Knowing what you are selling helps CRM implementation

Once again, today’s blog post is prompted by a quote.  This time the quote is attributed to Charles Revson, Founder of Revlon.  Here is the quote: “When it leaves the factory, its lipstick.  But when it crosses the counter in the department store, it’s hope.”  

 

What are you selling?When I read that quote, my thoughts went instantly to “ah ha!, When implementing CRM, you can learn a lot from lipstick!”  This is the golden nugget to CRM implementation, know what it is you are selling.  I’m not talking about what your product or service is, I’m talking about what your product or service “IS”.  It has been called so many things over the years: “your unique selling points”, “your differentiating qualities”, “your distinguishing value proposition”, etc.  However what it comes down to is the value that you provide to your customers.  Charles Revson certainly knew his value: HOPE. 

Understanding this value is 70% of your CRM business strategy.  The rest is simple; you simply define how you are going to communicate your value throughout every facet of your organization; from marketing and sales to delivery. To help, ask yourself questions similar to these:

 

  1. What is more important, the product/service you provide to your customer, or the value that you provide to your customer? (my hope would be the later)
  2. Does everyone in your organization understand your value?
  3. Is your value clearly communicated through all you do? (what do you need to change?)
  4. Should your sales process be modified as you focus on this value?
  5. Does changing the process and communication from product/service to value require any changes in the way we track our customer data?
  6. Does the way you view the demographics of your customers (and most importantly your top 20% customers) change as you shift to focus on value?
  7. How does your CRM software system need to be modified to support the value sales methodology?

 

 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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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.

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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.

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One big key to CRM implementation success and usage

If you desire a high usage of CRM after implementation, this blog post is for you …

 

Companies invest several thousands even several hundred thousands of dollars in preparation, customization, and implementation of CRM software only to find out that users do not use the system.  This is largely due to the system being a shift in culture for the users.  Users are so engrained in how they used to do it, and the CRM system, whether a change for the better or not, is new and different, and often overwhelming to the new user.  This is especially true for the sales user. 

By no means do I intend to degrade sales people in this post, and please do not take it as such, but the fact is many sales people (especially from my generation and beyond) are not high-tech computer users.  They use email, Excel (to an extent), and Word.  They do what they have to on the computer to accomplish their daily tasks, and that is pretty much the extent of it. 

What most companies do after a CRM implementation is to hold a “training” to teach the new users how to use the new system, and then they turn the users loose to go at it alone.  After all, it makes sense, right?  Contacts, accounts, opportunities, and notes are all a logical part of the sales process, so after only one training why would a sales person not take to it like ducks to water?  Because it is a lot to take in!  So, what do companies do when their users feel overwhelmed and confused by the new system?  They send reminders to their people that they are not doing this right, or they are forgetting to put that into CRM.  Rather than send the reminders, think about how you can better educate your users.

If you want your users to be comfortable using your new CRM system, you need to hold that initial CRM education, and follow it up with another in a few weeks, and another.  In fact CRM education should be a part of all sales meetings (at least quarterly) for the first couple of years.  After all, isn’t your goal to make your CRM system a natural extension of the user?

Can you imagine what it would be like if a professional athlete were hired by a team, given an introduction training to the teams plays, handed a play book, and left to their own from that point on?  I would not place any bets on that team ever having a winning season!  Whether you are a sports team or a multi-million dollar company, education and repetition is the key to success.

You have invested a large sum of money in your system and your people, true success can only come through education and repetition.  The success of your CRM implementation is proportional to the amount of education you invest after implementation.

 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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Back to the future … SaaS vs on-premises CRM

I cannot count the number of times that I have reviewed the pros and cons of SaaS (cloud computing) or on-premise CRM alternatives, so I am going to share my thoughts in this blog post. 

 

Cost: 

First let me cover cost.  Many make the argument for SaaS based on cost, stating that SaaS is less expensive.  While that may be true for the initial outlay (usually one year of service for SaaS vs all licensing for on-premises), the actual reality is that after 3 years licensing is roughly equal (see charts one and two and compare the three year costs).  However, the sticker shock comes in year 4 when SaaS is 3 ½ times more expensive each and every year.  My recommendations on cost are as follows:

Go with the CRM that meets your needs (on-premises or Saas) since 3 year licensing costs are very similar

 

If you like the idea of spreading your payments out over several years, but on-premises seems to be a better solution, consider leasing the software.

 

Infrastructure:

This is where SaaS shines!  If you do not have servers or updated workstations/laptops, an on-premises implementation my be costly in terms of hardware.  All on-premises CRM systems will require at least one server (a database server like Microsoft SQL server), and many require multiple servers. 

Integration:

This is where on-premises shines!  If you are looking to implement true enterprise-wide CRM, you will be looking for data integration into your back office at the very least, and quite possibly other sources of customer data as well.  Linking to invoicing, orders, and accounts receivable is not the easiest thing to do in a SaaS environment.  While it is not impossible, it frequently requires more time and resources to set-up the links and build the tunnels to allow access.

