After spending more than 4 decades observing leaders trying to transform their organizations, Dr. John Kotter developed 8 Steps for Leading Change. Although the private equity real estate (PERE) industry has evolved since Kotter first published his findings in the 1990s, PERE firms often face many of the same challenges — including firmwide software adoption.
The most common barrier to successful commercial real estate (CRE) software adoption is skepticism that the system will benefit those who will use it the most: dealmakers and back-office staff. For your adoption process to succeed, you’ll need to encourage buy-in and ensure a quick and clear return on your investment.
Kotter’s processes and methodologies can help your firm adopt and transition to a CRE-specific CRM faster and more efficiently. Follow Kotter’s eight steps to ease your change management process and better prepare your firm for other future changes.
1. Create a sense of urgency
Kotter’s first step is to create urgency and emphasize to your team that change is essential for your firm to remain competitive. Unfortunately, most PERE dealmakers and support staff are so busy with their day-to-day tasks that they’re hesitant to invest their time in additional projects like adopting a new system. Even if they’re using a legacy solution that’s no longer supported by the developer or a system that longer meets security standards, dealmakers would rather stick to the tools they know than learn a completely new tool that — from their point of view — may not even benefit them.
To help build excitement around the new system and reassure any skeptics, point out how the new technology will help dealmakers work more efficiently and support their success on multiple fronts. Share specific examples of how their legacy system has become outdated and inadequate and is now creating risks and roadblocks (for example, by no longer supporting the latest phone models). Then, highlight the benefits that the new CRM delivers, such as automated marketing functionality with built-in templates and dispatch tools.
Presenting both existing challenges and future benefits will help your dealmakers understand the urgency of adopting a new CRM and encourage them to support your adoption process.
2. Build a coalition
If your firm decides to research new CRM solutions, you’ll need someone to spearhead this large-scale project and make key decisions — likely a partner or other executive interested in digital transformation, who’s invested in the project’s success and highly attuned to the firm’s needs.
However, a project this large requires support from all levels of the organization. You should reach out to partners, dealmakers, and administrative staff across the firm and solicit their input and insights.
Then, form a guiding coalition — including a team leader, senior guiding team members, dealmakers, and software adoption specialists — to generate momentum behind the project and keep it on track. These team members will be responsible for different milestones and help with project management while you and other firm leaders continue to build project momentum.
3. Keep everyone aligned with a strategic vision
Kotter’s third step states, “Clarify how the future will be different from the past and get buy-in for how you can make that future a reality through initiatives linked directly to the vision.” Identify the things that aren’t working within your organization and create a vision for the future that shows how the environment and situation will change.
Once everyone at your firm understands the strategic vision, you’ll need to communicate it effectively to other partners and dealmakers to generate interest and investment. Talk to dealmakers about how you can make that future a reality and discuss their concerns.
For example, as organizations scale, it becomes more difficult to track data, and your dealmakers may be frustrated by a lack of data consolidation. To build support for your adoption initiative, you should develop clear messaging that explains how enhanced data management and visibility will help your dealmakers, and how the new CRM solution includes relevant built-in functionality such as Microsoft Outlook integrations, dashboards, and data syncing.
As you develop this messaging, connect with dealmakers about their concerns, such as potentially losing their existing data or having to repeat data entries. Proactively address the concerns of team members who could potentially block your plans by reaching out to them to discuss possible solutions before they kill enthusiasm for your plan.
Remember: Although CRMs offer many benefits and advanced capabilities, they’re still just tools. To make the most of your CRM’s capabilities, you’ll also need to improve related processes, like customer support and pipeline management.
4. Communicate the vision to your volunteer ambassadors
As the adoption process proceeds, your guiding coalition should recruit influential volunteer ambassadors — specifically, senior partners — to build momentum, bolster support, and encourage buy-in from employees. Buy-in must come from the top down and the ground up: If your partners don’t believe in your vision, your dealmakers and staff won’t follow suit.
To encourage buy-in, your volunteer ambassadors need to be able to clearly communicate the strategic project vision to the rest of the organization. Create a 5-minute elevator pitch so your ambassadors can explain the vision in fast, simple terms.
Even after you’ve refined your messaging and built your coalition, some dealmakers may still be resistant to change. Recruit volunteers to hold introductory events, training sessions, and seminars for partners and managers that explain the benefits of your new CRM — such as the ability to optimize lead generation, automate marketing campaigns, and close deals. Your partners and managers will not only better understand the CRM, but will be more likely to promote the software to your dealmakers and answer any feature-related questions those dealmakers may have.
5. Remove barriers to progress, such as conflicting motivations
As you move forward with your adoption process, you may encounter barriers such as employee resistance and conflicting motivations for switching to a new CRM.
