CRM Software Selection – Which Product Do I Choose?

I have read that visual learners represent 65% of the population.  I believe myself to be one of them.  I process information much faster when I can read it myself or better yet read and view associated graphics.  I imagine that this attraction to visual stimuli extends to many areas including my fashion choices, my home décor choices, the car I drive and the type of technology I use.  I’ll admit, I have to like what I see.  I won’t dig deeper to learn more if the criteria for my initial visual assessment (which we mostly make up as we go along) isn’t met.  Apparently 65% of the population is the same way. That means a lot of us make product selections this way, whether we realize it or not.

So, when choosing a CRM software are we drawn to the one that has the most visual sizzle at the time we are reviewing product demo’s?  If we are using our default product selection criteria, whether we realize it or not, we probably are.  Remember that with most things in the world of technology, sizzle is mobile.  What was most visually appealing today could be outdated or even obsolete tomorrow.  In making this very important long term software selection decision for your organization, the visual learners on the decision making team need to leave that inherent trait in their office when they come to a demonstration.  It’s not about which solution has the most sizzle, it’s about which one meets your organization’s needs.

How then, do we assess organizational needs for CRM software alignment?  It’s about process and culture.  It is necessary to align your organizational processes and culture with your technology and to select a CRM solution that provides that ability.  The technology itself represents the smallest part of the decision making process for a successful CRM implementation. 

Ultimately most CRM software provide sales, marketing and service modules. Typically the “out of the box” solution will meet about 75-80% of your needs.  It is the balance of that alignment that becomes critical to a successful implementation.  It is imperative to align yourself with a CRM business partner that can not only develop the solution to meet all of your organizational needs but that provides a strategy for managing user adoption.  A CRM business partner will work with you in achieving the result you had for implementing CRM software, not just sell you licenses to a CRM software.

Ultimately, it’s not about the product that you choose.  It’s about the CRM Business Partner that you choose.  If you implement CRM correctly, the partner you select will still be working with you many years from now and will understand your business as intimately as you click on this link do.  Choose wisely.  

CRM – The Secret Language

A golden rule of writing is that you are never supposed to write about your family members.  Well, I’m going to break that rule, ever so subtly, to make a very important point about the width and depth of communication that CRM software can provide a business organization.

I remember something extraordinary about my relationship with my husband, from the very onset of it. I remember that we didn’t have to talk a lot because we simply understood each other so well.  It was  sort of secret language in many ways.  We could be listening to a friend at a party and make eye contact and convey an emotion, position or sometimes what seemed like an entire conversation through a facial expression or body language that no one else could have even picked up on.  Over the years, as our relationship has grown, that secret language (greater understanding with few words) has only strengthened.  I think secret languages are pretty common among people that are close. Parents and children have a secret language.  Many siblings have a secret language.  Best friends of many years sometimes have a secret language.  As you read this, you probably have someone that comes to mind that you share a secret language with.

So, how do we emulate that level of understanding and communication outside of a one-on-one relationship? How do we make that natural depth of communication applicable in our business lives?  How do we magnify the depth of communication that usually exists between two people (a sales manager and a buyer, as a business example) into a company-wide relationship that is between two companies? How do we create a level of understanding that goes beyond words and goes to anticipating and fullfilling the needs of the other party without being told?

That secret language is really an awareness of needs.  When a true connection is made either socially or professionally it is because both parties feel the other one understands them.  Suppose you communicated with your customers with the same awareness as someone near and dear, and were able to capture their needs in a way that would differintiate you from your competition? Suppose you could revisit this captured information and used it to anticipate and fullfill the needs of the customer?  Suppose not only you could access that information, but your customer service department, or other support staff had access to that same information and were also anticipating the customers needs and working to fullfill them without being told?  Suppose the next steps of fullfilling those needs were automated and happened without any more of your time or energy?

That’s a lot to imagine, but in reality it’s much more tangible than a secret language.  All of these things are possible through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. If you had these abilities would it change the dynamic of your relationship with your customers?  Would it change the way your customer views you and your company?  Would it change the way you view them and what you could do to help them?

