Avoiding a CRM Lemon …

As companies look for CRM systems, they frequently find themselves deluged with so many options and features that it can make one’s head spin. As I said in an earlier blog post (Comparison shopping for CRM software), comparing CRM systems and CRM system quotes is a daunting task.  It is a huge challenge to compare apples to apples.

For the last couple of years, we have had this quote on our web site.  It is called “The Common Law of Business Balance” and is attributed to John Ruskin (1819-1900).  While it was written over one hundred years ago, it still rings true:

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

In some documents the quote continues with:

“There is hardly anything in the world that someone can’t make a little worse and sell a little cheaper – and people who consider price alone are this man’s lawful prey.”

Avoid CRM Lemons

Wow, what can I add to that but to say we at Resolv understand your need for cost-effective CRM solutions.  We pride ourselves in our ability to help our clients work through a cost-benefit analysis and then providing various options that help businesses solve their pressing issues.

We offer quality consulting, products and services at a fair price, and are not satisfied unless the solution works for you.  As I said, It’s not easy to compare apples to apples, but it is even harder to spot a lemon, until after you purchased one.

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook  

 

A huge success.

While Resolv will be celebrating our tenth year anniversary this year, it is kind of fun to look back at what we have accomplished.  We have had many successes over the last 10 years, and it is exciting to see some of them published. 


Here are three recent success stories that we have had with Sage SalesLogix customers:

 

“We really appreciated Resolv stepping back and looking at our big picture. Sage CRM SalesLogix is now a usable and vital tool for our business.”

–Karen Roscoe, Product Manager, Bruker AXS

To view the whole story:  http://www.resolvcrm.com/images/stories/success/success%20story%20bruker%20axs.pdf

 

“Our business is based on relationships and Sage SalesLogix is the foundation. We have access to an enormous amount of data that allows us to provide an outstanding experience for our customers. Resolv has been instrumental in getting us where we are today.”

–Jason Kestler, President and CEO Kestler Financial Group

To view the whole story:  http://www.resolvcrm.com/images/stories/success/success%20story%20kestler%20financial%20group.pdf

 

“This was one of the smoothest implementations I have been a part of. The end result was so tailored to our business that everyone took to it quickly.”

–Ken Deering, Director of Customer Service and Facilities, Bay Tek Games

To view the whole story:  http://www.resolvcrm.com/images/stories/success/success%20story%20bay%20tek%20games.pdf

 

 Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook    

 

Process matters.

What I learned from a trip to Nicaragua …

Sunday I returned from a trip to Esteli, Nicaragua.  I went there to tour the Perdomo Cigar plantation and cigar factory.  The tour was amazing, and what I learned about tobacco; everything from the growth and harvesting to the drying and curing to the rolling of cigars; was all fantastic.  I cannot believe the amount of work that goes into each cigar that I smoke. 

However; being a process person, it made me think that there must be a better way to grow tobacco and make cigars.  Oh, I’m not talking about automating the rolling of the cigars, as nothing beats a good hand-rolled cigar; but the process could be improved, even though it much of it is a manual process.

Let me explain.  I have heard it said that each tobacco leaf is touched a minimum of 300 times before it ends up in the hands of the consumer in the form of a cigar.  After seeing the process, I think this may be an understatement.  It is touched, and moved, and stacked, and piled, and moved, etc.  The entire process is crazy!  What is even more crazy is that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the layout of the buildings or the flow within some of the buildings. 

I think that there is much we could learn from my tour of the cigar manufacturing process.  As you evaluate your own processes consider the following:

1)      We need to look for ways to minimize touches.  Take a look at the times that you have to pick something up or move it, what can be done to reduce this?

2)      We need to look for better flow from start to finish.  Review the process flow.  Is your space laid out to maximize production by minimizing steps?

3)      We need to determine if automation can help.  Are there parts of the process that automation can help to improve without affecting the final outcome?

