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Acknowledge costs, build a case, make a plan

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CRM requires software, hardware, people, data hygiene, planning time, consulting expertise, system downtime, a few dashes of frustration and a touch of debate. It is expensive, hard to push internally and very complex. However, there is no reason to make it more trouble than it has to be. You need to acknowledge the true costs and build the proper business case.

The Costs

Anything of a strategic nature has significant direct and indirect costs. CRM is no different. Some of the direct costs include software, servers, consulting services, people, data migration and clean up and integration with other systems. Indirect costs include change management, downtime, dealing with detractors, potential project fatigue, communication and other people-oriented issues.

It is tempting to search for a direct return on investment to justify the costs of CRM. Many firms are searching for their “white whale” where someone, somewhere found a new client that resulted in millions in turnover. This rarely happens, so stop looking for it. Those elusive anecdotes, even when found, are rarely believed or are discounted by other members of the firm (“that won’t work in MY practice…”). CRM is part of the firm’s strategy. Thus, it should not be expected to justify its own cost. It is a tool.

The costs must always be put into perspective: is what we are spending on CRM going to help us achieve the top 2-3 goals of the firm? If so, cost is not an issue. If not, people are going to start asking questions.

The Case

When making the business case for CRM, keep these things in mind:

  • Ride the coat tails of other initiatives. What is the strategy of the firm? That should be why CRM is needed.
  • Identify and stand behind the executive champion. Others may manage it, but a senior individual needs to own it. It is their project.
  • Put a velvet rope across the door. Not everyone gets it at first. Base the deployment on a number of clients to be served with it. You will be surprised how this drives need.
  • Don’t convert sinners or recruit zealots. You do not need them. Sinners are too difficult, and the tech geeks do not represent the typical professional. Find those in the middle.
  • Exponential, not small, wins. You must gather regular wins of increasing size to build momentum. Managing names and relationships must lead to contact, meetings, proposals and new business.

CRM must be positioned as a strategic imperative in order to deliver better results to the client. Therefore, here are the building blocks of the business case:

  1. Discuss the client’s perspective by standing in their shoes and walking backwards
    • How are they better served?
    • What are they not getting now?
  2. Identify the goals of your firm
    • Use the three big goals
    • Establish metrics of success
  3. Frame costs and needed commitments honestly
  4. Discuss options and alternatives
    • Other systems and approaches
    • Doing nothing
  5. Make final recommendation by merging client need and big 3 goals

You will know when you have made a proper business case when the goals for the firm and the needs of the client are congruent. These two perspectives allow for the proper focusing of resources and tasks as well as justifying the cost and approach as something that is necessary for delivering quality work and service to your clients.

This blog is the third in the series ‘Building the Business Case for CRM‘. Read previous blogs here

Tags: InterAction

About the Author:


Darryl Cross is Vice President, Performance Development and Coaching at LexisNexis; and an acclaimed inspirational speaker. A certified business coach with the Association for Talent Development, Cross has presented to over 10,000 fee earners and business executives from over 100 countries. He is also an internationally recognised author on best practices in the subjects of law firm profitability, coaching, strategic marketing, leveraging relationships, social networking, business development and competitive intelligence.

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