CRM software provides you the 101meds.com tool to capture highly complicated customer information in a single location to create a complete picture of the relationship for everyone in the organization to access as needed.  Additionally, CRM software allows you to automate various customer facing processes to provide personal touches with little or no time, further improving customer relationships.  People look forward to being with people who understand them.  Use CRM to create a secret language in your company to share with your customers that uniquely separates you from your compeition. 

Your Invitation to the Customer Relationship Management Party!

If there’s one thing that’s true about CRM, it’s that it’s a collaboration of people.  It’s about sharing information and having visibility to the contribution that others are making.  In many ways it’s about community.

   It’s a forum for like minded people (your co-workers) to communicate and work together toward a common goal.  It’s about having a single location for all customer facing information….a location that everyone needs to know about and frequent regularly!  Following is a series of articles inviting you to learn more about how CRM software may impact your organization on both a strategic and tactical level.  Consider it an invitation to achieving the level of understanding about CRM that will make it worth celebrating!  Join the party!

 

Why:

CRM Enablement to a Better Night’s Rest
CRM is Better Than Water Cooler Chit Chat

When:

Culture Part I– The Top Down Directive
Culture Part II – The CRM Champions
CRM Implementation – Part I – Process Evaluation
CRM Implementation – Part II – Automation

Who:

Be a Miraculous Marketer
Using CRM to Prioritize Contacts, Leads, Prospects and Customers! More Importantly….Know the Difference!

Where:

CRM is NOT homework!
CRM Software Reporting – Hang Your Report Card on the Refrigerator!

RSVP:

Choosing a CRM Business Partner
Resolv – What We Believe


Thank you for joining me and please visit our seminars webpage and register for an upcoming seminar or webinar.  Check back on this page periodically to see future blogs and articles pertaining to user focused CRM.  The invitation to this party is a standing invitation, and one that you are free to forward to anyone who you feel might like to learn more about what CRM could mean for their company.

Kym Riedel

Resolv, Inc

bactrimsale.com

Culture Part I – The Top Down Directive

I believe that most strategic business owners and business managers find the concept of CRM intriguing.  I believe most of us, who have been out there for a while believe that it is long overdue.

 I remember, years ago (let’s just say more than a decade ago), searching on what was the internet at that time. (For those of you who remember the internet over a decade ago….it was a vast sort of place where you could get lost for hours and accomplish little…mostly because you sat there watching the waiting icon spin because you were on dial up.)  I remember searching on the internet trying to find some form of sharing software…something my whole team could see.  Of course, I didn’t know what CRM was then or that it formally had a name and it was still just a twinkle in the eyes of the big publishers…but even then the need existed. 

Accounting software has been around for about as long as the inception of computers themselves, which spread into inventory management software or total Enterprise Systems.  Yet, for some reason, it has been perfectly acceptable for the DRIVING part of business… sales, marketing and service, to be left to Excel spreadsheets and Outlook calendars.  It seems crazy really, when you think about it.  Crazier still is that I often hear from business owners today they are still reluctant to implement CRM because their people won’t use it.  Hmmmm…..really?

Is it an option?  Has your accounting department ever come to you and said, “I don’t want to use my accounting software, I like using a ledger better”?  Would that be ok?  Let’s face it.  Having visibility to the sales pipeline is long over due.  It’s not about babysitting the sales, marketing or service teams.  It’s about having visibility to critical information in the sales pipeline that leads to informed and educated business decisions.  It’s about having a forecast based on actuality.  It’s about understanding the length of your sales cycle and the resources required to achieve it.  Why is it ok for that to be optional?

We find that if management leads by example, and lives and breathes their CRM, their subordinates will jump aboard the ship quickly.  SHOW THEM why THEY can’t live without it.  Show them what effeciences and intelligence can be gained from zoloftanxiety use.  Share your goals and objectives with them and the reporting capabilities and capacities it has, so they SEE how important their input to the process is. 