I can’t help to think that this same factory in Nicaragua that makes 10,000,000 hand rolled cigars a year could increase production to over 15,000,000 a year just by simplifying some of the process and automating other parts; while holding to the hand-rolled standard that makes the Perdomo Cigar a great smoke time-after-time. 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook  

ROI in a CRM implementation, fact or fiction?

This blog post will be a quick look at ROI and will hopefully help you know the role ROI in a CRM implementation.

ROI, or return on investment, is the concept of how much money will be saved or made based on making a change.  Here are a three quick examples of ROI that we have seen from customers over the last couple of weeks:

 

  • Gross Sales:  It is estimated that if all quotes were captured in a systematic manner and followed up on in a like manner, with follow up information captured for future visibility and consideration for subsequent quotation opportunities, sales would increase between 10-20% at absolute minimum.
  • Sales Time: It is estimated that sales spends a tremendous amount of time “chasing” ad copy.  Potentially as much as 50% of their day can be “chasing” information needed to hit a deadline.  Ideally, automatic reminders should go to clients advising them of an approaching deadline, freeing up the sales people to sell.  If sales does spend 50% of their time at this task, and it could be reduced, even by half, annual sales could potentially be increased by an additional $325,000 a year if that time was dedicated to achieving new sales.    
  • Customer Communication: ABC Company anticipates that systematic improved customer communication all the way through the manufacturing process to shipping and delivery of the finished good could dramatically impact profitability. They believe that improved logistical processes and practices could impact the company with combined cost savings and increased sales due to customer satisfaction by nearly $150,000 annually.

 

On our website you will find greater list of areas of potential ROI in a CRM implementation.

These are all great ROI points and each can be achieved with CRM software playing a role.  However, CRM software is a tool to help provide accurate, up-to-date information, but software alone will not achieve the ROI required.  Changes will need to be made to current processes and culture as well. 

Usually ROI is used as a means to prioritize your CRM implementation.  We recommend implementing the areas of CRM that will best help you achieve your greatest points of ROI in your first couple of phases of the CRM implementation.

Which brings me to the final part of this post, can ROI be achieved and when can you expect results?

The answer to the question on achieving ROI is a resounding “YES it can be achieved, but …” you can only measure ROI where you have initial data to compare to.  For example, if your ROI point is to increase quote conversion by 20% through automated follow-up, you can only measure the results of a strategic CRM implementation if you have solid quote conversion numbers prior to making the change.  Not knowing your data prior will only result in a gut-feeling as to whether it was actually achieved.  One thing that can help is to monitor Sales prior to and after your strategic implementation of CRM. 

The answer to the question of when to expect ROI is a little easier to answer.  Implemented properly, with technology, culture and process in line, you should expect to see ROI after the six months.  Why six months?  Because a strategic implementation requires not only technology, but changes to process and culture.  That takes time and training.  It also takes more training.  Changing habits takes time.

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook 

 

CRM and Back Office Integration …

The what, when, and why of back office integration in 700 words or less …

I know that my blog posts can get rather lengthy at times, and so I will attempt to tackle this subject in 700 words or less.

In a meeting with a prospect today, I am reminded of the complexity of back office integration.  However, even more-so, I am reminded of the importance of it.  Let me start with the later and then I’ll take a quick shot at the complexity.

The importance of CRM and back office integration:

Integration between CRM and your back office provides your sales team (and all customer facing individuals) immense amounts of useful data.  Just to name a few:

  • Sales by account by year for the last several years: This shows the customer trends and a declining trend is usually a good waning sign of an unhappy customer.
  • Sales by product line:  This lets your customer facing individuals know what product lines the customer is using, and presents opportunities for cross-sale.
  • Aging of accounts:  This will help in collection efforts as your sales people will know the customer’s payment status.
  • Order status: This lets your salesperson know where an order is within the system and will help them to be proactive in negative delivery situations.
  • Credit limit visibility:  This will help your sales team to know if an order is within the approved credit limit and help them to take the necessary actions prior to accepting an order that is beyond the limit.        

