CRM … Changing the Role of “Sales Manager”

CRM … Changing the Role of “Sales Manager”

I cannot remember how many times I have sat in meetings with sales management discussing their need to see what their sales team is doing. They want sales call and activity reports accounting for every minute of a salesperson’s day, especially for out-of-office days. This is usually done in one or a series of spreadsheets, until they implement CRM. Then, it just makes sense to them to implement the same thing in the CRM system: 100% accounting of everything the sales person does. Their employees ultimately perform the required tasks, not out of belief in the CRM system, but out of fear. When asked, most employees think CRM is just a leash used by management to account for their time.

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Questions To Think About As You Move Toward CRM: Part 2

What Is Your Business Strategy In Relation to CRM?

Without a doubt we live in a society that has come to expect instant gratification.  The advancements of technology continue to feed this expectation and our tolerance for dissatisfaction in these technological advances is minimizing every day.  A practical example:  Apps for I pads (I products).  How many times have you searched the App store for something, downloaded the freebie only to be disappointed because it didn’t do exactly what you wanted exactly the  way you wanted, so you deleted it just as quickly?  So, your frustrated it wasn’t right, and it was FREE!  Hmmm? Wow, we expect a lot don’t we?

So let’s apply the reality of instant gratification to the customers of your business and their experiences with it.  Have you as an organization taken the subjective step backwards and evaluated your business strategy and mission in relationship to the ever progressing expectation of instant gratification?  Let’s face it, most businesses realize very quickly they don’t measure up to the advancements of Apple or even Amazon for that matter.  If your conclusion from this brief assessment is that they have set the bar too high and you will continue to plug along as always, you may find yourself left in the dark in the near future.  Deep down you know this, but where do you start?

It feels like an insurmountable task to compare the level of instant punapharmacy gratification that is becoming the norm to your existing (maybe antiquated) business model.  You have limited resources, such as funding and people.  Where do you start?  How do you manage this among the many other projects pulling you in multiple directions?

The most important dollar you might invest in your business is putting the pieces of this puzzle together.  As a business owner or senior manager you bear the responsibility to provide the top down directive of comparing your business to the uber businesses in instant gratification and writing customer satisfaction into your business strategy (whatever that means to your business and industry).  Ignoring the gap will only widen the gap and put you further behind.

There are ways to improve customer satisfaction and provide the instant gratification they seek for much less than you might expect through a CRM software solution.  Work with an expert CRM service provider to help you make this project, that feels gargantuan, manageable and affordable.  You can’t do everything yourself, and you shouldn’t punish yourself for not being the expert in every aspect of your business, especially one as ever evolving as technology.  You are doing your job, and doing it well, when you write the strategy that achieves customer satisfaction and instant gratification for your client, and more importantly take the steps to achieve that mission.

Questions To Think About As You Move Toward CRM: Part 1

How Do You Define CRM (Customer Relationship Management) In Your Organization?

I talk to businesses every day that are either considering purchasing CRM software or are considering purchasing a different CRM software because the first one they purchased isn’t working the way they hoped it would.  Before you do anything else, STOP!, and read this!

There are a series of questions you need to ask yourself before making a CRM software selection.  The first question is, how do you define CRM in your organization?  Keep in mind, we are not asking you to describe the features and functions of a software.  We are asking about Customer Relationship Management.  The acronym stands for a term that is the heart and soul of a CRM software implementation success.  That same term is the heart and soul of the success of your business as a whole.  Without happy customers a business will not stay open for very long regardless of the product or service they provide.

The answer we are digging for is the process that defines that customer satisfaction and is unique to your business.  Why do your customers come to you?  This question will undoubtedly open up the flood gates of many questions, all of which need to be answered before a new customer management software solution can be implemented.    Once you have been able to bactrimsale define why your customers come to you, and the process that has ultimately created their satisfaction with your products or services you need to ask yourself if everyone throughout the organization knows that answer.

It is a mistake to make decisions that impact customer satisfaction in a bubble.  Reach out to your key customer facing employees and discuss the process with them.  Did you have the answer to the question right? Did you know the process? What did they add to the definition?  Who is most passionate about that process and why?  Is the process as straightforward and precise as it should be or are there redundancies across departments? Does the process look and feel seamless to the customer? Where might they see bottlenecks and encounter frustration?

The next step is to ascertain what benefits a single source of customer facing data (CRM solution) and the automation of a CRM software could provide.  This part gets tricky for a business that does not have a CRM expert on staff.  Our recommendation is to reach out to a CRM expert at this point and ask that question.  How can CRM software make our processes better and make our customers happier?  If this isn’t your ultimate goal, STOP!, step back and start over. 

Using CRM to Manage Without the Mystery

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

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


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


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


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


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

Who Is The Consumer In A CRM Implementation?

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


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


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


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


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


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

CRM Across the Generations

It is not uncommon for us, in the CRM industry, to hear from prospects and customers that certain individuals in the company like doing things their way and they are not going to change.  In a business that utilizes CRM, that could be a real problem.  It’s a culture problem.