For example, one of your partners may be interested in integrating a cheap private equity real estate (PERE) database that only meets minimum requirements, while another partner wants a more comprehensive PERE database with a higher upfront cost. If your firm’s original mission statement was to reduce budget, the first partner is within scope, even if the second partner has valid reasons and may be taking a longer view.
Of course, using a unsuitable but cheap database isn’t an ideal solution, even if it does save your firm money. By digging deeper into the problem and discussing it with your team, you might discover a CRM suite that incorporates comprehensive PERE data without needing expensive, third-party add-ons.
By better understanding obstacles like these, you and your team can develop and present solutions that still align with your vision. And by building processes that remove barriers head on, you can facilitate faster change.
6. Build enthusiasm by generating short-term wins
Transitioning to a new CRE CRM can take months, depending on the complexity of your infrastructure. A complex CRE CRM transition may require you to run systems in parallel, which means dealmakers will need to use one system for legacy clients and another for new clients and prospects until the migration is complete. Consequentially, dealmakers may become exhausted and discouraged mid-transition.
Any long-term transition builds fatigue, which is why you should generate short-term wins to keep the excitement going — and the pressure on. As Kotter writes: “Wins are the molecules of results. They must be recognized, collected, and communicated — early and often — to track progress and energize volunteers to persist.”
Set short-term goals to generate wins within a long journey by breaking your project into smaller milestones. Hold firmwide meetings to discuss recent wins, such as completing employee training, successfully moving all legacy clients to the new system, or setting a date for the closure of the old system.
After discussing your wins, explain the next short-term project, such as transitioning legacy clients to stronger deal pipelines and incorporating automated processes like drip email campaigns. Use the energy from your prior wins to generate excitement for the new ones.
7. Maintain momentum by accelerating change
Once you’ve achieved and celebrated your short-term wins, it can be tempting to relax the pace of your CRM adoption journey. But to prevent any loss of momentum, it’s important to keep moving the project forward to create new improvements and accelerate change.
New software simply can’t reveal its true potential before full adoption. For example, your CRE professionals might not have full access to the mobile app, or to the CRM’s marketing automation capabilities. Because they’re unable to see the full vision for the new CRE CRM, their excitement may wane, slowing down the adoption process further.
It’s important to keep communicating with your employees to determine what’s working and what isn’t, and to address any barriers that are preventing the successful implementation of your new CRM. Early and mid-adoption, team members are usually concerned about transitional problems: They may have lost their passwords and can’t log into the new devices, or they’re struggling to learn the new structures and naming conventions.
Create a help desk ticketing system to identify and react to these complaints and obstacles. In doing so, you can build out processes for addressing these problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. And again, keep promoting your wins to maintain support for change.
8. Establish a culture of change to ease future change management
Even after your firm has transitioned to a new, all-in-one CRE CRM, you’ll still need to ensure that your teams will continue to support the change and not revert to old technology or processes.
“Articulate the connections between new behaviors and organizational success, ensuring they continue until they become strong enough to replace old habits,” Kotter writes. “Evaluate systems and processes to ensure management practices reinforce the new behaviors, mindsets, and ways of working you invested in.”
Talk to your dealmakers about how the changes have helped the firm, and streamline your new processes to further entice dealmakers to embrace these changes.
You should also support institutional change by incorporating it into your company culture and prioritizing employees who believe in innovation. Create training and development opportunities to support change in existing employees who find it difficult. Don’t lose valuable talent because they want to avoid disruption.
Get started today with DealCloud’s CRM for CRE
Change is never easy, but DealCloud can improve your change management process by providing the tools that PERE firms need and dealmakers want. DealCloud’s comprehensive, industry-specific CRM capabilities can make it easier for you to get your entire firm onboard with the adoption process.
- Relationship management — Analyze your firm’s private equity and commercial property relationships to identify potential opportunities, score leads, and build relationships.
- Consolidated data and contact management — Store contact information and deal management data in a single comprehensive CRM tool.
- First-party and third-party data integration — Leverage third-party private equity, CRE, and property management data, and consolidate it with your own for more accurate and relevant analysis.
- Complete mobile accessibility — Keep your PERE dealmakers aware of client and project status from anywhere in the world, in real time. Give your team members all the data they need to close deals and build client relationships.
- Custom templates and automated touchpoints — Accelerate your dealmaking strategies through better workflow management, email marketing, and marketing Automatically generate follow-ups and schedule check-ins.
Your people are your most valuable asset, and if they aren’t on board with change, it won’t happen. By embracing change management as a critical part of software adoption, you can create advocates within your team and foster a long-lasting culture of innovation.
Schedule a demo of DealCloud’s CRM for CRE today.