Where Does Loyalty Begin?

As I prepare for tomorrow’s seminar I am reminded of the similarities between a relationship-driven sales process and the dating/marriage cycle.

 

If we assume, in this comparison, that marriage is akin to the first sale, when the prospect moves to “customer” stage, then we can also assume, much like dating, that loyalty to one another begins prior to the marriage (first sale) step.  How many of you would be married right now if there was no commitment from your spouse prior to the marriage?  Probably very few! 

Assuming the pre-marriage relationship cycle is first date, courting, and engagement (or lead recognition, qualification/discovery, verbal commitment in business), I think I’m safe to say that somewhere in the middle of courting, and definitely before engagement we expect fidelity from our partner.  In fact we do things that encourage fidelity in the relationship.  First, we talk about it; second, we agree that, for the time-being, we believe that we are good together; and finally, we act with that fidelity in mind.

Should it be any different in business?  No!  We need to start talking and acting like we are looking for loyalty in business.  How do we do this, prior to the sale?  With actions like:

  • Seek to understand the problem
  • Make your prospects problem your problem
  • Talk about your loyal customers
  • Talk as if you are already “together”
  • Listen more than you talk
  • Don’t sell your service/product but offer them as solutions to a problem

 Much like personal relationships, there are things that we do that let our prospects know we are not serious about looking for a loyal relationship.  Many companies fall prey to the transaction sale.  Actions similar to the following show that you are more interested in a transaction than a relationship:

  • Discounting your product or service
  • Selling features and functions verses benefits
  • Leading the sales process with a demo of your product/service before even seeking to understand the problem
  • Offering incentives to use your product/service

Loyalty starts far before the “sale” and your words and actions speak volumes on how much you value loyalty.  Likewise, if you start out with transaction-driven sales, you should not expect loyalty from the prospect once they become a customer.

 Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook   

CRM for Non-profit

I am often asked to implement free or discounted CRM for non-profit organizations, my hope in this blog is to help non-profits understand the value of CRM software.

While there are several CRM packages that are free or next to free for non-profits, they frequently produce results on relation to cost.  One of the main reasons for this is that much of the setup/implementation is left to the organization itself.  This is a daunting task when many non-profits run with a limited staff and volunteers, most of which are not software implementation experts, let-alone CRM business strategy experts.  Non-profits seem to fall into the do-it-yourself mode of CRM implementation even more-so than for-profit organizations and the affects can be even greater (see my blog on the costs of doing-it-yourself).

Rather than a long, drawn-out process, it is critical that a non-profit receives return on investment (ROI) rapidly through their CRM implementation.  It is equally critical that the software be configured and simple to use (since an untold number of volunteers may need to be trained on a regular basis).  This is where the non-profit should rely on a CRM consultant that understands these values and that can help them to work through the processes quickly and efficiently.

When you think about it, CRM for non-profit is even more complex than a for-profit organization.  Often non-profits have to track:

 

  • Donors
  • Gifts
  • Memberships
  • Capital Campaigns
  • Alumni
  • Partnerships

 

All while attempting to keep each informed as to what is happening with the money collected.

Corporate America is turning more and more to CRM software to enable them to better understand their customers and be proactive to each customer’s needs.  They understand the value of each customer and realizing that maintaining a customer takes more than an occasional phone call or email.  If that is true with Corporate America, it should be even more so with non-profit organizations.  Let’s face it, America’s pocket book is getting tighter and people want to know that their charitable contributions are appreciated, acknowledged, and worth-while. 

Finally, without a business partner helping with the support of CRM, many non-profits lose focus on CRM and end up with a patchwork of databases that are neither user friendly or functional.  The main question to ask when considering an investment in CRM is what will it do to the bottom line, and who is best able to help with it.  Consider these facts:

 

  • Many volunteers that are working on databases for non-profit organizations are frustrated by the inefficiency of the system (often entering data into multiple sources), and the lack of usage of the data in future endeavors.  Volunteers participating in what they see as non-productive process have a much higher burn out ratio.  What would your organization be like if it had a lesser turn-over of volunteers?
  • Often a non-profit will use a score of volunteers to do what one automated process can do, thinking that they are saving money since volunteers are free.  Can you imagine what would happen if your organization were to repurpose those volunteers into doing something more mission oriented?
  • Non-profits are competing for America’s share of the charity wallet with antiquated systems and poorly-executed processes highly dependent on volunteers.  Through automation of processes and responses non-profits are able provide a consistency of action in prospect and donor follow-up and appreciation often increasing donations by at least 10% annually.  (This means more than simply implementing a CRM database, it requires set-up of processes and the automation of those processes.)  What would a 10% increase in your gross contributions look like for your organization?

