CRM Software Reporting – Hang Your Report Card on the Refrigerator!

I may be dating myself, but I remember the days when meeting with a client meant a long lunch and talking about family and vacations.  Your rapport with that client was their number one reason for choosing to do business with you going forward.  Yes, there was the occasional problem, and when that occurred, you created a plan to fix the problem and you explained how and why that problem wouldn’t happen again.  You left most meetings feeling good, and with a good understanding of where you stood with that buyer or decision maker based on your relationship with them.  It was that easy.

  If they liked you and trusted you, you were relatively competitive in your respective industry; the likelihood of losing market share to a competitor was pretty slim.  Loyalty was the most important factor in a business relationship.

Rapport and loyalty still remain major factors, however the criteria that buyers and decision makers use to make purchase decisions has become a little less subjective over the last decade and will become even less subjective in the future.  After all, business is business and knowledge is power.  I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t meet your buyer for lunch, or that you shouldn’t know the name of their children or where they plan on going for vacation this summer.  Bonding will always be critical.  However, every bit as critical are quantifiable success factors.

Those quantifiable success factors are now captured in vendor report cards.  Sometimes buyers will produce that document based on their criteria from their information, or sometimes they want you to produce that document, based on their criteria but with your information.  If they are the ones producing the document, the last thing you would ever want is to be surprised by the contents!  It is essential to be aware of your critical success factors with each key account such as turns and gross margin, whether sales are up or down on each product, what promotions were successful and why,  how co-op marketing dollars have been allocated and the success of the related marketing campaigns.  If you’re not utilizing vendor report cards with your key accounts, you should be!

 
It is imperative that you can demonstrate to your clients where the strengths and weaknesses in your business relationship are.  Provide clients with a snap shot of your business relationship as detailed above and include a summary about past visits.  Detail future planned visits as well as future product launches and promotions.  Provide them with the complete picture so they are not only basing their future purchase decisions from the tried and true foundation of trust, but from the safe and comfortable foundation of confidence in your knowledge, ability and professional skills.

 A Customer Relationship Management software, when integrated with a back office system provides you the tool you need to create that complete quantifiable picture.  The combined information of the quantifiable success factors of a business relationship with the sales, marketing and service aspects create a very powerful tool that when used wisely can set you apart from your competition.  Make the commitment to create a report card that you page could ask your client to hang on their refrigerator!

Kym Riedel

Resolv, Inc.

Accelerating CRM

Today I worked with a company who has had CRM in their company for 13 years. They are a rather complicated infrastructure and have multiple CRM solutions across many divisions and multiple countries. Granted, their situation is somewhat unique due to this complicated infrastructure, however my greatest take away from this all day marathon meeting is applicable to any organization who has CRM software: Company’s change. Processes change. People change. Things change.

The objective of our meeting was to define the priority processes within the organization that are in part or full maintained in a CRM solution that should be changed or improved. The result of this deep dive was astounding! I wished I had a dollar for every time someone said they are currently managing a process or part of a process manually (outside of system).  I am not going to pretend that by using CRM you will possess the magic wand that eliminates all process confusion or provide total automation, however it can bridge a lot of gaps.

The most important element in effective CRM usage is process definition and let’s face it dissection.  It’s not always an easy undertaking and sometimes it might even fall on the side of painful, but like the muscle ache you experience after a good work out, it’s a good pain and if you want to improve, a necessary pain. 

A company does not have to have had CRM software for over a decade to experience disparity in process and existing technology. Disparity between process and automated CRM solutions can exist as early as day one of implementation if the process definition and dissection did not occur.

Maximize the utilization of your CRM solution and the return that can be experienced from it by going through the necessary process exercises. It is an effort you will never regret and what you uncover may truly surprise you!

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.

Choosing a CRM Business Partner

In our industry, when a developer and consultant, such as Resolv, works with an existing software publisher (like Sage for example), our relationship is called that of a “Business Partner”.  Angela, one of our company’s Principals, and I were talking about the relationship between us and our customer.  We were discussing whether or not our relationship with our customers is appropriately described when using “vendor/client” terminology.  Really, it is not.  We are without a doubt, “Business Partners” with our customers as well.

 

Our sales process begins by educating the customer on the process of successfully selecting and implementing CRM software.  You will quickly learn by reading the many blogs and the verbiage on our webpage that we believe the most important decision you will make regarding your CRM software implementation is your Business Partner.

The reason for this is because in order for a CRM implementation to be successful your organization’s culture and processes need to be in alignment with your business strategy.  It’s an evolution.  It is not about downloading software on to your computers and telling everyone to use it.  It’s about understanding what you want to accomplish and when.  It’s about having measurable or quantifiable goals with a realistic timeline.  It’s about knowing what you want to ACCOMPLISH by implementing CRM software and being able to measure that result after the implementation.

A Business Partner is someone who works with you to define those goals prior to an implementation and holds everyone involved accountable to those predetermined results after the implementation.  A Business Partner is someone who will advise a phase plan approach that makes the implementation manageable and executable at a tactical level.  A Business Partner will make sure that it doesn’t just sound like a good plan, but that it IS achievable based on prior experience and expertise.  A Business Partner will look to the future with you, to begin to visualize those next plan phases and begin to work with you to incorporate them within a realistic plan.

