Great Expectations for Outside Sales usage of CRM

Great Expectations for Outside Sales usage of CRM

Setting realistic goals is critical for a successful CRM implementation.  However, just as critical is having realistic expectations.  What’s the difference?  A goal is what you hope to achieve through the implementation of a CRM system, an expectation is the anticipation of an occurrence.  For example, a company may have the goal of increasing quote conversion by 5%.  The expectation is that the sales people will enter their quotes/opportunities into the CRM system and keep them up to date.

Over the last 15 years, I have had the privilege of consulting with 100s of companies as they set realistic goals and expectations for CRM.  The goal of the next few paragraphs is to help my readers understand what is realistic in the realm of user expectations of your outside sales representatives. Continue reading →

Questions To Think About As You Move Toward CRM: Part 4

Do You Have the Internal Resources To Fully Implement a CRM Strategy?

I absolutely LOVE it when, in my prospecting efforts, I come across a CRM champion.  In my terms, a CRM champion is someone who understands the value and possibilities of CRM and more importantly understands what CRM could mean for the business for all future decision making.  CRM champions are usually on a mission to educate others in the company on the benefits of CRM and create excitement about it.

I call these people champions because the task I am describing is NOT an easy one.  I know and understand this, because this “project” they have taken on is my full time job.

Allow me to share some insight on how to accomplish this mission. The champion is correct in looking for alleys to join their mission.  CRM cannot be implemented in a bubble, or by a single individual or one department.  A successful CRM implementation has to start with a CRM strategy.  What does that mean?  In short, a CRM strategy is the answer to the following question:  How can we improve our processes to ensure happy, loyal customers?

I understand perfectly that is not an easy question to answer.  If you think it is, throw your quick instinctual answer out onto the conference room table with a group of individuals that represent all customer facing departments of the company.  You may find that your quick and easy answer is dissected and mutilated with the insight each of these individuals brings to the bigger process.  This exercise will demonstrate all the parties that will need to be involved in a CRM implementation.  These individuals represent the group that need to collectively answer the question that will result in a CRM strategy.

Back to that champion….this is a key area to focus your energy.  Generate the excitement among the key individuals in customer facing  departments by involving them in creating the answer to the CRM strategy question.  However, that’s only part of what you need.  More importantly, you need CEO and senior management buy in.  In order for a CRM implementation to succeed it MUST be a top down directive.  Depending on the internal dynamic of your organization, the order of that buy in may be more of an art than a science, but both are essential to success.

There are other internal resources to consider.  The most glaring being money.  Align your efforts with annual budget planning.  While considering budget also evaluate the potential impact (hours) on the departments that will be affected by process change and a new software implementation.  Don’t pretend resources won’t need to be allocated thinking it will further your efforts.  Rather, quantify everything to the best of your ability and present the full impact.  Both costs and potential return.

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The best advice I can give to CRM champions is, think like a champion.  If you owned the business what information would you need to make a decision?  What setbacks might be a result of change? Who will be impacted and what will that mean? Will this give us an advantage over our competition? What will we ultimately gain?  What will happen to us if we refuse to change?  What’s worse…the pain of change or the pain of staying the same?

Using CRM to Manage Without the Mystery

Many times in my career I have managed people.  Sometimes small teams and sometimes large ones.  I believe management, like most things in life, is a skill that is developed and honed over time.  Much like parenting, you want your employees to respect and trust your judgment enough to emulate it in your absence.  You want them to want to succeed and do their very best whether you are there to see it them do it or not.  And like parenting, sometimes those hopes are more easily fulfilled than others.

  Sometimes employees march to the beat of the corporate objective without pause and sometimes they fight every step of the way. It is not uncommon to have two employees who sit right next to each other perceive the company or your management style differently.   Your influence on their behavior is sometimes great, and sometimes not accepted at all.  Much like parenting, managing is not always easy, yet can often be one of the most rewarding things you do.

