Letting Go Of The Relationship ‘Baggage’ RIAs Carry Into Their CRMs

Changing CRMs Can Provide A Fresh Start, But Only When Advisors Don’t Re-Create Past Conditions That Made Them Unhappy And Instead Set A New Standard
Paige Johnson, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Alliances, Practifi
Paige Johnson, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Alliances, Practifi

It’s no stretch to compare interpersonal relationships with the relationships between RIAs and their CRM software. (After all, CRMs are relationship management tools.) Both are complex and both can be really great – or very messy. As is the case for relationships, setting up or moving on to a new CRM comes with baggage. Sometimes people feel very frustrated with their CRM, but they don’t need to.

It’s Not You, It’s Me…

A CRM is often the foundation of an RIA’s tech stack. It’s usually the first piece of technology in which they invest. And it makes sense: managing people’s money is very much a relationship business and advisors need a tool that allows them to unify data from multiple sources and make everyday processes easy and transparent. But all too often, businesses end up switching CRM partners. That new CRM held such promise, so what went wrong?

Often the CRM is too complex or lacks the features users need. Maybe it has a bad user interface or it’s not intuitive. Maybe the person who made the decisions regarding this CRM has long since left the firm and to fix it means unraveling the chaos that’s been built. And some CRMs don’t scale as firms grow larger. To be frank, some CRM sales teams are happy to promise the moon to win new business, which means it wasn’t a good fit for the firm and was doomed from the beginning.

The firms that avoid these pitfalls are the ones that go in with grounded, realistic expectations.

The firms that avoid these pitfalls are the ones that go in with grounded, realistic expectations. They learn to crawl before they walk. They become comfortable with their CRM, leverage the core features that are baked into the product and become familiar with them, before rushing into building customizations.

RIAs should look at how the software needs to work for compliance, marketing and operations professionals, in addition to advisors. They start slow – instead of jumping waist-deep into a new feature list or porting over old workflows, they make sure the tech is usable on a basic level.

Where does that leave you if you’re already unhappy with how things turned out with your firm’s CRM?

Except When It’s Definitely You

I have seen so many advisors who are unhappy with their CRM decide to invest in a new platform. They have visions of a clean slate – a fresh start – with all the features they wished they had already. One of the first things they do is drag over years of inaccurate and incomplete data and try to re-create all their old workflows in the new environment.

A new CRM is a major investment for any advisory firm. When making the transition between the old platform and a new one, RIAs run the risk of losing all the advantages they hoped to gain with a fresh start. They painstakingly re-create the conditions that made them miserable.

Here’s the problem: Why would you re-create your old setup? You hated it!

Why would you re-create your old setup? You hated it!

The happiest firms I work with are the ones that view a new CRM as a chance to set a new standard. Instead of hauling all the detritus from their old relationship, they reevaluate what data to keep and what to dispose of. They de-dupe records, ensure the migrating data is clean and accurate, and satisfy the SEC’s recordkeeping requirements. Anything older than the SEC’s required timeframes can probably go. Keep in mind: the amount of data you bring over could impact the cost of implementation.

There are concrete steps you can take to create a better experience with your CRM. Treating it like an actual, reciprocal relationship can give you better odds of a smooth transition. Take the elements of a healthy relationship and apply that to an RIA’s work with their CRM. Don’t move too quickly. Put in the work. Let go of the baggage. And as with any kind of relationship, it’s worth asking, “Hey, time out for a second. Is there another way to do this that would make us happier?”

In most cases, there probably is.

Paige Johnson is the Director of Strategic Partnerships & Alliances at Practifi.

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