CRM software adoption is a top down directive, there is no doubt about it.  A successful CRM implementation is about the culture of the organization far more than it is about any other aspect, including the software itself.   Make it your mission to be the best informed manager or owner in your organization and you will find that CRM software is an essential tool that you can’t live without.   

Kym Riedel
Resolv, Inc.

CRM is Better Than Water Cooler Chit Chat

You are standing at the water cooler at work, making chit chat about what you did last weekend when the conversation slowly turns to work related topics.  You find out, standing at the water cooler, the company has received knowledge about which new products a key account will be accepting .  This information has an extreme impact on your day to day priorities.  A new product prototype that you were responsible for developing was a key component in the presentation. You had been anxiously waiting to hear if it had been accepted, because the future development of that product were hinging on the acceptance of it by a key account as was what you would be focusing time and energy on in the upcoming months.  You aren’t even breathing as this particular water cooler story is told.

  
“They want it?” you say, excited and a little scared. “When did we hear?”  You find out the long awaited decision finally came through in the early part of last week, and that they want the product immediately.  Of course they do.  “Last week?” you say, “As in, we found out a week ago that they want this product right away?”  You are looking dumbfounded at the sales person, who is still standing there with a large grin on his face and his chest all expanded with pride.  “You realize that was a prototype you presented? You know the product doesn’t actually exist yet, right?”


That did it.  The smile is gone and the chest deflates like a balloon with a gaping leak.  That is when the excitement really starts.  Why didn’t the salesperson know it was a prototype? Why didn’t the sales person tell product development the moment he received word the product had been accepted?  Marketing had given him detailed sales materials, so he had every right to assume the product was already in inventory, right?  Why did Marketing create the sell sheet already if it was still in prototype phase?  Is it being manufactured overseas? How long is it going to take to get here?  Oh no! How much will air freight be coming from overseas?  This is a nightmare!  This is a key account, we HAVE to hit the agreed upon delivery date!  


As you run (literally) back to your desk to try to find answers to some of these questions while simultaneously expediting the development and shipment of this product, a thought creeps into your head.  When exactly would have I found out about this if I hadn’t happened to be standing at the water cooler at that exact moment?  Seriously?!  The communication in this office is REALLY messed up!


Does this saga sound familiar?  Who needs reality television, right?  Real life is SO much more exciting!  Only in real life reality, nobody wants THIS kind of drama, do they?


It really doesn’t have to be this way.  CRM software provides the single platform for multiple departments to share information about key accounts and projects in a live environment.  All of the communication gaps that led to this predicament could have been avoided through the use of CRM software.  It is a single location for all customer facing information in an organization.  Information will no longer exist in department silo’s.  Individuals across the organization can make daily tactical decisions based on solid information instead of speculation.  Can you imagine how empowering that would be?


In a situation like this it is not uncommon for a company, after the fire has been put out, to have a meeting.  In this meeting everyone will be expected to take accountability for their part in the communication breakdown and then everyone is supposed to commit to never letting this happen again.  Wouldn’t it just be easier to implement the right tools?  What is worse? The cost of change or the cost of staying the same?  In this case you could answer that question rather quickly.  What WAS the cost of air freight?

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Contact Kym Riedel at Resolv to learn more about what a CRM Business Strategy and what a software solution could mean for your company. Kym can be reached at kriedel@resolvcrm.com or at 920-268-4074.

Visit www.resolvcrm.com to read other educational articles specific to CRM solutions.

CRM Software Selection – The Test – A Sad Story

I spoke to a CRM software prospect today.  They have about 25 people in sales, and another 10 at the home office who are internal support or management, so roughly 35 CRM seats to start.  A very typical small-mid size business. I have spoken with her several times over the last year.  The first time I spoke with her she told me that I had missed the opportunity and that they had already decided on a CRM software.  Ok.  Sometimes we don’t make it to the race.  I tickled her in my CRM system to follow with her several months later just to see how that had worked out for her.  Turns out they didn’t actually implement the CRM solution company wide.  They ran a “test” with a few people and in this test no one was using it.  The result of that test was that until sales could prove to management they will use it, by using the Excel solutions they have put in place in the interim, they are not going to pursue CRM further.  AAAHHHHHH!!! (That was an exasperated exhale.)


