​Levers of Power for CRM Success​
January 11, 2023

If you were ever assigned to a CRM implementation or repositioning project, you likely felt some unease on how to handle a firm-wide rollout while getting and maintaining adoption along the way. The first question you may have asked yourself is: “How do we get that done?” The answer is power. Some degree of power is necessary to accomplish just about anything in an organization. Too often, those spearheading the CRM initiative believe that power is derived solely from where one sits in the organization. Position is relevant, but it’s also true that some people are more comfortable with power than others. Power can be acquired and used effectively to achieve your goals, regardless of your position on the org chart. Let’s examine how. 

To understand power, it’s helpful to define it. The standard theory is that power is the capacity for influence and that influence is based on the control of resources valued or desired by others. Resources are at the very core of power. Ergo, to have power, you need to have access and control over resources—things that people want and need to accomplish a goal. Information is a key resource that is kept in CRM.

And access to resources creates power. David Halberstam, preeminent author and historian, wrote in his book The Reckoning about how information led to changes at Ford Motor Company over time. The finance department had information about which cars were most profitable and used that information to drive decisions about which cars should be made. The finance team then used that information to drive their own power within the organization, gradually overtaking the executive ranks of the company.

As you think about how to increase your power, you can either increase the resources at your disposal, increase the value they have to other people, or limit access others have to them to give yourself the power that makes a difference in the organization.

Power is no doubt ascribed to where one sits in the organizational hierarchy; he or she who sits at the top has structural power. Structural power goes to the boss or the managing partner in a law firm setting, but that type of power can lead to adverse outcomes if it’s leveraged in an autocratic way, which is rarely seen, fortunately. On the other hand, the managing partner’s support of the CRM initiative—by lending their voice to key messages around the initiative, for example—can lead to positive adoption outcomes.

You can leverage four more types of power without necessarily relying on someone else.

    1. Expert power
      Expert power infers that you have knowledge that is required in the organization. The CRM’s relationship intelligence is vital to promote successful cross-selling initiatives and the retention of top clients by closing relationship gaps. It may also contain win/loss information to extrapolate and predict future success, similar to the Ford Motor Company example. During a CRM strategic review session for a large Minneapolis law firm, the managing partner said to me, “I don’t have much to say because I don’t use CRM.” His legal assistant then looked over the rim of her glasses and said, “What do you mean you don’t use it? Every month you ask me for the key client relationship intelligence report, which comes from CRM.” The legal assistant has expert power.
    2. Reward power
      Reward power infers the ability to create rewards that people value. We can reward CRM users by highlighting adoption successes—those bright spots that others will want to learn from to replicate their successes.
    3. Coercive power
      Coercive power is the ability to withhold things that people value. If a fee earner wishes to invite her contacts to an event or send them her compelling piece on the legal implications of the nascent cannabis industry, then those contacts must be in CRM to execute on those campaigns. Similarly, if a business development expense isn’t recorded as an activity in CRM, then reimbursement could be withheld until it is.
    4. Referent power
      Lastly, referent power means that people have an affinity for you and want to do things because you are leading them. It’s important to be liked in an organization; as the old English proverb goes, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” That said, does referent power matter at the managing-partner level with respect to CRM adoption? Maybe not. A LexisNexis-funded CRM user adoption study found that leaders possessing transformational and charismatic characteristics (referent power) did not predict CRM adoption success as measured by the number of users using CRM, based on a quantitative correlational study that included a multiple regression analysis.
In summary, power isn’t only available to those at the top of an organization. Increase your own comfort with power and leverage it astutely to achieve your assigned CRM objectives.
Dr. David Jacobs

Dr. David Jacobs

Client Advisor
David has worked in the software industry for the past 20 years and spent the past 14 years at LexisNexis InterAction as a Principal Consultant and Client Advisor. He has implemented InterAction at law and professional services firms and conducted strategy and change management sessions that incorporate a CRM user adoption study that he ...

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