Let’s say you’re thinking about computerizing your business to support your company’s growth and performance.

“We need a CRM system (Customer Relationship Management)! It will help our sales team sell more products/services.“

“We need an ERP system (Enterprise Resources Planning)! Managing our operations and costs will be much simpler.”

Where do you start? And what are the mistakes you need to avoid?

Here is how too many SMEs act when they decide to undergo a digital transformation.

Me-Too Inc.’s story

Robert Tremblay, a man in his early fifties, is President and CEO of Me-Too Inc. His SME employs 65 people in Montreal, and he has been thinking about implementing a CRM system in his business for a while. He wants to quantify and follow the opportunities developed by his four sellers and his customer service advisor.

Step 1: Defining your needs

Robert starts his research online in order to find the CRM systems that are the most adapted to SMEs. He also asks some of his fellow entrepreneurs which CRM system they use.

Surprise! There are many choices, and prices vary greatly. However, Robert wants the whole package because he wishes to increase his sales and ensure the future of his company, including the next generation.

After all, his daughter will become the executive director in 5 years.

To facilitate their analysis, Robert and Pierre Lafleur (the sales manager) define their needs in accordance with the characteristics offered by several CRM systems. In the end, four CRM systems seem to meet their main needs.

Step 2: choosing a provider

Robert and Pierre are planning a first meeting with two providers who are offering the four selected CRM systems.
One of the providers tells them that they forgot some options when they did their research, adding that there is this very special option they ABSOLUTELY NEED. All their competitors already have it; can they really afford not to?

Both providers give them a good overview of the fees for Software as a Service licenses.
However, Robert and Pierre have a little trouble understanding the costs associated with configuring a CRM system and training their employees.

Robert and Pierre are hesitant about all this. It is difficult to compare the proposals of the two suppliers. There are many features, options and gray areas that prevent them from seeing the whole picture clearly.
In the end, Robert and Pierre decide to rely on their instinct. They choose the CRM system offered by CRM-Plus Consultants Inc., the provider they felt the most comfortable with.

Step 3: Discovering it won’t be easy

One fine morning, the CRM-Plus consultants arrive in the company’s offices. They need to ask some questions to Robert, Pierre and the sales and customer service team in order to configure the CRM system.

“What are your sales and customer service processes? What information do you use? What are your rules and performance indicators when it comes to managing your sales pipeline?”

For Robert, Pierre and their team, it’s a big surprise. They don’t have standardized sales processes, management rules or performance indicators. They don’t know what the components of a good sales pipeline are. They believed that a CRM system was like an all-inclusive vacation package that lets you pay and enjoy effortlessly!

Step 4: Making changes, testing and starting all over again

Robert and Pierre quickly realize that they will need to conduct several tests if they want to achieve their goals of increasing sales and offering a better customer experience.
Second surprise: changes are very expensive and require far too much time.

Step 5: Resisting and losing one’s illusions

Surprisingly (not really), things do not work as Robert and Pierre were hoping they would…

Their two best sellers do not want to use the CRM system. They just don’t see the point.
To make things worse, the sales of the other two sellers have not increased. Now, they both spend more time supplying the CRM system with information than finding new customers and retaining the ones they already have.

Robert and Pierre are beginning to think they might never see a return on investment.

Can you honestly say you’re surprised?

We see cases like this one every single month.


The three fatal mistakes

First mistake: believing that a digital solution will effortlessly increase your sales, your productivity, etc.

A digital solution is a tool – not a miracle.

If you have not defined and optimized your business processes, your roles, your responsibilities and your business rules, a digital solution will not be able to do it for you. After all, your SME is different from all the others, isn’t it?

Artificial intelligence is progressing rapidly, but you will need to wait several more years to be able to effortlessly automate your business processes.

Second mistake: choosing a solution that is too powerful for your needs

You need to know the difference between your dreams, your advertising and your needs. Do not choose a popular digital solution; choose one that has been designed for high-performance businesses.
Be careful and choose a solution designed and used by thousands of SMEs.

Third mistake: computerizing your business without taking into account the maturity of your processes

Do you have processes? Are they mature enough to be computerized?
You need to assess the maturity of your processes to see if you are ready for a digital transformation.

0 = The work is not carried out.
1 = The work is carried out through the initiative of each employee, but the notion of process is ignored.
2 = There is an informal process in place
3 = The process is documented and communicated, and employees use it
4 = The process is continuously improved with performance indicators
5 = The process is computerized/automated

If you have not reached Level 3, forget the computerization of your business. Structure, simplify and optimize your processes.
If you have reached Level 3, you can begin assessing your needs while doing what is necessary to reach Level 4.
You have reached Level 4? Go for it! Calculate the return on investment, and if it is positive, computerize your business!

Many entrepreneurs behave like some amateur sportsmen who think they can immediately become national champions if they buy the newest and best equipment – even though they just started participating in sports activities!

They need to get ready for a wild ride – and not the good kind!

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