirely clear about what you are buying. Know the features inside out, and be able to walk them through how to use it. Again, your vendor should be able to help with this, giving you all the information you need to ensure you can confidently answer any question put to you. You may even get the vendor involved in the presentation itself.
Ideally you will offer an example of how it could be used to manage sales leads, automate mundane tasks, and manage sales leads all the way from marketing activity to invoice. A demonstration like that will bring the concept to life and help your senior executive to visualise it working in action.
Then you need to give clear, unequivocal information on the investment of resources involved. What will it cost? Who will be involved in the project and how much of the team’s time will it take? How much of the senior executive’s time? What changes might it produce and require?
Talk only of benefits and most budget-holders will start to suspect something that is too good to be true. Far better to be open and upfront about costs and risks. It is important though to highlight the limits of these to give the senior executive confidence in the extent of their commitment.
Bosses are people too
Above all else, remember that you are pitching to a person. They need to see the business case, but they are also likely to have a human reaction. Consider their ego. Remember they may have created the current system so don’t be overly critical of it. Don’t be coy about pointing out how the new system will benefit them. Think about whether to present a single conclusion or a range so they can be the ones to make the decision. Let it be seen as their idea.
Finally, remember that people can forget what they have committed to, or they can be distracted by other priorities. So, now you have your senior executive excited about this project, get clear success criteria from them, and agree a concrete plan for them to demonstrate visible and ongoing support for the project.
With that all done, you can afford to sit back a little and let your idea flourish. You now have others excited about, and running with, your idea. You are on the way to a successful CRM implementation.