Along the same lines with integration is automation of processes and alerts.  This is a very difficult thing to do with some SaaS models.  If the software does not include an alert engine or process automation you are stuck.  With on-premises you can augment any CRM system with automation and alerts provided by such products as Vineyardsoft’s KnowledgeSync (http://www.vineyardsoft.com/).

Speed of Implementation:

This is an “old wives tale.”  SaaS only CRM companies make it sound like SaaS can be fully implemented in 24 hours and on-premises takes years.  The truth is that the time to live is about equal for both.  Just because you can have a database live up in the cloud in 24 hours (which can be done for on-premises as well) doesn’t mean you have CRM.  There are many things that have to happen before CRM is live.  These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Initial discussions of needs and layout of the project plan and goals
  2. Data source cleansing, data import, duplicate removal
  3. Customizations and configurations to match your needs
  4. Testing
  5. User education

Connectivity:

SaaS has one draw-back here.  In order to access the data you must be connected to the internet.  The speed of access is based on your internet connection speed and the number of users accessing the web at that time.  Other people using services like Netflix and Amazon movies can cause internet speed issues and actually cause your access to CRM to be less responsive.

Conclusion:

As I stated earlier, go with the CRM solution that will best help you meet your Customer Relationship Management strategic goals.  Infotech Research Group (http://www.infotech.com/) gives the following guidelines you may want to consider:

Choose SaaS CRM if…

·         There is no executive support or CRM strategy and you need something in the department right away.

·         You need to speed up implementation timeframes.

·         You need something right now that can grow with you quickly as needed. A lot of organizations that went through a failed big-bang CRM are trying SaaS, but are doing so cautiously and want to see results before they try to roll it out further.

·         You have too few IT staff available to administrate the system in the long term.

·         You have no disaster recovery plan for CRM data so keeping it on someone else’s locations seems smart.

·         Little offline capability is required.

Choose On-Premises CRM if…

·         There is a legislative/regulatory requirement to host your own data or keep it in a certain jurisdiction.

·         Complex data integration with large data volumes is needed. Info-Tech’s survey suggests that customers are still having trouble getting the kind of tight integration mid-large size organizations need. Solving that is key for SaaS products to continue to move up market. Data integration is tricky enough to begin with, but there are many factors that complicate it further, such as large data volumes integrated across the web and firewall configuration issues.

·         You want to align CRM with your existing ERP vendor and the on-premises product is different or superior.

·         Heavy offline capability is required.

 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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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

 

 

 

Comparison shopping for CRM software

This blog post looks at the hows and ifs of comparison shopping for CRM software…

 

CRM comparisonIf you have read many of my blog posts (like “But wait, there’s more”), you will know my belief on CRM:  CRM is a business strategy, not a piece of software.  However, CRM software is a tool that can help you with your business strategy, and there comes a time in the life of most businesses (especially those that have a well-defined business strategy) where the purchase of CRM software becomes important. 

Typically, when at this stage, companies ask various vendors for demos and quotes and then work to compare each.  The problem lies in the fact that not all CRM software systems are the same, and not all quotes provided from vendors cover the same things.   For example one vendor will provide a quote for software, another for software plus installation, and yet another for software with installation and data conversion.  Another vendor may quote on configurations and customizations as well.  How do you know which to choose, since the prices are all over the board and there is no consistency from one vendor to another on the services portion of the implementation?

First off all, let me state that if a vendor is looking to simply sell you software and not help with the configuration/customization and data conversion, they are doing you a disservice.  They are basically leaving the setup and configuration to you, who I am assuming is not a CRM expert.  This will drastically delay your ability to receive a quick return on your investment, and will possibly frustrate you to the point of exhaustion.  If you haven’t read my blog on “Do-it-yourself, or not?” it will help you to understand the pitfalls of doing things on your own.

Next, as you are reviewing the quote, be cautious if your vendor is not including anything for configuration/customization.  I have been implementing CRM systems for 13 years now, and have yet to see an out-of-the-box implementation, even in phase one.  The customizations are not always extensive, but they do exist.  It is unrealistic to think that a CRM software package will track all the right data and function exactly like your company does out-of-the-box.  Usually, vendors that do not disclose customization costs in the first estimate are either unfamiliar with matching CRM software to their client’s business strategy, or they are afraid to share numbers because it may price them out of the sale.

Finally, do not be afraid to discuss the various quotes with a vendor or vendors.  If you have a vendor that stands out, and that has demonstrated the ability to understand and solve your business issues with a particular software tool, but feel that they are not priced accordingly with another vendor, it is a good idea to ask them to help you compare the two estimates.  While they may not be able to fully interpret some other vendors quote, they can give you some insights and questions to ask for more clarification.

Ultimately, it is a difficult thing to comparison shop various vendors and different CRM software applications.  After reviewing quotes and looking at demos, it usually comes down to a gut feeling.  Which vendor seemed to understand your business needs (not features and functions), and which vendor do you feel the most comfortable trusting with your customers and your financial future? 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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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.

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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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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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