What it took to give this B2B company one CRM

Miller Heiman shares the systems overhaul that led to a new marketable sales tool and single customer view

When your product is sales training, the last thing you want to admit to is problems with managing your own pipeline.

But this is precisely the situation global sales training, research and technology firm, Miller Heiman Group, found itself in five years ago. The product of numerous acquisitions, when Miller Heiman came to audit its CRM systems in 2013 it found itself with 15.

And while its methodologies and products were judged as robust by its clients, its internal workings told a different story. Hence it fell to chief operating officer, Aaron Romigh, to sort out the mess.

 “The legacy firms each had their own systems, and there were often systems in different regions,” Romigh told CMO. “For the most part everyone had done their own thing. There was data everywhere, there were systems everywhere, and we were getting stuck in an audit processes where we couldn’t validate the things we had sold. We wanted to have line of sight to our revenue, and the only way to have line of sight to revenue in a global company is to do a consolidation.”

If only it were that simple. Through the scoping study, Miller Heiman also determined its ERP systems would need to be replaced. And if that wasn’t enough, the company also decided to use systems as an opportunity to modernise many of its processes.

“This wasn’t just a CRM or ERP replacement, it was a major overhaul of our back office,” Romigh said.

Salesforce was selected as the new unifying tool, based on the belief that it would provide the flexibility Miller Heiman needed to meet its various objectives. This included significant process redesign, and the creation of a product picker within Salesforce with embedded processes and automatic revenue recognition.

“The logic that it enabled us to build was really powerful and helped us streamline our processes,” Romigh said.

Even so, the project itself took three years, and was far from a smooth journey.

“We underestimated how hard it would be,” he continued. “When you are doing what we did, a CRM is a system that drives a business process. We thought the systems would change the business processes, and as we all know, that is not how it happens. You need to change your business processes and then pick the right system."

“So I would go back and focus less on systems and more on processes. I would have done more discovery and process design beforehand, and add much more time in. This is much harder than you anticipate.”

Romigh said he would also pay more attention to change management were he to go through the process again.

“We had a change management specialist early in the process, but as the project continued we dropped that resource because we weren’t getting to the ‘change’ part,” Romigh said. “So when we got to the change part, we didn’t have that resource. You cannot underestimate the amount of communications, the amount of training, or the amount of conversations, that needs to happen around this.”

Overcoming resistance

A pilot launch was followed by a phased rollout, with significant instructor-led training and webinars to bring users on-board. Romigh still encountered resistance among the sales teams to using the new tool, although this diminished when it made the basis for commission recognition.

“These types of changes are a process, and I think we are much further along than we used to be, but there are still things we have to solve,” he said. “If I could do it over again, I would build a set of seller dashboards first so that they would see in real time every opportunity they put in to see that reward.”

Importantly however, Romigh said customers are experiencing better service.

“Our client services team have a history of our client and the data and everything they ever brought from us, and that data is also being transferred into the financial system, so there is a one-to-one match along the way,” Romigh said.

Miller Heiman has also now created a new tool to embody its sales methodology, called Scout, which integrates with the Salesforce CRM.

“That is what our sellers are using today to move deals along,” Romigh said. “We have put our money where our mouth is and built a tool out and embedded it into our CRM, and not only selling it to our clients but using it internally.”

Read more about how other brands have overcome the CRM challenge:

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