Unlike parenting, it is often easier to take a step back and subjectively evaluate a situation.  It is after all, business.  It’s not personal.  Good managers know when to shift away from emotion and manage a situation based on facts and the logic that follows those facts.  Therein lies the challenge, however.  What are the facts?  Unfortunately, managers are often forced to make very important decisions about employees and situations based on hearsay and assumptions.  A lot of the tactical day-to-day work that employees do is often immeasurable or difficult to capture.  It is also more and more common for businesses to allow employees to work from home and many positions (like sales for example) require off site flexibility.  That makes facts even more difficult to capture.

What is the solution to the problem?  Establish a measurable criteria that can be managed within a CRM system.  Truth be told, good managers do NOT want to micromanage their employees.  If they do, they don’t belong in management.  Good managers want to surround themselves with people who are better than them at what they do, give them the tools to get it done and stand back and watch all the pieces come together the way they are suppose to.  That being said, they also need visibility to progress on an individual and collective basis.  The way to accomplish those objectives simultaneously is through a CRM system that captures predefined employee activity in a way that progress is measureable.

For employees, this is nothing to be afraid of.  It is a good thing to capture the activity of those who are successful so that their committed efforts are documented  and their activity can be emulated by others in the organization who may need guidance.  As for management, the objective is not to micromanage every employee entry, but rather to capture the progress of individuals and the department as a whole in a quantifiable manner.  When a difficult situation does arise you are able to assess the facts that led to that situation.  Where did the breakdown occur? How can it be prevented in the future? Is it a common problem among many employees or an isolated problem with a single employee?  What actions are required to fix this problem and by whom?

Part of the solution provided by CRM in this environment is an upfront agreement to a mutual goal.   Don’t keep the expectations or quantifiable targets a secret.  Share them with everyone and obtain their agreement to achieving them.  Ensure they understand how achieving those objectives impact the overall success of the organization. Paint the picture that their contribution, no matter how big or small, is in part how the doors to your company are kept open every day.  When used effectively CRM software can be a very powerful culture foundation to focus employees on a single target.  The success of the company.

Who Is The Consumer In A CRM Implementation?

My background is working for large manufacturing companies who produce Consumer Goods.  In that industry we call the end user “the consumer”.  By definition a consumer is one who “uses up” something or is “engrossed” or “devours”.  Devour.  I like that word.  It’s a passionate word.  In the CRM industry, we want nothing more than for the users to devour the product we provide.  We want them to “use it up” everyday and come back the next day insisting to use it again.

In the CRM sales process, we typically work with senior management.  As it should be.  The purchase decision for a process and culture changing solution for a company should always come from the top.  But who really, is the consumer for this tool?  Who will devour it?  Who will insist that it be there for future consumption?  Depending on the organization, the answer to that question will vary.  Sometimes the CEO of the company is masterful at using CRM.   More often however, it’s those who have direct responsibility for the customer.  It’s the sales team, it’s customer service reps, it’s marketing managers that are the CRM consumers.

In the consumer goods industry we would spend countless hours (and dollars) researching, developing and producing products that the end user, the consumer, would devour.  We would allocate tremendous resources to consumer focus groups, graphic design, and marketing tag line development to create demand by the consumer.  It’s not always about filling an existing need (a demand), but bringing awareness to the consumer they have a need (creating a demand).

If you have made the determination you are going to implement CRM software at your organization, who is your consumer?  I mentioned earlier that the purchase decision for CRM typically comes from the top.  That means a board, or a senior management committee in most cases. As a member of that board or chosen team, have you given any consideration to how you will create demand for the product you are introducing to the consumer (your employees)?

CRM is a tool that can truly revolutionize the way you go to business.  It can propel you to a level of efficiency and ultimately success you have not been able to achieve in the past.  Without it, your competition (who does have CRM) will capture your market share. These are compelling facts that are a very solid foundation for a consumer marketing message.

Implementing, or maximizing the use of your existing CRM, is one of the most important strategic decisions your company will make.  It’s at least as important as the launch of another new product, if not more so.  Shouldn’t you create an internal marketing campaign for the consumers of  your CRM?  Just like with the launch of a new product, it could mean the difference between success and failure.