Culture can mean many things.  It is probably a word that is overused yet not entirely understood.  Culture, by definition is “shared beliefs and values of a group”.  In business, culture is often used interchangeably with “company mindset”.

If you have been researching CRM you probably already know that in order for a CRM software implementation to be successful it has to be a top down directive and that usage must be mandated.  In other words, the culture of the organization must be so that the leaders understand the value a CRM solution will provide and they must be able to articulate it in a way that the users will embrace it.  For the users to embrace it they must essentially understand how they as individuals, and the company as a whole, will be greater for the knowledge available as a result of using CRM software.  Oh, is that all?

So, for the users to embrace it, they must understand the value of it.  Yet, what one person values can be very different from what another person values.  We are talking about individuals.  “Users” are not really a single group, but a group of individuals.  This same group of individuals is also a multigenerational work force that value things very differently.  What I often like to point out is that CRM has something for everyone.

Baby boomers (born between 1946 – 1964), who tend to be traditionalists, believe that face to face communication is the best way to manage a customer relationship.  CRM provides them the ability to capture that experience, and the related outcome in a way that everyone in the organization can relate and if necessary, react to.

Generation X (born between 1964-1980), who tend to be individualists, often want to do for themselves and keep to themselves to get the job done faster.  This is a generation that has a tendency to take on too much.  There is no greater tool than CRM to maximize your efforts with less time.  CRM can perform like the secretary of days gone by!

Generation Y or Nexters (born between 1981-2000), who are tech-savvy and achievement oriented, seek out tools that grow with the times and provide instant gratification.  CRM can be developed to be many things and this group will see opportunities for utilization others may not have even considered.

CRM does truly provide something for everyone!  The solution to the culture problem of user resistance is to relate to the individual who is providing that resistance.  Is it a generational resistance?  What does CRM provide the individual will value?  If all else fails, start with the basics.  What is the shared value the organization will experience? That’s a positioning statement every generation will understand.

Using CRM to Eliminate the Dreaded Forecasting Meeting

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

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


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


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


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

#1 Key to CRM Implementation Success: User Adoption

CRM User AdoptionI was recently asked what I believe drives a successful CRM implementation.  Is it glitzy software?  Is it solving a big problem with a lot of ROI?  Is it having a project sponsor that pushes CRM down the corporation’s throat?  My answer is simple, you can have the latest and greatest software with all the bells and whistles, but without incorporating the change into your users everyday lives, your CRM implementation will be a miserable failure.  User Adoption is the number one key to CRM success.
 
Speed:
 If that is the case (and let’s say for the sake of argument, that I am right on this point) it stands to reason that the speed of user adoption is critical.  Therefore, user adoption planning and education needs to start prior to the CRM implementation.  It begins with understanding your users and defining the key factors that will encourage or hinder CRM adoption.  This includes looking at your users current skill-sets, job descriptions, behaviors, and attitudes.  It also includes reviewing your organizational processes (or lack of processes), communication plans, and leadership culture.
 
Understanding these things helps to improve adoption as you shape your CRM adoption strategy.  It helps you to design the software with the user in mind, and helps you to determine just where CRM fits into your organizational processes.
 
Learning:
Many associate training with learning, and while training is a step in the leaning process, there is much more to it.  Learning may start with training and communication, but has to include a feed-back mechanism and opportunities for reflection and application.  Before, during and after your CRM implementation it is key that you work with your users to understand what is working and what is lacking in the learning process.  Don’t be afraid to try new things and toss out those that aren’t working.
 
Essentiality:
One of the most effective ways to facilitate learning and drive CRM user adoption is to make the CRM system essential to your users.  This means to give your users more out of CRM than you are expecting them to input.  Things like sales by product line by account for a period of time, open orders, outstanding invoices, and industry data about an account make CRM an invaluable tool to your users. This facilitates decision making, and drives users into CRM on a regular basis.  
 
Incorporating CRM into your processes is another way to make it essential, and ensures that your CRM implementation is in alignment with your organizational processes.
 
The role of software:
If you know me at all, you will have seen the chart showing that a CRM implementation is only about 10% technology.  They other 90% is process and culture.  In other words, people.  Keep this in mind when you are working on your CRM adoption strategy.  Its not about the technology.  Its about your people.
 
I have seen many companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on what they believed to be the best looking, glitziest CRM believing that would drive user adoption.  Everyone was sorely disappointed when they realized there is no correlation between the slickness of the software and user adoption.   I’m not surprised, since software is only 10% of the equation.
 
Adoption strategy:
Finally, write out your adoption strategy.  Assign ownership of the strategy.  This should be someone with the authority and required resources to initiate and maintain CRM user adoption.  
 
Be sure to include in your strategy a list of your current user types, and what you can do to facilitate adoption prior to, during, and after your CRM implementation.  Keep in mind; however, that your adoption strategy will need to change as you receive feedback from your users.
 

