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Four Keys to A Successful CRM Implementation

A few weeks ago, I read a recent article in a monthly trade magazine by a guy who is/was one of America’s most prominent sales authors.  The article was about CRM.  Specifically, it was about how he had finally seen the virtues of CRM (Customer Relationship Management app) and moved his own business off of the old spreadsheet model.  Well, golly gee whiz!  He’s selling like it’s 1999.  Look, let’s be honest.  If you don’t have a CRM system that is up, running, functional, and being used (the definition of successful CRM implementation), you are as behind the times as he is – and you’re probably getting your ass kicked by sales teams that do have one.

I’m tempted to say that “in today’s world, CRM is essential,” but that would be a lie.  Twenty years ago, CRM was essential.  Today, it’s foundational.  Product knowledge isn’t king anymore.  Customer knowledge is king.  And if you don’t have a functional CRM system, you don’t know enough about your customers.  I’m of the opinion that the reason that sales teams don’t implement and use CRM systems is that they make it too complicated.  Hence, I want to simplify CRM.

Entirely too many CRM implementations are guided by the IT department or vendor.  That’s a mistake.  IT departments love features and functionality – the more, the better.  CRM should be guided by sales and marketing, because they are the users and the ones who benefit from successful CRM implementation.  Sales and marketing tell IT what they need, and IT implements it.  Here are the four things you must have for successful CRM implementation:

  1. Contact management: For me, contact management includes the “business card information” for every contact at your target companies. It incorporates demographics on their business – size, industry, etc.  It also includes data-input fields on their current method of doing whatever they do:  Who they buy from, what they buy, how often they buy, how big their potential is, and whatever other fields are vital to your business.
  2. Activity management: Activity management is the recording of every interaction and “touch” with the customer.  What did you do?  When was it?  What was the result?  What important information was discovered or exchanged?  All calls, meetings, video contacts, emails, and texts should be recorded.  The good news is that the best CRM systems will interact with your email client to automatically log emails; a good mobile app will log phone calls and texts as long as you’re using your smartphone with a mobile app (more on that in a moment) to make them.  One more thing.  All CRM systems that I’ve seen include a generic “notes” function.  Don’t use it.  “Notes” are for information gleaned, and that information was discovered within an activity – a call, email exchange, or meeting.  Log all your notes within the activity that generated the note.  That gives context.
  3. Opportunity management: An “opportunity” happens whenever the customer or prospect enters a Buyer’s Journey with you; i.e. there is a buying decision to be made.  A successful CRM implementation gives you the capability to log the opportunity, trace it through the sales funnel, and log the win or loss.
  4. A usable mobile app: The old model was that salespeople would go out into the field, make sales calls, come back to the office, and sit down at the computer and type in their activities and notes, usually with the sales manager haranguing them about it.  That’s obsolete.  Today, a good mobile app is part and parcel of a successful CRM implementation.  That way, salespeople can have a meeting, return to their vehicle, quickly log the meeting and results while sitting in their vehicle using a few taps and talk-to-text, and get on to the next meeting.  It’s far more efficient for the salesperson, it communicates information in real time to the office, and frankly, it’s just plain smart.  If (like me) you take a lot of notes using pen and paper, snap pictures of the pages with your phone and use the app to attach those notes to the customer record.  Boom – they are forever logged.  Want to know how to make your work more efficient with a mobile app?  I have a video for that – watch it here.

Are there more ways a CRM can be useful?  Sure.  Automated workflows, email blasts, data segmenting, integration with your back-end accounting program, and other functions can be good to have – but don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.  If you don’t have a successful CRM implementation, start with the four keys above, and you can always make your CRM more robust as time goes on.  And don’t worry about picking “the wrong one” if you’re just getting started.  You can always export data out of one system and into another.  When in doubt, start simple and work up from there.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you what I use.  I’ve used HubSpot for five years, precisely because it has the four keys above, it’s easy to use, and oh yeah, if you use the basic version, it’s free. No, I don’t get a kickback for referring people – I’m just letting you know.

Whatever you use, pick a CRM and use it.  Frankly, today’s selling is far too data-driven not to.