Knowledge is Power – CRM and Your Sales Pipeline

I had to call out the cable technician this week because my internet, which has been progressively running slower and slower, reached a point where I couldn’t stand it anymore.  He did a wonderful job and did some rewiring inside the house, explaining there was an old splitter that was picking up and sending noise through the lines and messing with the cable signal.  After he was finished my internet was just flying compared to what I was used to!  He explained that if it ever slows down like that again to call them sooner rather than later and that too often their customers have signal issues and just accept the slower speeds without question, because they don’t know they can have better service.  They believe inferior is acceptable.

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I think we may adopt inferior as acceptable quite often in our day to day lives because we believe it is easier to accept what we have than spend time trying to figure out what is needed to make it better. I personally catch myself doing it all the time.  My husband and I were looking for a new laptop and I found myself looking for one that didn’t have Windows 8 on it because I didn’t want to learn something new.  Really?  Shame on me!  The question we really need to ask ourselves is what do we gain by learning something new? What knowledge will we posses we didn’t previously? How will that knowledge impact our future decisions? How much time will it save us in the future?


CRM software can do a lot of amazing things, but one that people praise over and over after implementation is the visibility into the sales pipeline.  Prior to implementing CRM companies often use post sale reports (from their accounting or ERP packages) to make decisions.  Post sale reports only show you the customers and orders you won.  That’s only half the picture, right?  How can you make an educated decision with half the picture? To rectify this problem companies often attempt to capture sales pipeline activity through excel spreadsheets, managed and updated by the sales people.  These weekly or monthly “spreadsheet meetings” are dreaded by all and often sales management does not leave that meeting any more informed than they were before they started it.

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But….if you have never known any different and if you have become complacent with this inferior sales information collection process how would you know that it is entirely unacceptable?  How bad does it have to be before you finally say “Enough!” (and in my case, call the cable guy?)

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Visibility into your sales pipeline will provide you with a level of information, that once you have experienced you will not be able to live without!  (Think Ipad or Kindle.)  You hear the hype and think that everyone is exaggerating the benefits.  Then you get one and refuse to leave the room, any room, without yours on or near your person.  CRM, when used effectively is just like that.  You will wonder why you waited! You would never dream of being without it again, and it will become as necessary to you as your Iphone or personal computer.

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CRM is here to stay.  Make the leap to better information so you can consistently make the very best, informed decisions.  Don’t settle for inferior.

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Using CRM to Prioritize Contacts, Leads, Prospects and Customers! More importantly…..know the difference!

We are currently preparing to attend a local tradeshow for manufactures.  Tradeshow preparation can be a little daunting.  You want to make a grand impression.  You want to be memorable.  You want to reach your target audience. You want to make new contacts and gather new leads.  Most importantly you want the effort to result in profitable business.  How does one translate all of those goals and actionable results?  The trick really is being able to clearly define who it is you are talking to.  Is the person standing in front of you simply a contact or are they a lead?  Are they truly a prospect? What is the difference?

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We find that if companies create the definitions for these terms prior to attending a tradeshow and ensure that everyone in the organization understands those definitions, expectations and outcomes are often better aligned.  For example, if the marketing department has created a contest, provided a raffle giveaway, or another reason to generate traffic into the booth that collects names, emails and telephone numbers does everyone in the group agree these are leads?  Likely not.  Unless every individual has to meet a very specific criteria before stepping onto the show floor, it is most likely that the vast majority of names in that drawing are not qualified leads.  They may not be leads at all, only contacts.

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So, what constitutes a lead? Different company’s sales processes manage these terms in different ways and there is no right or wrong as long as there is agreement to the intended meaning of each term and the expected action that each is to be met with.  In our company we classify a lead as someone who has “raised their hand”.  In other words it is someone who has said, I know what you do and I’m interested in that.  That alone would constitute a reaction from us that is different than a name we would have gotten from a booth drawing, however, a raising of the hand is still only a lead; not a prospect. This is where we get particular about qualification.  Our CRM software is helpful in outlining our qualification questions for each record and collecting the answers to those qualifications in a single, quickly reference able location.  Once all qualifications regarding interest, size, time, decision makers, and budget have been collected we can officially classify them as a prospect.