The complexity of CRM and back office integration:

While this blog is not meant to be an all inclusive check list for the potential issues and problems of back office integration, I will touch on a few key points:

  • Integration may provide access to data that you do not want made available to all users in the CRM system.  Be sure to set security to handle these situations.  For example, it may not be necessary for all users to see cost information.
  • There is always a discussion as to what to do about changes to account information (Account name, address, phone number, key contacts, etc.).  Should we allow anyone to change this data in the CRM system and sync it to the accounting system, or require customer changes be made in accounting and pushed to the CRM system.
  • Where should quotes begin, in the CRM system or in the accounting package?  Should all quotes be an opportunity in the CRM system?
  • In many CRM systems, sales orders and invoices are two separate sets of tables.  Is it important to have one, the other, or both visible in the CRM system?
  • Along the same lines which data should be aggregated (orders or invoices)?  Aggregation of the data displays the total sales by month by year for a multi-year period.  An example is in the following screen shot taken from SalesLogix, a popular CRM application:

 

Conclusion:

In my experience over the past 12 years, back office integration is a critical element to sales force enablement.  However, it doesn’t have to happen in one massive phase.  In fact, it is probably better to do it in steps.  Start with the area of biggest pain.  If quotes and payment information are your biggest issues, do that first.  Then add in data aggregation in another phase.  Follow that up with invoice or order visibility.  Spreading it out over phases will help you and your consultant to more easily manage the integration and it will help you to keep the costs down while ensuring that the integration is working as you need.

Luke Russell 
Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook 

Trade Shows: How CRM Software Helps with Effective Follow-up

Proper usage of CRM software can triple your follow-up efforts. (Part 2 of Tradeshows:  More Bang For Your Buck)

 

If you are currently exhibiting in trade shows, you may have experienced the lack of post-show follow-up efforts.  Often, the number one goal after a trade show is for exhibitors to catch up on what was missed while they were out of the office.  Days and sometimes weeks pass before all leads are entered and the follow-up process begins.  The only way to combat this issue is to plan for follow-up. Lead follow-up needs to take precedence, if you want to see a return on your investment. 

Before exhibiting, be sure to document who will complete each step of the follow-up process.  Write all of the email and letter templates before the show. The templates can be as simple as a thank-you note or a packet of literature with a cover letter.  Be sure to have enough literature available to include in the post show mailing.  Taking care of these items before the show will greatly reduce the time required post-show.

Another factor to poor post-show follow-up is a lack of organization at the show.  Not all leads are put in the same place.  Business cards end up in pockets, and note taking on each conversation is sparse at best.  To combat this, have a folder in which all leads are dropped.  Staple business cards to a “show sheet” in which you can write critical information about the attendee.  Be sure to include a ranking of this lead.  While a ranking is only a gut feeling, and is often wrong, it will give you an idea of where to start when following up on your show leads.    It will allow you to follow-up on your hottest prospects within hours or days after the show ends. 

Remember, the longer you a lead sit, the colder they it become. Don’t forget the lower ranked prospects in your follow-up effort. The goal is 100% post-show follow-up.  Also, remember to write down and keep any promises you made while at the booth.

The biggest factor to poor post-show follow-up:  TIME.  Let’s face it; your sales people are simply not ready for a flood of hundreds of new prospects into their pipeline.  Frequently what will happen is that they will perform a cursory follow-up on the “A” leads and basically wait to hear from all others.  At best, a letter will be sent out to all thanking them for attending and asking the prospect to call if they have any questions.  It’s the sit-back-and-wait approach to tradeshow follow-up, and it’s 100% justified because of an overall lack of time.

Unfortunately, “A” prospects from a trade show are not always the best prospects.  A booth staffer makes this designation based on a gut reaction.  The staffer liked the person, the conversation went well, so they mark them an “A”.  While another had bad breath, and still another wasn’t dressed professionally, so they receive a “C”.  So, how do you combat the ranking and time issue?  The answer is simple:  use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program to automate portions of the follow-up.

SalesLogix is a great example of this.  With SalesLogix you can implement a process to aid in the follow-up of all trade show leads.  A process represents a series of tasks that are executed in a specific sequence, over a set time period. You can create processes to automate the customer follow-up process.  For example, to aid in trade show follow-up, you can set up a process that sends out a thank-you email to all attendees.  The process can also schedule to resend the literature to the attendees and then the process can split and schedule a follow-up phone call in three days for all “A” prospects and send another email to “B” and “C” prospects.  Anytime the salesperson needs to participate in the process, a reminder is automatically placed on that users’ calendar.   Below is an example of a trade show follow-up process.

As you will see, all prospects start and end at the same point, but depending on the prospect type, there are more “automated touches” to keep the prospect warm until a live call can be made.  By doing this, calls can be spread out over a longer period of time, giving your sales people the time they need to complete the daunting task of trade show follow-up. 

SalesLogix can not only help you with your trade show follow-up, but it can assist you in managing the ROI of trade shows and all other marketing efforts.  It offers a complete solution for managing, tracking and measuring targeted marketing campaigns and helps companies get the most from their budget.  SalesLogix Marketing provides analytical and marketing tools to streamline your campaigns and perfect your marketing mix.

In summary, trade shows are expensive, and are worth it.  However, without effective post-show follow-up, they are ineffective, and often do not meet their objectives.  The time to plan for follow-up is before the show begins.  A plan for follow-up is as important to the show as any initial planning. Through proper follow-up, you will realize the financial goals that you have set for the show.  For follow-up to be effective, you must set a date for follow-up to be completed; determine and document the method of follow-up; prepare in advance all post-show letters and literature, and make use of automated processes in your CRM package.

 

Luke Russell 
Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook

Tradeshows: More Bang For Your Buck

Trade shows can be very profitable. However, if you are not prepared, you will lose a lot of potential customers.

 

Post-show follow-up is critical to the success of a show.  Statistics tell us that less than 1% of attendees will actually buy at a show.  The corollary to that statistic is that over 99% of attendees put off their purchasing decision until after the show. 

Why exhibit then?  It’s really simple.  According to morebusiness.com, in a typical show (specific to the software industry) 95% of trade show attendees have not seen a salesperson in over a year.  If we can assume that people coming to a show (especially vertical shows) are interested in your product, then exhibiting in a show gives you a chance to meet with and talk to hundreds of interested prospects in a single day.    Making a case for trade show exhibiting has been done over and over.  A simple Google search will return hundreds, if not thousands of documents detailing the benefits of trade show exhibiting. 

Thousands of dollars are spent on trade show space, graphics, literature, promotional items, and staffing.  In fact, the cost of running a booth at a trade show averages around $15 per minute.  Do the math:  an eight hour show is 480 minutes; if the cost of your booth space, graphics, literature, transportation, etc. is $7,000 you are already at $14.58/minute ($7,000/480 minutes).  That’s a big investment!  Is the investment worth it?  

Since less than 1% of attendees actually make a purchasing decision at the show, it would be safe to assume that post-show follow-up is the driving factor in determining a show’s effectiveness.  According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 80% of show leads aren’t followed up.   Amazing!  This statistic tells us that for many companies the trade show experience for their prospect ends at the show.  Companies will spend $15 per minute to capture the 1% of attendees that may make a buying decision at the show, and then ignore the other 99%!

In my next blog post, I’ll take a look at how CRM can help with the post-show customer experience.

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook

What do you sell, features or benefits?

As I prepare for next weeks seminar, I am reminded of the difference between features and benefits.

 

Many companies interchange these two words, and others that don’t interchange them still do not have a clear definition of each.  Not understanding the difference may be the difference between winning your next sale and losing it.

Let me start with features.  Features are what your product or service does, it may include such things as a listing of various components or attributes that help the customer to understand what is being sold. 

