6 steps to protect your CRM investment taken from the Ski Slopes

ski pictureI learned to ski at the age of 6 on straight skis. My family spent many winter weekends and holidays driving from Denver, Colorado to Copper, Loveland, Vail, Snowmass and Keystone to enjoy a day of skiing, on long straight skis. By high school, I could ski any terrain. After college, marriage, a move to Minnesota and three kids I returned to skiing after a 7 year break and learned the skis were no longer straight but hyperbolic shaped. No big deal. I jumped onto a pair and started skiing, just like I had before on my straight skis. Soon after, I started teaching beginners at a little hill, Hyland Hills, by my house. It was during a teaching certification class when I learned I wasn’t using the ski to its fullest potential. I wasn’t taking advantage of the hyperbolic shape, which made turning easier. And I wasn’t the only one. After learning what I was doing, I started to recognize other adult skiers using their hyperbolic skis like straight skis.

In business, I see relatable examples all the time. We see companies that have been running their business for years with Outlook, written reports and spreadsheets, try to configure a CRM tool to do what Outlook, written reports and spreadsheets do. Like the skis, they’re not using the CRM tool the way it was designed, which makes selling and reporting smarter, faster and more efficient.

The common thread between learning to ski on hyperbolic skis and learning to use a CRM tool is change. I have known that change is hard and nobody likes it. But, I didn’t truly understand it until a quote about change was given to me by a friend. The quote said:

Change is very hard, whether it’s an individual desire or a culture-wide need. We prefer the familiar, the known, and we give it value because it has been. We avoid change. We deny what we know in our bones. We block experiences, we ignore intuition, we pass by insight, we avoid transformation. We hold on, afraid to change a pattern even when we are in pain. When you feel conflict, pain, tension, fear or confusion, this is a change trying to happen. Don’t avoid it or withdraw. Don’t turn to busyness or denial. Lean into the feeling, work on the change, take the risk. It will give your life the fullness you seek. –Jennifer James, www.jenniferjames.com

After reading the quote I had a light bulb moment. When teaching ski lessons or introducing a new system I was always looking for positive answers to questions like, “How did that feel?”, “What do you think?”, and “Is that OK?” I applauded answers like, “I like it,” “This is great,” and “This is easy.” But after reading the quote I realized the individuals who complained, said things were clumsy or difficult, and expressed confusion, should also be applauded because they were indeed changing, and by doing so, were improving. Today, in teaching ski lessons and in CRM implementations, I work for positive and negative comments.

Take into consideration the following steps to affect change and improve user adoption when introducing a new CRM application. The six steps also work when applied to your personal life, like when wanting to become a better skier.

  1. Never skimp on training because by doing so, you devalue the investment. There have been countless times we have seen companies spend big on the implementation development, only to skimp on the training, the critical touchpoint with all the users. The bigger the change, the bigger the investment; be it time, money or both. Without training you delay user adoption, devalue the strategy’s importance, strip away employee accountability, weaken company leadership and create an environment that blames the tool for underperformance.
  2. Hire talented and experienced instructors. Your instructors should know the material they are teaching and should understand the different learning styles. Some people need to hear it; some need to see it or read it; and some need to experience it. There is also a group of thinkers that need to understand the “Why” behind what they are learning.
  3. Create an emotional and physical environment where failure is accepted. Changing your business process or tools is nothing like changing your office furniture; it’s not going to happen overnight. A major change takes time and is going to experience glitches and stumbles along the way. Creating an environment where mistakes are accepted increases the user adoption rate of the change. A ski student or an employee learning a new skill or process told that he or she is doing it all wrong by their instructor or boss, will become resistant to change. Their ego’s self-preservation kicks in and immediately the employee/student looks for flaws with the purpose, the process and even the instructor. Like a practice game in sports, a company should have a physical environment where employees can practice using their new tools and systems with dummy data without the fear of hurting the company.
  4. Continue practicing after the instructor-led training session is over. When things are difficult, like change, we want to avoid it. It is the select few that retain information after hearing it once. For the rest of us it is repetitive movements, thinking and schedules that create new habits. Plus, with today’s education tools, learning goes beyond the classroom. There are YouTube videos, learning modules and webinars that can help you practice.
  5. You must challenge yourself. Change takes us out of our comfort zone and we don’t like it there. Our body and mind will subconsciously work against us to return to the familiar. To challenge yourself you should question your feelings, address your weaknesses and set a goal to change.
  6. Finally, training is just the beginning, not the end. In our business we define the scope of a project for our customers with milestones on a timeline with consulting, developing and training. Because training is always at the end, after months of work, it is not uncommon for pilot teams to want to sit back, relax and let the training permeate into their subconscious. However, training is where the real work begins. Training is when your employees will feel conflicted or confused, which as we know from the quote stated earlier, is change trying to happen.

There’s a famous quote, “Start with the end in mind,” which only means it is important to know the outcomes you want before you build. This is never more true than when thinking of a training situation—if you don’t think about the training outcome, whatever you do up to that point are random acts that only incidentally create the outcomes desired.

By following the six steps, you will be able to define training expectations to get everyone in your company working towards the same goal. Did I ever learn to tip those hyperbolic skis on edge and carve out a turn like they were designed to be used? Yes. It took three winters of practice to do so. It may have only taken one if I had leaned into the uncomfortable feelings brought on by change instead of resisting.

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