Using CRM to Eliminate the Dreaded Forecasting Meeting

It’s that time of year.  It probably should have happened last month, or even two months ago, but your company, like all the others has been postponing the dreaded annual forecasting meeting.  If you operate on a calendar budget, there have been meetings scheduled and canceled and rescheduled and canceled and now rescheduled again with the red exclamation mark next to them for the meeting that must happen.  2013 Forecast and Budget Planning (horror music playing in the background).

  It’s the meeting where most commonly the senior finance staff generated a number the company has to hit next year to keep everyone employed and the stakeholders or owners happy.  Now, sales must lock themselves in a room and figure out how they are going to achieve this number.  Is that as backwards as it sounds?  Indeed it is.

What typically happens is senior finance staff looks at sales reports (post sale data) from previous years, adds an arbitrary percentage increase and then says, find it.  “We don’t care where, we don’t care how, find it.”  Aligning that arbitrary increase to top performing accounts makes the budgeting process for the next year more efficient, but rarely is it accurate.  Is there a way to eliminate this senseless charade?  There is.

Use your CRM to demonstrate what would be required in time and resources to achieve the stated increase in new accounts and increased sales on existing accounts.  With CRM you will have pre-sale data that conveys actual effort to closed sales.  How long is a sales cycle? How many sales have to be in the pipeline, by when, to achieve the magic number that has been provided? Is it even possible? If not, what is required to make it possible? How many new product presentations were given to existing customers last year to drive increased sales? How many more will be required to achieve the new target? Has that number of new products been scheduled for creation and distribution? How many incoming leads were created last year through marketing efforts? How many of those leads generated new accounts and orders?  How many will be required to achieve the new target?

Locking sales management in a room with an arbitrary sales percentage increase and asking them to put their heads on the butcher block for their share of that number is NOT logical forecasting.  Use CRM software to measure pre-sale activity and base sales growth on the resources required to support that growth.  Everyone wants to succeed. Everyone in the company wants to increase sales.  With pre-sale reporting provided by CRM software everyone in the company can align resources to the new sales targets and everyone can work together to achieve success!

CRM: Enablement to a Better Night’s Rest!

When I first started using CRM software, I will admit, I thought it was a little intense for what I believed was pretty basic stuff.  After all, I had been selling successfully most of my adult career and I had always done just fine without it, right?

 Recognizing that I could either accept change, like the Sniff and Scurry of Who Moved My Cheese, or resist change and stay behind in the empty cheese chamber like Hem and Haw, I decided to embrace this new challenge and see if there truly was anything to all the hype.  That being said I’m not the type to jump on a passing band wagon without really good cause so I decided to give it an honest try and reserve all judgment for 30 days.  I will admit, I expected it to be a little more intuitive.  As easy, perhaps as ordering a book from Amazon?  Shouldn’t everything be that easy now days? (Seriously, whoever came up with 1-Click ordering deserves a medal.)  I think I was expecting that every feature and function should appear as a push button option in the screen I was on, sort of like mind reading magic.  Perhaps I’m not easily impressed?


I won’t admit to being an overnight convert.  Not exactly overnight.  By that I mean it took a couple of days for me to truly accept the value of being able to sleep at night without waking up every couple of hours and running through the mental list of things I needed to do the next day, or worse, the surfacing subconscious list of what I was supposed to have already done the day before, and had failed to complete.  That list has a tendency to prevent further sleep.  I hate that list.  I remember gradually submitting to the magic of CRM and all the benefits it provided the way I submit to knowing I’m going to eat the entire Hershey’s chocolate bar, instead of just the half I had promised myself I would.  Really, it’s just too good.  Give me one good reason to stop!

As I began to utilize the software more, I realized that the layers of this solution are what make it so miraculous.  In addition to the basic time management functions of CRM, which are impossible not to love, I quickly realized that because others within the company were using it too, and sharing information, the result was a reduction for the demand of my time.  It meant a reduction of incoming calls from inquiring internal parties. It meant a reduction of reporting required by me on a weekly basis.  After all, the information is right there for all to see.  It truly felt like I had discovered a way to do more and be more but with less time.

