CRM Implementation: 7 Characteristics of a Good Training Plan

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When it comes to planning a CRM implementation project, I have learned the importance of two things: 1) create and keep the project scope manageable, and 2) ensure adequate training for all users.  Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is fairly intuitive, especially for anyone that uses Microsoft Office (isn’t that everyone?).  Still, it’s important to invest in your users’ first experiences with MDC, and provide a solid foundation of learning on which they can build.

As a CRM consultant with experience managing CRM projects and delivering CRM training, I have compiled seven (7) characteristics of an effective training plan.

  1. Avoid overwhelming the users by teaching them every last feature of CRM right away (how many people even know every last feature?).  Focus on teaching them the tasks they will use to support their day-to-day activities.  Four to six-hour classes work well, with lots of time for breaks to rejuvenate.  When the classes get longer than that, fatigue and overload can set in and you might as well be training the wall.
  2. Timing is everything; make sure the system is ready and installed on their computers so they can use it right away after training.  If you’ve ever received training for a tool that you weren’t able to use for a long time, you know how much you retained (or didn’t), and the challenges that you faced.
  3. Do your best to get people away from their jobs for the training session, so they can stay focused and avoid distractions.  This is especially challenging with sales people as they depend on their communications media and are not used to sitting in a room all day.  An icebreaker that I often use in training class is to say, “I always love training sales and marketing people because they just love sitting in a room all day learning how to use computer software,”  to which I always receive a chuckled response.   Getting support for training from the leadership team is essential for making training time a priority.
  4. Provide face-to-face training for the most effective delivery, especially when hands-on exercises are included.  Watching someone work in CRM makes it look very easy.   Still, performing the clicks yourself while someone is available to answer questions helps you to retain the knowledge.  When face-to-face training is impossible or impractical, training webinars can be a good second choice.  With this approach, it’s especially important to emphasize to attendees the need to turn off their e-mail and phones during the training session or the temptation to divert attention is too great.
  5. Allow users to see the CRM system prior to the training day, if possible.  This gives them a basic understanding of the system so that it’s not a completely new concept that they have to adjust to during the training.  This adjustment can be a distraction during the early parts of the session.
  6. Be sure to tell attendees how to get help after you leave them.  Is there a support helpline or resource that they can contact when they have questions or problems?  This start-up and ongoing support is part of a solid project plan. Having these resources available will provide comfort and security to the CRM users as they start using the new system.
  7. Follow up with a short refresher course after people have used the system for a while.  This provides a platform for reviewing the basics and answering questions, and for teaching a few advanced features.  Telling people at the initial training that they will receive a refresher class provides additional confidence in a successful start-up.  Webinars can be very effective for refresher courses.

Consider these traits on your next CRM project.  I hope that I’ve outlined the importance of a well-thought-out CRM training plan, and provided you with things to consider as you develop your own training plans in the future.

As a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Certified Gold Partner we have helped over 100 customers successfully implement and utilize CRM for their organizations.   You can read about their CRM customer success stories on our website.

By Ledgeview Partners – Wisconsin based Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner serving the Midwest and Heartland regions

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