Technology Is Not the Success Or Failure Of A Customer Relationship

My son is in the hospital this week, inpatient.  In this situation we are the customer.  It may be a specific industry with different terminology, but ultimately we are the customer.  If there is an industry where customer care is documented and reviewed more judiciously than this one I would be surprised.  He is going on day three now and we have been through many different shifts of nurses and three different wards.  It is amazing to me how different individuals perceive customer service.

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  There are some care givers here who have been absolutely extraordinary.  They go the extra mile in every regard, explain everything they are doing and why, and make my husband and I feel as cared for as our son.  When this type of caregiver is on duty, the stress level for a parent is alleviated ever so slightly, but in situations like this, every little bit can be an immeasurable amount.


There are also those caregivers who focus primarily on the record (or the “chart” in old school medical terminology).  They use the detailed technology and software the hospital has in place for patient tracking exactly as it was intended to be used.  They know what has to be done and when it has to be done. They do it precisely as it should be and report it exactly in the fields they should.  Something is lacking, however.

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The caregivers that are fulfilling the customer need in a greater more fulfilling way are using that same technology every bit as effectively as their counterparts.  Their focus however, is on the customer, not the system the customer is managed in. 
Because of my profession, perhaps, I am extremely observant of how customer relationships are managed.  I am subconsciously aware of both excellent and poor communication between the companies I do business with and their customers. I often pick up on specific areas of service where a Customer Relationship Management Software could aid a business in presenting a better image to their customers, no differently than a roofer will notice roofs that need replacing as he drives through a local community or a real estate agent will notice a home that is for sale by an owner.   It’s not something you can turn off and on.   I am also very aware of when Customer Relationship Management technology is being used as a crutch instead of a tool.  Technology is not the success or failure of a customer relationship.  The people in that relationship are.

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Regardless of the industry that you are in, someone is the customer.  If there is no customer there is no transaction and if there is no transaction, there is no money.  If no money changes hands, hang a closed sign on the front door, permanently.  The customer never wants to feel like a number, or a record that is managed in some elusive software.  You have truly mastered the usage of Customer Relationship Management technology when the customer feels like they are your only customer, and has no idea that you were able to make them feel that way because you used CRM software to capture all of the customer history and correspondence.

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It is in part an art.  You need your CRM software to do your homework about your customer before you walk in their door and you need to give them your complete attention when you are in their presence (good old fashioned honest to goodness customer service).  Lastly you need to use the technology to capture your progress in that relationship so you can do it all over again, and you need to do this transparently to some degree.  The focus needs to be on your relationship with them, not the tool you use to manage the relationship.

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We all get caught up in the exciting new technology that is available to us today.  That is human nature. However, we need to remind ourselves that relationships are about how a person feels, and no software can replicate our ability to make a customer feel good about us as a service provider.  You are the success or failure of your customer relationships.  

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Knowledge is Power – CRM and Your Sales Pipeline

I had to call out the cable technician this week because my internet, which has been progressively running slower and slower, reached a point where I couldn’t stand it anymore.  He did a wonderful job and did some rewiring inside the house, explaining there was an old splitter that was picking up and sending noise through the lines and messing with the cable signal.  After he was finished my internet was just flying compared to what I was used to!  He explained that if it ever slows down like that again to call them sooner rather than later and that too often their customers have signal issues and just accept the slower speeds without question, because they don’t know they can have better service.  They believe inferior is acceptable.

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I think we may adopt inferior as acceptable quite often in our day to day lives because we believe it is easier to accept what we have than spend time trying to figure out what is needed to make it better. I personally catch myself doing it all the time.  My husband and I were looking for a new laptop and I found myself looking for one that didn’t have Windows 8 on it because I didn’t want to learn something new.  Really?  Shame on me!  The question we really need to ask ourselves is what do we gain by learning something new? What knowledge will we posses we didn’t previously? How will that knowledge impact our future decisions? How much time will it save us in the future?


CRM software can do a lot of amazing things, but one that people praise over and over after implementation is the visibility into the sales pipeline.  Prior to implementing CRM companies often use post sale reports (from their accounting or ERP packages) to make decisions.  Post sale reports only show you the customers and orders you won.  That’s only half the picture, right?  How can you make an educated decision with half the picture? To rectify this problem companies often attempt to capture sales pipeline activity through excel spreadsheets, managed and updated by the sales people.  These weekly or monthly “spreadsheet meetings” are dreaded by all and often sales management does not leave that meeting any more informed than they were before they started it.

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But….if you have never known any different and if you have become complacent with this inferior sales information collection process how would you know that it is entirely unacceptable?  How bad does it have to be before you finally say “Enough!” (and in my case, call the cable guy?)

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Visibility into your sales pipeline will provide you with a level of information, that once you have experienced you will not be able to live without!  (Think Ipad or Kindle.)  You hear the hype and think that everyone is exaggerating the benefits.  Then you get one and refuse to leave the room, any room, without yours on or near your person.  CRM, when used effectively is just like that.  You will wonder why you waited! You would never dream of being without it again, and it will become as necessary to you as your Iphone or personal computer.

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CRM is here to stay.  Make the leap to better information so you can consistently make the very best, informed decisions.  Don’t settle for inferior.

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