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Carrots and sticks: Encouraging top partners to adopt consulting CRM software

Four coworkers at a desk look at a laptop screen

During conversations with consulting clients, we’re often asked, “How can we get our partners to use consulting CRM software?” After all, it’s not always easy for partners who have built a successful franchise to suddenly change their approach and start using a consulting CRM.

Although we can’t wave a magic wand to change their minds, we can recommend an effective approach when working with firm partners: Shift the adoption conversation away from the technology itself and focus instead on your organizational goals and your shared desire to set strategy and processes that will bolster your firm’s future growth and progress.

When I managed CRM at a large consulting firm, my team would meet with partners to sell them on our consulting CRM software program. As we presented the value proposition, we would focus on three key themes that all related to working and selling smarter, instead of spending time on administrative tasks.

These were the carrots:

  • Increase client impact — By integrating top clients across the firm, partners and their teams can focus on selling to a smaller subset of clients rather than having to hunt for new business. Partners benefit from large global relationships, and implementing key-client programs is a great way to do this.
  • Boost sales with warmer leads  By integrating marketing and sales activity in a CRM, your sales and marketing teams can tailor their outreach and see all the latest relationship updates. This increases the likelihood of receptive clients — or even customers who contact you directly with questions about new products and services.
  • Improve performance and training — By harnessing the power of your data and outcomes from your CRM, you can learn many valuable lessons. You’re able to leverage that knowledge when training new hires on your selling process, helping them get up to speed more quickly and accelerating sales cycles. Your firm can also preserve important historical knowledge when employees move on to other jobs.

Human nature being what it is, people often need to understand the negative consequences of their actions. These are the ramifications, or sticks, we shared with our partners, illustrating what concerns they might face if they didn’t adopt the firm’s consulting CRM software:

  • No opportunities, no staffing — If partners didn’t add their opportunities to the system, they wouldn’t get staffed.
  • No contacts, no marketing — If partners didn’t add their contacts to the system, they wouldn’t be included in any marketing activities or have access to marketing resources.

Using both carrots and sticks, we achieved a good adoption rate. We then deployed a process to help our partners successfully adopt and learn the CRM:

  • Training every new partner (and their executive assistant) on our consulting CRM
  • Planning for the future by providing partner-track consultants with training and access to let them begin to nurture their relationships
  • Encouraging every top account leader to run their meetings from the CRM
  • Basing a percentage of each executive assistant’s job performance on their partner’s CRM data quality and activity
  • Focusing adoption metrics on output and client activity, including engagement with content and meeting with key stakeholders

Although there’s no magic solution for getting partners to adopt consulting CRM software, it’s critical to emphasize that the main investment driver lies in the value of the CRM data and process. Each organization will have different levers it needs to pull, but ultimately, you’ll likely need a combination of carrots and sticks to ensure success.

Intapp CRM is purpose-built for partner-led management consulting firms, designed to make it easier for partners and teams to manage complex relationships and experience.

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