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In our world, a prospect is someone that has moved into the sales process. Again, CRM software is highly beneficial in streamlining activity for all classifications of records.  If you have a specific contact process that you would like to engage in to convert a lead to a prospect, a CRM solution can help automate many steps of that for you.   We all want to convert prospects to customers, and there are undoubtedly steps in your sales process that can be automated to expedite that result.  Often, even automated reminders to ensure action is being taken can make the difference in converting a lead to a prospect or a prospect to a customer.

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Tradeshows are only one way that leads enter our sales system.  They come in from many directions and a CRM solution can manage the classification of these records in a language that is mutually understood by all in the organization and it can help you manage those records in an effective manner that will result in more customers and more revenue.  Before you start planning for your next tradeshow, have a planning meeting to determine what your goals are for contacts, leads, prospects and customers.  When everyone is speaking the same language the expected outcomes will also be understood by everyone!

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Contact Kym Riedel at Resolv to learn more about what a CRM Business Strategy and what a software solution could mean for your company.  Kym can be reached at kriedel@resolvcrm.com or at 920-268-4074. Visit  www.resolvcrm.com  to read other educational articles specific to CRM solutions.

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CRM For Best and Next Practices

I attended a leadership seminar in the CRM software industry where the expert speaker made the comment, “If you just copy you will always be behind. The only way to get ahead is to focus on not best practices, but next practices.” 


I believe it is human nature to emulate a best practice.  It is also natural (and often expected) for a company to emulate the practices of industry leaders.  After all, they must be doing something right.  So, is there anything wrong with emulating best practices?  I don’t think wrong is the right word.  It’s not wrong to adopt and implement excellent ideas.  It’s not wrong to be effective and efficient.  The larger the company the more important that is.  Waste of time and materials can become exponential very quickly and very painfully.  Evaluation of existing processes and measuring them against a predetermined criteria (the “best practice” measurements) isn’t ever a bad idea.  I think the lesson of the statement mentioned above is that when you become complacent in best practices and stop reaching for continuous improvement you are likely going to plateau.  Where you really want to be is where there is no one better to measure yourself against, right?


Because I live and breathe CRM solutions when I heard this statement, wrote it down, and re-read it several times I realized it was speaking to me on two levels.  One was mind set (the “best” and “next” parts of the sentence and the strategic planning they were referring to), and the other was execution (the reference to “practices”).  It’s really about getting the innovative and creative objectives we have OUT of our heads and into our daily lives where we can execute them.  There is the challenge.  Most of us are either highly capable of one or the other, but rarely both.  We are big planners and thinkers with little desire to perform the daily tasks to bring those big ideas to fruition or we are daily doers who love the tasks and hate it when someone comes along with yet another big idea that will mess up our day to day flow.  What is the answer? How do we get from best practices to next practices? How do we prioritize, organize, and execute on the big ideas without derailing the entire organization?

CRM software is how you do it. Not only can CRM software be used for existing process and culture alignment, but it can also be the tool that captures the big ideas and systematically makes them part of the existing workflow.  It can be used to measure how much time and resources are being used on a given project and allow those strategic thinkers to make educated decisions about what direction to provide next.  The brilliant idea of last month may not be holding water to the brilliant idea of this month that is expected to cost less to produce, get to market faster, and sell more.  Putting the project details in a single location so you can make educated decisions is one of the primary reasons for CRM.  CRM was designed to enhance the customer experience received from your organization.  That includes making the right decisions internally to improve your corporate and branding image to the outside world.  When there is a disconnect within your organization, there is likely a tool to aid you closing that gap.


CRM software is a tool that can not only take you to a place of emulated best practices but to a place of continuous improvement, and provide a platform for industry next practices.

Contact Kym Riedel at Resolv to learn female cialis more about what a CRM Business Strategy and what a software solution could mean for your company.  Kym can be reached at kriedel@resolvcrm.com or at 920-268-4074. Visit  www.resolvcrm.com  to read other educational articles specific to CRM solutions.

CRM Implementation – Part 2 – Automation

In my previous article, CRM Implementation – Part 1 – Process Evaluation, I addressed the importance of understanding and defining your existing customer facing processes and being able to define and track the results of those processes.