I have finally resigned to the fact that I am addicted.  I am referring to CRM not chocolate, though the latter is also a possibility.  If someone, anyone, tried to take my CRM away from me it would get really ugly really fast.  I like my sleep.  I’m a nicer person when I get my beauty rest.  If I had to revert back to my many pages of to-do lists and notes and appointment cards and spreadsheets and business cards and paper reports I would never get another solid night’s sleep again.  It would be HORRIBLE, because now I would KNOW what it’s like not to have to live like that.  I now know what it’s like to get a full night’s sleep.

If you didn’t sleep well last night because lists are appearing behind your eyelids, call me. I have a solution for you. 

Kym Riedel

Resolv, Inc.

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CRM Authority | Kim Dworak

CRM Authority | Kim Dworak

Kim Dworak
Kim lends her technical expertise to customers needing reports and any modifications that will help improve a customer’s workflow.

Kim Dworak, systems analyst, enjoys helping customers with their support questions and programming needs. Kim lends her technical expertise to customers needing reports and any modifications that will help improve a customer’s workflow. She works with customers to make sure they are operating smoothly and using their CRM application to support their business objectives.

Before joining Resolv, Kim worked for West Business Systems, a business-to-business telesales company, for 10 years. The last four years at West Business Services, she was in the IT department where she had roles in CRM and EDI programming along with project management.

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CRM Master | Bryan Russell

CRM Master | Bryan Russell

Bryan Russell
Bryan enjoys getting to know our customers and helping them solve problems with a well-defined and implemented project.

As a systems analyst at Resolv, Bryan Russell is dedicated to helping customers use their CRM applications to the fullest through education, consulting and programming. When a customer needs a modification to their implementation, needs a custom report or has a support question, Bryan is ready to help. He also educates new and advanced users with classes tailored specifically for the customer or group classes that cover application functionality and system administration.

Before joining Resolv, Bryan worked at a non-profit organization for 20 years that assisted refugees. He taught refugees computer skills, built databases to help with translating closely related languages and created reports and systems to track donors. “Working at the non-profit gave me the understanding of what information a business needs and how important processes are,” said Bryan. Bryan also worked as a data processing manager at a CPA firm.

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Super Genius | Luke Russell

Super Genius | Luke Russell

Luke Russell, CRM Guru
Luke Russell has been CRM consultant since 1998. Luke has personally consulted with hundreds of organizations, and has a strong success record for implementing business strategy.

Since the inception of Resolv in September 2001, founder and owner Luke Russell has been an advocate for strategy planning and strategically implementing software. Believing that implementations are more about process and culture, he guides customers through the process of developing a strategy both for their organization and for a specific implementation.  This strategy includes reviewing processes and people/departments involved in the change. “The two key factors are an understanding of where you are now, and where you need to be in the future,” says Russell, “I facilitate this change in organizations.”

While 90% of executives believe that having a solid strategy (that encompasses process, culture and technology) is important, only about 5% spend the time and resources doing just that. Instead they speed the process and implement a strategy like “our strategy is to implement new software.” “There is a direct correlation to time spent on strategy planning prior to implementation, and the overall success of the implementation,” Luke continues, “I ensure that success.”

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Queen Bee | Angela Talano

Queen Bee | Angela Talano

Angela Talano
Angela Talano has a Bachelor’s degree in Management, a Masters in Organizational Leadership and Quality and is LEAN Office certified. Angela also holds several CRM certifications.

Running Resolv’s day-to-day internal operations is the responsibility of Angela Talano. She coordinates the Resolv’s team’s schedules, manages the scheduling of customer projects and helps everyone stay on task to ensure project milestones are met and customer expectations are exceeded. Angela works closely with co-owner, Luke Russell, to implement Resolv’s strategic plans.

As a LEAN Office certified facilitator, Angela helps customers evaluate their operations and workflow and makes recommendation for process improvement. “I help identify areas in a customer’s business that can be modified to meet current standards,” said Angela.  “This ensures that when a customer implements a new technology solution that the process also is updated and wasted time and effort are eliminated. We work with customers on a regular basis to continuously refine processes in all aspects of their business.” Continue reading →