Ok.  Allow me to start by saying that is NOT how you implement a CRM solution.  I have about a hundred questions I want to ask this prospect to help guide them along the path of how to do this correctly. To name a few of those questions,  I would like to ask if sales was consulted prior to making the original software selection?  Was there an understanding of what the needs were of the sales department and the other departments that would be utilizing the solution?  I would like to ask if there were any discussions about aligning current process and culture to the intended software solution?  If so, have they identified areas where change needs to occur? How will they communicate that change?  I would like to ask what exactly it is they want to accomplish by implementing CRM?  What is the goal?  What do you hope to gain?  I want to ask what they intend to give sales as a result of the implementation?  Do they want to give sales better reports? Better visibility to all accounts? Better ability to manage prospects and customers activities and opportunities? Does sales understand what they stand to gain by using a new system?  Does everyone understand what the company stands to gain? Is it increased sales? Reduced costs due to improved efficiency? Is it both?  Ok, I’ll stop here.  I fear I sound like I am ranting, which I am not.  These are REALLY important questions.


The first step to selecting a CRM solution is NOT to pick a software.  It is actually one of the final steps!  I would also like to point out, that although CRM “free demo’s” are available online for you try, be very leery of using that as a companywide test of a solution.  A successful CRM solution is about company-wide collaboration.  It’s about defining what information you want to collect and measure and clearly articulating to all of the users what they as individuals and the company stands to gain from the collection and sharing of this information.   So, that being the case, how then could a test with a couple of individuals be a measurement of success?  If everyone isn’t using the solution you technically still have little or no visibility to information and without everyone using it, you have no ability to use it as a management or reporting tool, which is one of its greatest benefits.  So why would you be surprised that it’s not performing to your expectations? 


A “test” also carries a pass/fail connotation with it, and I don’t know about you, but if I have a choice, I choose NOT to take a test I’m not prepared for.  So, unless this is a top-down mandate, and you have extensively trained the users on the solution you are asking them to “test” they are going to opt out (not participate).  Training costs money.  Money that companies are typically not willing to spend on a solution they are not yet entirely committed to (which is pretty clear  to all when you call it a “test”). Can you see the problem here?  A CRM test is typically a very bad idea because it is destined for failure before it starts.  The worst part about it is a company will walk away from one of these tests and believe their organization is not “ready” for a CRM solution, when the one thing this whole exercise did prove is how incongruent their communications really are and how much they really do need a better communications solultion!


I have planted the seed that the CRM selection PROCESS was likely the culprit here, not the poor sales guys who are now under the gun to use a tool that is not designed to make them effective and efficient.  A single department alone cannot change corporate culture.  I believe this company is serious about change.  I believe they will evolve to using technology that will make them better at what they do.  Perhaps this article finds them and guides them along that path.

Be a Miraculous Marketer

I have been tasked with writing the company newsletter in my past lives…and anyone who has shared that responsibility knows the associated dread that comes as the next publish date approaches.  It’s tough being creative on queue! 

You know you had a brilliant idea at one point during the last 30 days that you fully intended to carry the newsletter with, but it now escapes you as you stare at the blank template.  When these dark moments come you start thinking even more negatively.  “Who even reads this anyhow?” you start to ask yourself and “Am I just wasting my time?”
 
Though I am using a newsletter as an example in this story, we know these same doubts often apply in many marketing campaigns.  Marketing sometimes feels subjective.  You have to “believe” your efforts are having an impact because you haven’t been able to actually quantify them.  Marketing is an important role that sometimes leaves its champions feeling a little lost behind the scenes.
 