A Business Partner is someone that you will be working with for years to come.  When you begin the CRM implementation investigation process, don’t ask yourself, “Which software?”  Ask yourself which partner you want to be working with a decade from now.  Because, if you do it right, the consultant you hire to implement and develop your CRM is someone you will know for many many years to come.

Kym Riedel

Resolv, Inc.

CRM is NOT homework!

Do you remember when you were in high school or college; that time of year came when you selected your courses for the following semester?  Do you remember asking around to find out who had taken that class already, and “Was it hard?”, and most importantly, “Did the teacher (or professor) give a lot of homework”?  That was the ultimate criteria for deciding which teacher you would take which class with, or if you would take an elective class at all.  No one likes homework, right!  The very best classes were the ones where they allowed time in class to complete the assignments.  You could just do it and forget it, and not have to worry about it again.

I don’t think my mentality towards homework has changed all that much since then, really.  If anything, as I get older, I have less and less tolerance for doing “work” on “my” time.  I think age has made me appreciate how important “my” time really is.  So it doesn’t surprise me that when I talk to sales managers who have never used CRM before, and ask them what their reservations are, they tell me it’s because they “don’t want more work to do”.  You know what…that’s a fair statement!  I get where they’re coming from.  I believe it’s a common perception in the business world that our bosses, our prospects and our clients are always wanting more and more from us and we have less and less time to get it all done.  Often, we in sales, tend to feel like our time is not our own.  “And you want more?” we think.  “Seriously?  And where is the time for that supposed to come from?”  They envision themselves having to fire up their laptops at 10:00 p.m. after they’ve finally checked into their hotel for the night, only to enter information into the CRM software that they already emailed or called into their inside contacts earlier in the day.  They don’t want to be held accountable for yet another task at the end of each day.  They don’t want to use the little “me” time they have at the end of a travel day working even longer hours.

CRM is not homework!  CRM can be accessed through smart phones and iPads as well as laptops.  Bring your device of choice with you into your customer meeting.  Use it as a means to demonstrate to your customer your encompassing knowledge of them and their history with your company.  Take brief notes right in your device and schedule the follow up actions needed while your customer is right in front of you.  If you aren’t comfortable with that, then make it a habit not to leave the customers’ parking lot without inputting the (limited) key points of the conversation and documenting a follow up action or assigning the appropriate tasks. Limit yourself to 2 minutes of entry after each customer contact.  Using CRM effectively allows you to do it and forget it, much like choosing the course that provided time for you to do your homework in class.

   
That 2 minutes of discipline will give you back minutes in your day and hours in your week. Not only will you not have CRM homework, it will eliminate the need for lengthy emails and long meetings.  Interested parties will know they can find the answers, tasks and next steps in the CRM and require less of your precious time.  Your time will be yours to manage and you will once again, be glad you have another free night, without homework!

Kym Riedel
Resolv, Inc.

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 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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Do you have an expensive Rolodex?

Over the last 12 years (yes, I have been doing CRM consulting for 12 years now) I have seen many CRM systems implemented as an very expensive Rolodex, basically to perform the function of Contact Management or Sales Force Automation.  There is a difference between Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Contact Management.  So I thought today I would help define each step in the Contact Management to Customer Relationship Management chain:

 

Contact Management is typically contact based, and is more or less an electronic rolodex.  It is a mailing list for a specific user or group of users, and is normally not integrated across the entire organization.  It frequently does not meet all of the data needs required for managing leads, prospects, and customers, leaving many stand alone islands of data throughout the organization.  Often companies will know they need to move up from contact management when they begin to have multiple contact management databases or when they have to use outside programs like Microsoft Excel or Access to track additional data about their prospects and customers.  Contact management is a great first step into CRM, and Sage software with over 4,000,000 users of ACT! is the world-wide leader in this category.

Sales Force Automation is frequently account based, and includes enhanced note taking and opportunity tracking capabilities.  It allows for the tracking of more data though configuration, and can be deployed organization wide.  Making the step to sales force automation normally eliminates the need for many of the separate islands of data, leaving only one or two spreadsheets or outside databases for tracking additional data components.  Very often, sales force automation will include basic integration into the back office.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is account based, and includes advanced marketing management, opportunity management, quote management, contract tracking, support issue management, and forecasting to name a few key components.  Basically, it encompasses data from every aspect of your relationship with the customer.  It is fully customizable eliminating all need for outside islands of data about your customer (outside of your accounting/ERP system).  It can be fully integrated with back office and manufacturing and can be deployed across the entire organization, including remote offices anywhere around the world.  Sage SalesLogix is an excellent example of a true Customer Relationship Management tool.  Sage SalesLogix has been the industry innovation leader since 1998 and is consistently winning industry standard and user satisfaction awards.

Hopefully having an understanding of what CRM includes will help you as you focus on the business goals that you are looking toward CRM software to help you accomplish.  Don’t forget that your CRM strategy and corresponding software implementation is an ever-evolving  part of your organization.   While CRM is not about software, we do have a couple resources on our website that will help as you are evaluating software:

Luke Russell
Resolv, Inc.

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