Article as seen on Forbes.com
Executives who lead a sales organization often ask me which Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool they should implement to achieve the best results. One of the first companies I founded years ago actually implemented CRM software for clients. From this experience, I quickly discovered organizations often over think what a CRM tool is intended to do. CRM tools are intended to help track interactions with current and future customers for the entire organization.
There are a ton of CRM systems in the marketplace. Each developer continues to add features and capabilities to extend their feature matrix. We don’t know if anyone actually cares about or uses those features, but the feature matrix is certainly growing for all vendors. After looking at all of the systems in the marketplace, the one you should use is…
The One Your Entire Organization Will Actually Use. I know, it sounds corny. The bottom line is that the most sophisticated tools are useless if your team either a) Won’t use them; or b) Spends too much time feeding the system that it takes away from their customer-facing efforts.
How to Avoid CRM Failure
First, let me explain the common trap that leads to CRM nightmares and falling revenue. Often, when implementing a CRM solution, each department chimes in with what customer data the system should track. The marketing organization generally wants to track lead sources, organizational structure, competitor information, and a myriad of seemingly valuable information. Accounting and Legal have their wish lists. Then what usually ends up happening in most organizations, is someone from Marketing, Accounting or Legal suggests: “While sales executives are speaking with the customer, they should gather that information.” Don’t fall into that trap! Do you want your salespeople to drive revenue, or perform data entry? Top performing salespeople are effective at planning and executing (or we hope at least one of these). Most are not wired to be stellar at data entry, collecting, and compliance.
The Key to CRM Success
Earlier this year I made some predictions for trends in sales and business development for 2014. Prediction #8 was Simplified CRM Solutions. In the prediction, I said “Look for a shift in 2014 for companies to identify the top eight (or three) pieces of information they need to understand if a deal is legitimate or not. They will ask sales reps to maintain fewer pieces of information, but will require compliance.”
How to Achieve Successful CRM
Whichever platform you select do the following six things well to achieve great success.
Maintain Institutional Knowledge
One of the most valuable aspects of a good CRM is to have a repository of information about your company’s opportunities and customers. This is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of a good CRM. Using a shared spreadsheet on a network drive just doesn’t cut it. A disgruntled employee might delete the file. Invest in a platform with role-based security.
Coordinate Across Departments
It’s about more than just sales and salespeople. Have you ever called a customer to talk about your new offering only to find out that they are having a major problem right now? Most of us have had that happen. Ensure that your entire organization uses the platform to document customer interactions. Of course, your salespeople need the discipline to check the system before contacting the customer.
Tight Email Integration
Most of your communication is likely via email. Don’t make your team jump through hoops to capture email conversations in the CRM. If you don’t have seamless integration with your email system, you are either using an antiquated email platform, or a soon-to-be-outdated CRM platform. Once you type the client or prospect’s name the system should forever link that email to their CRM record.
Native Mobile Support
I don’t need to convince you that mobile is essential. If your team can’t access what they need from tablets and smartphones, then you’ve made a bad investment. When the customer calls while you are on the road, you should have easy access to everything about their account.
Effective Follow-up and Automation
The greatest value in an effective CRM platform is the ability to remind sales reps to follow-up with opportunities at the right time. There are tools like Yesware and Contactually that integrate with email platforms to make your life a bit easier.
Know the Three Things You Need
Focus on the most important elements that tell you “which opportunities are real.” For my money, you should be tracking 1) What problem is the customer trying to solve; 2) Why is it important for them to solve that issue with urgency; and 3) How will they measure success of the solution. If you have that information, you are 90% of the way toward successful, same-side selling.
Don’t get excited about capabilities in a CRM vendor’s demonstration that you are unlikely to ever use. Will the system you are implementing capture essential information, ensure effective follow-up, and be easy enough to use that your team will see it as an asset and not just a glorified monitoring device? This essential point is worth repeating: The best CRM implementation is the one your entire organization will actually use.
It’s Your Turn
What aspects of CRM do you feel are most important? When have you seen a CRM take on a life of its own and actually interfere with success?