Allow me to let you in on a secret.  It doesn’t have to be that way.
 
I like to think of myself as creative (at least selectively), but more importantly I think of myself as analytical.  Show me the numbers!  The beauty of CRM is that it can provide analytics for previously subjective activities.  You can use CRM to track how many of your email campaigns have been open, viewed or read.  You can begin to quantify that fact that leads came from your marketing efforts.  And here is the real magic….when you are feeling creative you can create campaigns (like newsletters!) in advance and set up automated processes for them to release on a predetermined schedule. 


Imagine…writing all 12 of your newsletters in one industrious day and allowing the automated process to send them on schedule.  Better still, let that automated process automatically update the contact record that it has been opened and read by the prospect and then auto notify the appropriate sales person so they can call in “warm” instead of “cold”.  When that prospect becomes a client…you now KNOW your efforts played a part in securing that business.  Create a report in your CRM that notifies you on a monthly basis of all the prospects that were converted to clients after having opened and read your marketing emails.  Evaluate which marketing campaigns created more leads, improve your campaigns or target market based on specific groups to achieve the results you desire.
 
You won’t believe what an impact creativity combined with analytics can do for your departmental objectives or for your morale! It will seem miraculous!

Back to the Basics

Due to the recent popularity of our new CRM webinar “What is CRM? And 10 Reasons why CEO’s should be demanding it.” I have come to the understanding that many are struggling with a definition of CRM.  Today’s blog post will hopefully help with that.

First, let me point out the obvious, CRM is an acronym for Customer Relationship Management.  CRM has been around for thousands of years.  It may have been termed other things like:
  • Sales management
  • Customer management
  • Relationship marketing
  • Customer service management
Trust me, as long as there has been buyers and sellers, there has been CRM.
 

CRM Business Strategy

I believe that CRM is a customer centric business strategy.  Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink Corp. & founder of CRMGuru.com, put it this way, “’Customer-centric’ means giving your customers what they want.  ‘Business strategy’ means accomplishing the goals of your organization. Accomplish both at the same time, and you’ve got the win-win that CRM is supposed to be about.”
 
As I think about a customer centric strategy, other terms come to mind like a customer centric philosophy, approach, tactic or plan for doing business.  My full definition of CRM can be found here, but ultimately it is about maximizing your business potential with your customers.  It’s about keeping your customers happy, since the only way to maximize your business potential is with happy customers.
 
There are those that believe the CRM is all about software.  While there are plenty of CRM software system available:
 
  • SalesLogix
  • SugarCRM
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Sage CRM
  • SAP CRM
This list is growing daily!  CRM software publishers would like you to believe that CRM is about software.  However, in all honesty, software is not required for a solid CRM business strategy.  This is coming from me, Luke Russell, who has been a SalesLogix software developer and a SalesLogix support technician since 1998. 
 
But the truth is that CRM is about knowing who your customers are and making them unbelievably happy customers. Saying that CRM is all about software is like saying that accounting is all about software.  Sure, software makes performing the action of accounting easier and faster, but accounting software does not do the accounting for you.
 
However, software can play a role in CRM strategy implementation.  CRM software helps businesses to bring together disparate pieces of information about customers, prospects and buying trends so an organization can:
 
  • More effectively sell and market their products and services
  • Increase customer “happiness” and; therefore, increase customer loyalty
  • Help an organization to remember and keep its promises to a customer
In its most basic form, CRM software helps users in:
 
  • Identifying and targeting their best customers
  • Implementing marketing campaigns with clear goals and objectives and generate quality leads
  • Optimizing information shared by multiple employees
  • Streamlining existing processes
  • Allowing the formation of individualized relationships with customers
  • Identifying the most profitable customers and providing them the highest level of service
  • Knowing their customers, understanding their needs and effectively build relationships between the company, its customer base and distribution partners
There are many ways having a CRM system can help you sell and market your products and services more effectively, increase customer loyalty and drive competitive advantage, no matter how big or small your company is, but it all starts with a customer centric business strategy.
 

Can CRM Software Improve Efficiency?

Efficiency:   According to dictionary.reference.com efficiency is “accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort: The assembly line increased industry’s efficiency.  

With that definition, sure, CRM Software can improve efficiency.  Unfortunately, the efficiency comes with a cost.  However, notice that efficiency is not defined as “doing more with less”.  Let me break it down using the assembly line reference made by dictionary.reference.com.

CRM can improve efficiency, but not like an assembly line.

Prior to an assembly line, an automobile could be made by one person.  True that person may only make one auto every 180 days, but a single person could in effect start an auto manufacturing plant and run it himself.  With an assembly line method, while being more efficient according to the dictionary definition, it takes 100 plus people (according to some articles, thousands of people) to make one automobile.  Certainly, the assembly line is creating many more autos per year, and even more than the same number of people could create each working on an individual automobile, but the efficiency did not come without a heavy cost.  Millions of dollars must be spent and thousands of employees must hired and trained before the first car comes off of the line.

The same is true with CRM Software in relation to sales and customer service.  CRM Software can help you to know more about your customers and remind you to take action on that knowledge.  However, in order for this to happen, processes must be designed and implemented and training given to all users.  Data must be compiled and kept up-to-date.  Users must use the system and complete the action as recommended by the system.  A lot of time and effort will go into the initial implementation and setup of the CRM system before a single benefit is seen. 

Ultimately, it is my belief that a CRM software system can increase efficiency, but it is also my belief that a CRM system should be implemented because a company desires to improve customer service and the customer experience through a broader understanding of the customer’s needs and purchase patterns.  Remember this when implementing CRM Software:  Superior Customer Service is Inefficient!

Thousands of companies world-wide are reaping benefits from CRM Software, including increased efficiency.  These companies each understood and committed to:

 

  • The investment of time and money
  • The importance of training
  • The mandatory usage of the software by all involved
  • The commitment to continuous process improvement brought about by a better understanding of their customer

 

Much like companies implementing assembly lines in the early 1900s, companies with successful CRM implementations focused on the long term gain offered by CRM Software.  These gains include such things as:

 

  • A more thorough understanding of their customer
  • Improved communication with the customer
  • A proactive approach to sales and customer service
  • Automated processes for prospecting and sales 

 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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A Faster Horse

A quote that is widely attributed to Henry Ford is the focus of today’s blog post.  The quote is as follows, “If I were to ask my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse” –Henry Ford.  Whether this is actually a quote from Henry Ford is not my point, the point is that oftentimes self diagnosis and prescription does not return the proper results.
 

The Value of a Consultant

Let’s walk through this.  Two brothers own an ice cave and deliver ice to everyone in the town.  They have a horse and cart to deliver the ice.  The cart can hold enough ice for three deliveries, at which point they have to return to the cave to get more ice.  Seeing that there is only so much they can do with their slow horse and cart, they determine that a faster horse is the solution, and go out shopping for a faster horse.
 
This example is overly simplified, but it is repeated thousands of times every day.  People look at their problem, ask one question, and make a determination as to what will best solve the problem.
 
It may be that the brothers even brainstormed other possible resolutions:
  • Get a bigger cart (and return to the cave less often)
  • Get another horse and cart (and double their delivery capacity)
  • Offer discounts for those customers that wish to pick up their ice.
However, it is highly unlikely that either of the brothers in the ice business would have thought about inventing a truck.
 
Our solution to the problem is based upon our knowledge and we limit all resolutions to what we know.  Often we force a resolution to work because we cannot see any other possible solution.  This is where a consultant comes in.  A consultant adds to your knowledge and helps you to expand the possible resolutions to the problem.  Hopefully, a consultant will blow you away with their creative response to the situation.  The true value of a consultant lies in not just offering the solution that the customer is looking for, but in digging to the heart of the issue and providing the most effective resolution.
 
 

Luke Russell 

Resolv, Inc.

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