 

Ultimately, whether the software is free or not, the success of CRM software depends on the implementation execution of a good business strategy.  My best advice is do what you do best (the mission of your organization) and rely on CRM experts to help you achieve success with your donor/support database.

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook   

 

Maximizing your usage of CRM software

So you decided to make the plunge and implement CRM software, but it is not having the impact you thought it would, what can be done about it?

Maximizing CRM usage

First of all, purchasing and implementing CRM software is the first step, not the last.  Old habits have to change and new processes need to be developed, after all technology is only around 10% of a CRM implementation (see our webpage that talks about technology, process and culture).  But how do you “teach an old dog new tricks,” as they say?

You start out by ensuring the software is delivering what your users require.  The software should enable your users by:

 

  • Providing data in a timely manner (like up-to-date sales data about your customers that used to be delivered once a month in a report)
  • Providing insights about your customers (like when their last support call was along with a description of the problem)
  • Eliminating the need to create periodic reports (like sales call sheets, etc.  – Most CRM systems should eliminate the need for these reports by proper usage of activities/history and opportunities)
  • Eliminating having to update multiple sources of data (before implementing enterprise CRM the average company has at least 4 sources for customer data including accounting, service, spreadsheets, access databases and Microsoft Outlook)

You follow this up by teaching your users on the proper usage of the software and how it fits into your process.  Then you wait a few weeks and you teach them again.  After awhile, you teach them again.  The goal is to make the software a natural extension of your user.

Finally, you make usage a requirement. You can’t have some people using the system and others doing their own thing.  Your customers are important, and proper setup and usage of a CRM system can provide you with irreplaceable insights into your customers; their buying habits, their values, and their loyalty patterns.  After all, most business experience between 15% and 40% annual customer attrition.  Your CRM system may make all the difference in the world to your bottom line.

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook   

 

CRM software benefits

Often I am asked how CRM software can help various departments with their CRM business strategy.  Here is a short list of the benefits CRM software can provide your departments:


Sales:

 

  • Provide greater visibility into the sales pipeline
  • More efficiently and accurately report on sales pipeline  
  • Better track probability of close, products, lead source, status and competitors
  • Eliminate the need to browse for exceptions by automating alerting users as to the exceptions (for example, quotes requiring follow-up and customers that have not ordered in xxx days)
  • Reduce attrition through fading customer alerts
  • Qualify prospects with a standard qualification process
  • Manage customer and prospect relationships from virtually anywhere via the web and wireless devices including BlackBerry and Pocket PCs
  • Increase average customer value by increasing the number of orders per year and the size of orders

 

Marketing:

 

  • Streamline marketing and sales campaigns 
  • Create customized marketing campaigns
  • Better analyze ROI of marketing campaigns
  • View campaign results in real time to better analyze performance of campaigns in progress
  • Evaluate forecasted vs. actual return for each lead source, region or media type
  • Automate distribution of leads
  • Automate lead follow-up
  • Coordinate between marketing and sales

 

Service:

 

  • Quickly resolve customer questions, issues and requests
  • Reduce cost of each customer transaction
  • Provide everybody in your company with access to the same customer data
  • Develop a knowledge base for future problem solving

 

In addition to the department specific benefits, you can also improve process and efficiency throughout your organization:

Process:

 

  • Automate the sales cycle
  • Standardizes and automates processes (such as sales processes based on product line, deal size, territory or lead type)
  • Ensures that procedures and processes are being followed
  • Standardization of quoting practices
  • Increased quote conversion through automated follow-up and best practices
  • Reduce the amount of time spent to generate a quote

 

Efficiency:

 

  • Shorten new employee ramp-up time with data visibility in one place
  • Save time by eliminating multiple sources of data and auto populating all systems at the same time
  • Provide a single view of the customer that allows everyone to view all interactions with the customer and the customers purchasing behaviors

 

 

 

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 

 

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

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.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook

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.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

Join Resolv on Facebook

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.

Link to me on LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter