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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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CRM as a one-time event

This is the third and final post related to “Been There, Done That” …

 

In their attempt to “do something”, companies make a CRM implementation “the main event” and usually rush into it.  These actions reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of what CRM is. The myth of instant, one-time CRM indicates a mistaken belief that CRM is primarily or totally a technology problem or merely a project. Technology may in fact be the least of a company’s worries.

Since CRM is a business strategy, and involves process and culture along with technology, CRM (even the technology portion) is ever-evolving.  It is a method of continuous improvement:  As a company refines its selling strategy and processes, as they set new goals, and as the devise tactics to achieve their goals, changes will need to be made to all three phases of CRM (process, culture, and technology).

Making CRM a one-time event simply states that you believe a software program alone can solve all of your customer problems.  Software is a tool, and if not in alignment with your culture and processes, it will undoubtedly be the wrong tool for the job.

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

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IT in charge of CRM implementation?

This is the second of three posts related to the “Been there, done that” thinking of Customer Relationship Management.

Let me begin by saying I have the utmost respect for IT people!  If you have never lived in the IT world let me give you a quick glace at what they face on a regular basis:

  • Computers and computing systems have become business critical, so critical that many IT people are on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week
  • Most upgrades and installations are scheduled for nights, weekends and holidays
  • IT is frequently blamed when things don’t go well or when a computer/system fails, and they are seldom praised when things work
  • Technology and software is changing at an alarming rate, and many IT people are expected to be experts on all software systems, the moment they come out

Why am I telling you this?  Because, even though your IT people work hard at keeping your systems up to date and functioning, they may not be the best people for driving customer-focused change within your organization. 

I am frequently asked “isn’t software selection and implementation the job of our IT department?”  The answer to that is no.  Your IT department should have input into the software selection process, but they should not be making the selection.  The selection needs to be made based on your company’s CRM needs, and should be made by someone that is customer facing and that will ultimately be using the software.  While you may have the best IT department in the United States, they are still IT, not sales, marketing or customer service.  They do not talk to the customer, and most likely do not understand Customer Relationship Management from your business-strategy point-of-view.

As far as implementation of software, it is task of IT to assist in the CRM software implementation, but I would not ask someone who is unfamiliar with a product to implement it.  The goal would be to have the consultant implement and train the IT in the support and maintenance of the CRM software.   The main role IT in the CRM implementation is to help with the data integration to other systems and to ensure the data integrity of the links between CRM and other systems.

Remember, implementation of software is just a small component of a CRM system implementation.  The other areas affected are your business culture and process. 

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

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Do-it-yourself, or not?

In response to my last post, here is the explanation of the first reason for CRM failure … 

 

 

Often I am asked if a company can implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system on their own.  The answer is: Yes, but should you?

The number one reason for lack of success in a CRM implementation:  doing it yourself.  Why is this?  CRM consultants and vendors are experts in the field.  They understand what a CRM implementation will do to your sales force, your customers, and your processes.  A consultant has experience in what has worked in the past, and what hasn’t.  They can help you sidestep many mishaps that only come through experience.  CRM consultants can also advise you as to where to focus your money to achieve the greatest return on investment. 

Frequently internally implemented systems will begin without properly prioritized goals, or worse, they begin without any documented goals.  A consultant will insist on goals, and will attach a priority to each goal based on potential ROI, and how it affects the customer facing parts of your business.  Once goals are set, a consultant will review each and measure each from the customer perspective.  Internally implemented CRM usually puts process above customer experience, even though the “customer” is the cornerstone of CRM.

The process of goal setting, ROI tracking, and customer focus are all great reasons implement CRM with the help of a consultant; however, there is an even greater reason for not doing it yourself:  PRODUCTIVITY.  Not only do internally implemented CRM systems take more time (double or triple the amount of time to implement), companies that implement on their own notice a much sharper drop in productivity for a longer period of time.  This is illustrated in the following three charts.

The first chart is the ideal implementation.  You will notice on the chart that there is a company performance baseline.  This is an indication of the company’s performance before CRM implementation.  The goal is that after a CRM implementation performance should rise.

 

Don’t let yourself be fooled, the ideal never happens.   A CRM implementation does require you to refocus some of your employees’ energies for a period of time.  This refocusing usually causes a slight drop in performance.  The second chart is an example of what usually happens in a consultant implemented CRM.  There is a slight dip in performance for a short period of time, and then performance begins to rise.

Finally, the third chart is the most telling.  This is what performance looks like after an internally implemented CRM system.  The dip in performance is catastrophic.  Often the project is abandoned due to poor company performance.

While it may seem like doing it yourself will save you money, there are thousands of examples of the opposite.  You have probably experienced this in your personal life at some point.  Have you ever had a simple plumbing job that would have taken a plumber thirty minutes to do, and somehow you managed to devour an entire Saturday working on it?  The same is true with CRM.  You can fumble your way through it, and end up spending thousands more in wages and lost revenue than it would have ever taken to hire a consultant.

Rather than ask “can we do this ourselves?” you should ask “should I take my employee’s time and resources away from their main job to learn and implement CRM software?”  Let your employees do what they do best.  Focus on the customer.  Let an expert guide you through the process of CRM implementation.

After all, it’s your company! It’s your process! It’s your money! 

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

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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.

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Scrap the demo … define the need!

I receive several calls each month from organizations looking for a demo of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software package.  Most of those asking believe CRM is something you can purchase.  However, CRM is not available for sale on a shelf, because it is not software.  If you are not familiar with my definition of CRM you will find it here.

 

 

CRM Software is a tool that can be used to help organizations manage the relationships with their customers.  Software also can help people within an organization to be more productive and better informed as to their customer’s historic purchase patterns, future needs, and overall strength.  Finally, software can alert of instances requiring attention, automate processes, and automate communications related to processes.  However, this all happens within the boundaries of an organization’s customer-centric business strategy.

 

 

Why would I say that CRM is not about software when part of my job is selling software?  It comes down to one simple philosophy:  I am only interested in implementing CRM software in cases where the implementation of software is in alignment with the organization’s customer-centric business strategy.  In this case, CRM software implementation will be a part of the solution for specific, defined business needs.

 

 

Think about this for a moment:  If you were to take your current practices of customer communication and tracking, and your cultural beliefs about your customers and your sales process and simply automate them would you be any better off?  Or, would you simply be taking poor practices and a less-than optimal customer culture and making them happen more quickly?  Ultimately, CRM software is only as good as the customer-centric business strategy that drives the implementation.

 

 

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

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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.

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