Benefits, on the other hand, is what your product will do for the customer, or how the product will improve the customer’s overall outlook.  Benefits are specific to each customer. 

Make sure that you understand that last sentence, “Benefits are specific to each customer.”  Many people may buy the same product with the same features (features don’t change per customer) but reap different benefits.  Let me give you a simple household example:  A Toaster.

Toaster Features:

1)      Extra wide slots

2)      4 slots for toast

3)      Space-saving design

4)      Choice of colors

While the features are the same for whoever is buying the toaster, the benefits to the customer vary.  The following three customers bought the same toaster expecting different benefits:

1)      Customer 1 has an olive green kitchen. 

2)      Customer 2 loves toasted bagels with cream cheese, salmon and capers. 

3)      Customer 3 has very little counter space but has to cook breakfast for a family of 6

Are you selling your product and service features, or are you taking time to understand what your customer sees as a benefit?

Put simply, a feature is what you are selling; a benefit is what the customer is looking for.

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook

Been there, done that.

I had a conversation with Kym, one of my co-workers, the other day.  She was calling prospects and received a similar response from multiple companies when she asked them about Customer Relationship Management (CRM).  The response was, “we tried CRM, it didn’t work.”  I hear that and think, “of course it didn’t work!”

 

I bet I can guess why it didn’t work for each company that responded with the “been there, done that” type of response.  It is most likely one of these three reasons:

 

1)    The company self-implemented CRM

2)     The driving force for CRM was someone in the company’s IT department

3)     The company thought that CRM was a one-time event

 

 

In fact, as I look at those three reasons, I think that each would take more time to explain than I have in this one blog entry; therefore, my next three blogs will break down each of the three reasons for CRM failures. 

 

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

 

Do you have an expensive Rolodex?

Over the last 12 years (yes, I have been doing CRM consulting for 12 years now) I have seen many CRM systems implemented as an very expensive Rolodex, basically to perform the function of Contact Management or Sales Force Automation.  There is a difference between Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Contact Management.  So I thought today I would help define each step in the Contact Management to Customer Relationship Management chain:

 

Contact Management is typically contact based, and is more or less an electronic rolodex.  It is a mailing list for a specific user or group of users, and is normally not integrated across the entire organization.  It frequently does not meet all of the data needs required for managing leads, prospects, and customers, leaving many stand alone islands of data throughout the organization.  Often companies will know they need to move up from contact management when they begin to have multiple contact management databases or when they have to use outside programs like Microsoft Excel or Access to track additional data about their prospects and customers.  Contact management is a great first step into CRM, and Sage software with over 4,000,000 users of ACT! is the world-wide leader in this category.

Sales Force Automation is frequently account based, and includes enhanced note taking and opportunity tracking capabilities.  It allows for the tracking of more data though configuration, and can be deployed organization wide.  Making the step to sales force automation normally eliminates the need for many of the separate islands of data, leaving only one or two spreadsheets or outside databases for tracking additional data components.  Very often, sales force automation will include basic integration into the back office.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is account based, and includes advanced marketing management, opportunity management, quote management, contract tracking, support issue management, and forecasting to name a few key components.  Basically, it encompasses data from every aspect of your relationship with the customer.  It is fully customizable eliminating all need for outside islands of data about your customer (outside of your accounting/ERP system).  It can be fully integrated with back office and manufacturing and can be deployed across the entire organization, including remote offices anywhere around the world.  Sage SalesLogix is an excellent example of a true Customer Relationship Management tool.  Sage SalesLogix has been the industry innovation leader since 1998 and is consistently winning industry standard and user satisfaction awards.

Hopefully having an understanding of what CRM includes will help you as you focus on the business goals that you are looking toward CRM software to help you accomplish.  Don’t forget that your CRM strategy and corresponding software implementation is an ever-evolving  part of your organization.   While CRM is not about software, we do have a couple resources on our website that will help as you are evaluating software:

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter