CRMs, Beware of Conversions, Part 3

In part 1, I gave a brief background about CRMs (Customer Relationship Management) In part 2, I discussed three commons mistakes when using CRMs. In his post, I will discuss conversions.

Conversions are when your employer converts your data to a new CRM. This is done for several reasons. Maybe your employer feels it’s time to upgrade to a better system. But usually, the most common reason is that you are going through a merger or buy-out, and one company has decided to switch to one database to cut down on costs, confusion and ensure better workflow.

Conversions are scary. No matter how well planned a conversion is, there is always the risk you will lose information. I have gone through four conversions in my career. It’s never fun. In fact, it can be very nerve-racking. I had one situation where a conversion was done and the programmers forgot to transfer the sales notes. Fortunately for me, I still had access to the old database for one year. However, it was time-consuming to have to constantly toggle back and forth between one database to another while making sales calls.

How well or badly a conversion is done is a good sign of whether you and your colleagues will survive a merger or buy-out. As a general rule, if the dominating company rushes through a conversion, and forces you to use a lousy CRM, and doesn’t care about your concerns, that is a good sign you will be laid off. For example, one division at one of my former employers based in Maine was forced to use three CRMs at the same time! Each salesperson was required to toggle back and forth between each CRM when viewing customer information, entering information and submitting orders. It was no surprise that a few months later, the entire sales and customer service was laid off.

I went through a similar situation after one buy-out. The dominating company dumped our great homegrown CRM and replaced it with an inventory-style CRM that had no sales tools or features. It was extremely difficult and time-consuming for us to use. Under the new leadership, we were not allowed to use the dominating company’s better CRM. Since we already knew they were going to get laid off the entire sales team anyway, we were not completely surprised that we were forced to the lousy CRM until they got rid of us.

As a rule, the longer it takes the programmers to do a conversion, the better for you. This means the programmers are taking their time and doing it right. I’ve gone through rush conversions where critical information was not transferred over. In one instant, all my old expired clients were not transferred over. I frequently call on old clients to see if they want to order from me again. In that case, I had access to the old database and I was able to manually enter the better old expires in my new database.  But that is a very time-consuming process.

CRM conversionsWhen a conversion occurs, you must speak up and make sure the programmers understand your concerns. Programmers are not salespeople. It’s your job to make them aware of any critical information that must be protected and transferred over probably. When my company was bought by a major corporation, I was pretty much out of the loop in terms of making suggestions. I was low man on the totem pole. However, I knew some of the programmers who were doing the work. Because I was on friendly terms with them, I sent them e-mails with suggestions on what to transfer over. I was completely surprised when I found out they were not planning to transfer sales notes to the new system. When I pointed out the importance of this, and where this information was located, they quickly agreed to move the data over.

You may think I’m being overly cautious about warning you of the potential dangers of conversions. Maybe this story will change your mind – Long before I started working for a major publishing company, that company did a conversion in the early 1990s. The conversion was so bad, that the company could not create or print renewal notices for more than a year. Field reps were forced to visit clients door-to-door asking for renewal payments. Not only did this incident hurt the company financially, but it was a major embarrassment for everyone.

Conversions can make or break you. Speak up.

Normally, you will be given plenty of advance notice before a conversion occurs. That’s good. Because you need to plan ahead and protect your customers and prospects.

Here is what you need to do to prepare for a conversion –

1). Have all your customers backed up on your computer, and if possible, in print. Put your printed copy in a secure place. Use a lock and key if you need to.

2). Make sure there will be no disruption in your call-back calendar. If your call-back calendar is not going to be transferred over, make plans to save it so you don’t miss important calls.

3).  Make sure you take some downtime to learn the new CRM. Yes, I know. It’s a pain to learn a new system. But the sooner you know it, the faster and better you will be doing your sales job.

4). Will you have access to the old database after the conversion? In most cases, companies do keep archive files of the old databases. No matter how successful a database conversion is, I always found myself going back to the original database to access the material. It doesn’t hurt to ask if you can access the old records if needed.

Conversions are a necessary evil in sales. If you are unsure about something or have some concerns, you must speak up.

It’s your information too. If your employer loses it or screws up, it will dramatically hurt your sales and could set you back for months.