Process Evaluation is capturing the “what is” of our tactical daily business.  Through that process evaluation you hopefully found a few areas in your processes that needed some fine tuning and created greater efficiencies for your organization.  Perhaps, you were able to define to someone in the company who does the same thing every day without question, why they do what they do because you formally defined the expected result of one of your company’s processes.  Perhaps defining the process and the expected result forced you to add some very valuable steps that will allow you to quantify your efforts in the future.


In the article previously mentioned we captured the reality of “what is”.  In this article we will talk more about “what can be”.  If you followed the simplistic, yet effective, recommendations of my previous article you created a flow chart style documentation of your customer facing processes.  You may have used sticky notes on a wall, or a software program such as Visio, or maybe you used pencil and paper (with a large eraser nearby).  If you have documented your process flow and by doing so created efficiencies in your organization, then congratulations!  You are far ahead of a lot of companies by having completed that exercise.  There is a second part to this process evaluation assignment however.  Step two is about defining places where automation can further improve your processes and efficiencies.


Gather the same individuals that were needed for the definition and evaluation exercise and ask them this question:


Can the process be improved and be more efficient by automating steps?


Expand on that question.  Dig deep. Ask questions like…”If we could send an auto email here, what would happen?”, or “If the receipt of document X created the next step to happen automatically, what would the process look like?”   Think big and think efficient.  Sometimes I even tell people (if they are not the imaginative types), to pretend magic is a possibility.  Where would you wave the magic wand?


This is where CRM software comes into play.  CRM software can automate many steps in a process (and track ALL the steps in a process) making it even more efficient that you can imagine today.  That’s why it’s important to think outside the box.


You will need to imagine the ability to see all steps of the process simultaneously and how that ability would impact not only the steps of the process today but your decision making ability along the way.  How would that decision (or even the ability to make it) impact the next step. The next thing you know, you will begin adding more valuable services, features and benefits to your customer facing processes because you can do it without adding resources, while simultaneously quantifying the results of doing so.  That my friends is where the real magic happens.

  
Automating as many steps in a tactical work process as possible free up valuable human resources (the most expensive company resource, by the way) to focus on strictly revenue generating activities while providing them the visibility to manage the tactical with an ease they have not previously experienced.


Use CRM software to transform your business practices and motivate your employees through providing them visibility into the big picture.  Demonstrate to them the importance of the single step they take in the bigger picture and ask them to continue to contribute suggestions and ideas to streamline and automate the processes they touch every day!

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Contact Kym www.punapharmacy.com Riedel at Resolv to learn more about what a CRM Business Strategy and what a software solution could mean for your company.  Kym can be reached at kriedel@resolvcrm.com or at 920-268-4074. Visit  www.resolvcrm.com  to read other educational articles specific to CRM solutions.

CRM Implementation – Part 1 – Process Evaluation

As I get older I find that I tend to be very introspective about being efficient and effective.  At least it seems that way.

In my twenties, I don’t remember giving too much consideration to overall daily or weekly accomplishments.  I don’t think your mind works that way in your twenties.  You’re always looking ahead to what’s next or to what you might be missing.  Digressing for the sake of self evaluation does not come natural at that stage in life I suspect.

In my thirties I was running around like a crazy person trying to manage children, career, husband and home.  There simply isn’t time to consider alternative outcomes to a day where there is little time to consider anything at all.

Now, however, in my forties, I find that I am very particular about maximizing my time and getting the most from my efforts.  I find myself, not only in my professional life, but in my personal life, ensuring that I have taken the steps necessary to plan appropriately and evaluate if the results met my expectations.  If they did not, I will ask myself why.

Process evaluation is essentially as simple as answering that question.  If your expectations have not been met, why haven’t they been met?  In our professional lives our daily routines are inundated with processes.  Sometimes we are in a position to see an entire process from beginning to end and sometimes we are only a tiny part of a process that is much larger than we have total visibility to.  That’s normal.

When considering a CRM software implementation it is absolutely critical to define all customer facing processes within your organization.  What does that mean?  It means that if the process in question affects the customers opinion of you, one of your company’s other employees, or of the organization as a whole, then the process needs to be looked at under a microscope.  Most importantly you need to define what the expected result of that process is and ask if that result is being met on a consistent basis.  If it is not, then why not?

We work with many companies who are implementing CRM software and our approach is very simple.  If you understand what it is you hope to accomplish, and can measure that result, you will ultimately be satisfied with the tool you choose to expedite and track that process.  Most CRM software provide sales, marketing and service management capabilities.  They all provide essentially the same bundle of features and benefits.  A very critical factor to a successful CRM implementation is not the software you select but the definition of what you want that software to do for you.  It essentially starts with process evaluation and definition.

My recommendation is not to overcomplicate that task.  Start by including all of the parties involved in a particular process and ask these questions:
What does your customer facing process look like today?
What do you want the result of the process to be?
Who determines if that result is achieved?
Is the result measurable or quantifiable?
Can the process be improved by removing or combining steps?

These questions are going to generate a lot of dialogue. That’s a good thing. From the dialogue, document the process. We recommend making this exercise as visual as possible.  Use the LEAN philosophy and outline the process with sticky notes on a white board or wall.  Work as a team and ask all parties involved.  Don’t assume to know pieces or parts of the process that you do not directly touch.  We find this exercise to be an enlightening and often fun one to do.  It is not uncommon to find two people in a chain of events who unknowingly duplicate steps or worse, complete steps that are entirely unnecessary.

Process evaluation for the preparation of a CRM software implementation is not limited to sales departments.  Marketing, customer service, operations and quality control all have impact on the reputation of the organization and have customer facing responsibilities.  Initiate a company wide effort to be more efficient and more effective.  Use CRM software as the tool to capture and quantify those results! 

Read more about CRM Implementation and the next steps of Process Evaluation in CRM Implementation – Part 2 – Automation.

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Contact Kym Riedel at Resolv to learn more about what a CRM Business Strategy and what a software solution could mean for your company.  Kym can be reached on this site at kriedel@resolvcrm.com or at 920-268-4074. Visit  www.resolvcrm.com  to read other educational articles specific to CRM solutions.
 

CRM Software Selection – Which Product Do I Choose?

I have read that visual learners represent 65% of the population.  I believe myself to be one of them.  I process information much faster when I can read it myself or better yet read and view associated graphics.  I imagine that this attraction to visual stimuli extends to many areas including my fashion choices, my home décor choices, the car I drive and the type of technology I use.  I’ll admit, I have to like what I see.  I won’t dig deeper to learn more if the criteria for my initial visual assessment (which we mostly make up as we go along) isn’t met.  Apparently 65% of the population is the same way. That means a lot of us make product selections this way, whether we realize it or not.

So, when choosing a CRM software are we drawn to the one that has the most visual sizzle at the time we are reviewing product demo’s?  If we are using our default product selection criteria, whether we realize it or not, we probably are.  Remember that with most things in the world of technology, sizzle is mobile.  What was most visually appealing today could be outdated or even obsolete tomorrow.  In making this very important long term software selection decision for your organization, the visual learners on the decision making team need to leave that inherent trait in their office when they come to a demonstration.  It’s not about which solution has the most sizzle, it’s about which one meets your organization’s needs.

How then, do we assess organizational needs for CRM software alignment?  It’s about process and culture.  It is necessary to align your organizational processes and culture with your technology and to select a CRM solution that provides that ability.  The technology itself represents the smallest part of the decision making process for a successful CRM implementation. 

Ultimately most CRM software provide sales, marketing and service modules. Typically the “out of the box” solution will meet about 75-80% of your needs.  It is the balance of that alignment that becomes critical to a successful implementation.  It is imperative to align yourself with a CRM business partner that can not only develop the solution to meet all of your organizational needs but that provides a strategy for managing user adoption.  A CRM business partner will work with you in achieving the result you had for implementing CRM software, not just sell you licenses to a CRM software.

Ultimately, it’s not about the product that you choose.  It’s about the CRM Business Partner that you choose.  If you implement CRM correctly, the partner you select will still be working with you many years from now and will understand your business as intimately as you click on this link do.  Choose wisely.  

CRM – The Secret Language

A golden rule of writing is that you are never supposed to write about your family members.  Well, I’m going to break that rule, ever so subtly, to make a very important point about the width and depth of communication that CRM software can provide a business organization.

I remember something extraordinary about my relationship with my husband, from the very onset of it. I remember that we didn’t have to talk a lot because we simply understood each other so well.  It was  sort of secret language in many ways.  We could be listening to a friend at a party and make eye contact and convey an emotion, position or sometimes what seemed like an entire conversation through a facial expression or body language that no one else could have even picked up on.  Over the years, as our relationship has grown, that secret language (greater understanding with few words) has only strengthened.  I think secret languages are pretty common among people that are close. Parents and children have a secret language.  Many siblings have a secret language.  Best friends of many years sometimes have a secret language.  As you read this, you probably have someone that comes to mind that you share a secret language with.

So, how do we emulate that level of understanding and communication outside of a one-on-one relationship? How do we make that natural depth of communication applicable in our business lives?  How do we magnify the depth of communication that usually exists between two people (a sales manager and a buyer, as a business example) into a company-wide relationship that is between two companies? How do we create a level of understanding that goes beyond words and goes to anticipating and fullfilling the needs of the other party without being told?

That secret language is really an awareness of needs.  When a true connection is made either socially or professionally it is because both parties feel the other one understands them.  Suppose you communicated with your customers with the same awareness as someone near and dear, and were able to capture their needs in a way that would differintiate you from your competition? Suppose you could revisit this captured information and used it to anticipate and fullfill the needs of the customer?  Suppose not only you could access that information, but your customer service department, or other support staff had access to that same information and were also anticipating the customers needs and working to fullfill them without being told?  Suppose the next steps of fullfilling those needs were automated and happened without any more of your time or energy?

That’s a lot to imagine, but in reality it’s much more tangible than a secret language.  All of these things are possible through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. If you had these abilities would it change the dynamic of your relationship with your customers?  Would it change the way your customer views you and your company?  Would it change the way you view them and what you could do to help them?

CRM software provides you the 101meds.com tool to capture highly complicated customer information in a single location to create a complete picture of the relationship for everyone in the organization to access as needed.  Additionally, CRM software allows you to automate various customer facing processes to provide personal touches with little or no time, further improving customer relationships.  People look forward to being with people who understand them.  Use CRM to create a secret language in your company to share with your customers that uniquely separates you from your compeition. 

Your Invitation to the Customer Relationship Management Party!

If there’s one thing that’s true about CRM, it’s that it’s a collaboration of people.  It’s about sharing information and having visibility to the contribution that others are making.  In many ways it’s about community.

   It’s a forum for like minded people (your co-workers) to communicate and work together toward a common goal.  It’s about having a single location for all customer facing information….a location that everyone needs to know about and frequent regularly!  Following is a series of articles inviting you to learn more about how CRM software may impact your organization on both a strategic and tactical level.  Consider it an invitation to achieving the level of understanding about CRM that will make it worth celebrating!  Join the party!

 

Why:

CRM Enablement to a Better Night’s Rest
CRM is Better Than Water Cooler Chit Chat

When:

Culture Part I– The Top Down Directive
Culture Part II – The CRM Champions
CRM Implementation – Part I – Process Evaluation
CRM Implementation – Part II – Automation

Who:

Be a Miraculous Marketer
Using CRM to Prioritize Contacts, Leads, Prospects and Customers! More Importantly….Know the Difference!

Where:

CRM is NOT homework!
CRM Software Reporting – Hang Your Report Card on the Refrigerator!

RSVP:

Choosing a CRM Business Partner
Resolv – What We Believe


Thank you for joining me and please visit our seminars webpage and register for an upcoming seminar or webinar.  Check back on this page periodically to see future blogs and articles pertaining to user focused CRM.  The invitation to this party is a standing invitation, and one that you are free to forward to anyone who you feel might like to learn more about what CRM could mean for their company.

Kym Riedel

Resolv, Inc

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Culture Part I – The Top Down Directive

I believe that most strategic business owners and business managers find the concept of CRM intriguing.  I believe most of us, who have been out there for a while believe that it is long overdue.

 I remember, years ago (let’s just say more than a decade ago), searching on what was the internet at that time. (For those of you who remember the internet over a decade ago….it was a vast sort of place where you could get lost for hours and accomplish little…mostly because you sat there watching the waiting icon spin because you were on dial up.)  I remember searching on the internet trying to find some form of sharing software…something my whole team could see.  Of course, I didn’t know what CRM was then or that it formally had a name and it was still just a twinkle in the eyes of the big publishers…but even then the need existed. 

Accounting software has been around for about as long as the inception of computers themselves, which spread into inventory management software or total Enterprise Systems.  Yet, for some reason, it has been perfectly acceptable for the DRIVING part of business… sales, marketing and service, to be left to Excel spreadsheets and Outlook calendars.  It seems crazy really, when you think about it.  Crazier still is that I often hear from business owners today they are still reluctant to implement CRM because their people won’t use it.  Hmmmm…..really?

Is it an option?  Has your accounting department ever come to you and said, “I don’t want to use my accounting software, I like using a ledger better”?  Would that be ok?  Let’s face it.  Having visibility to the sales pipeline is long over due.  It’s not about babysitting the sales, marketing or service teams.  It’s about having visibility to critical information in the sales pipeline that leads to informed and educated business decisions.  It’s about having a forecast based on actuality.  It’s about understanding the length of your sales cycle and the resources required to achieve it.  Why is it ok for that to be optional?

We find that if management leads by example, and lives and breathes their CRM, their subordinates will jump aboard the ship quickly.  SHOW THEM why THEY can’t live without it.  Show them what effeciences and intelligence can be gained from zoloftanxiety use.  Share your goals and objectives with them and the reporting capabilities and capacities it has, so they SEE how important their input to the process is. 

CRM software adoption is a top down directive, there is no doubt about it.  A successful CRM implementation is about the culture of the organization far more than it is about any other aspect, including the software itself.   Make it your mission to be the best informed manager or owner in your organization and you will find that CRM software is an essential tool that you can’t live without.   

Kym Riedel
Resolv, Inc.

CRM Software Reporting – Hang Your Report Card on the Refrigerator!

I may be dating myself, but I remember the days when meeting with a client meant a long lunch and talking about family and vacations.  Your rapport with that client was their number one reason for choosing to do business with you going forward.  Yes, there was the occasional problem, and when that occurred, you created a plan to fix the problem and you explained how and why that problem wouldn’t happen again.  You left most meetings feeling good, and with a good understanding of where you stood with that buyer or decision maker based on your relationship with them.  It was that easy.

  If they liked you and trusted you, you were relatively competitive in your respective industry; the likelihood of losing market share to a competitor was pretty slim.  Loyalty was the most important factor in a business relationship.

Rapport and loyalty still remain major factors, however the criteria that buyers and decision makers use to make purchase decisions has become a little less subjective over the last decade and will become even less subjective in the future.  After all, business is business and knowledge is power.  I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t meet your buyer for lunch, or that you shouldn’t know the name of their children or where they plan on going for vacation this summer.  Bonding will always be critical.  However, every bit as critical are quantifiable success factors.

Those quantifiable success factors are now captured in vendor report cards.  Sometimes buyers will produce that document based on their criteria from their information, or sometimes they want you to produce that document, based on their criteria but with your information.  If they are the ones producing the document, the last thing you would ever want is to be surprised by the contents!  It is essential to be aware of your critical success factors with each key account such as turns and gross margin, whether sales are up or down on each product, what promotions were successful and why,  how co-op marketing dollars have been allocated and the success of the related marketing campaigns.  If you’re not utilizing vendor report cards with your key accounts, you should be!

 
It is imperative that you can demonstrate to your clients where the strengths and weaknesses in your business relationship are.  Provide clients with a snap shot of your business relationship as detailed above and include a summary about past visits.  Detail future planned visits as well as future product launches and promotions.  Provide them with the complete picture so they are not only basing their future purchase decisions from the tried and true foundation of trust, but from the safe and comfortable foundation of confidence in your knowledge, ability and professional skills.

 A Customer Relationship Management software, when integrated with a back office system provides you the tool you need to create that complete quantifiable picture.  The combined information of the quantifiable success factors of a business relationship with the sales, marketing and service aspects create a very powerful tool that when used wisely can set you apart from your competition.  Make the commitment to create a report card that you page could ask your client to hang on their refrigerator!

Kym Riedel

Resolv, Inc.