"The Navigator" News Blog

To CRM….and How.

Of the questions I’m asked in my training programs, one of the easiest to answer is, “Troy, should we have a CRM program?”  My only decision is whether to answer, “Yes,” “Hell, yes,” or “Only if you want to succeed in this century.”  In this day and age, if you don’t have some sort of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, you’re going to lose business, both new and existing, to companies that do.

But the next questions I’m peppered with are, “How should we do it?  What platform should we use?  Etc.”  To be honest, I seldom duck questions, but these questions I find quite duckable.  I beg off, saying that I’m not a tech guy, I’m a sales guy.  That’s true.  But, the sales function is the most important in making a CRM implementation work, so I’m going to break my own rule and give you my recommendations and opinions in this article.

What system should you use?  Whatever is easiest for you to install and implement.  My own preference, going back over 20 years now, is ACT!  I have found it consistently the easiest to buy, install, import data into, and use.  That said, there are other systems.  I have a good relationship with the people at esalestrack.com, and their system appears to be a good one.  If you’re really wanting to get basic, Microsoft offers an add-on to Outlook called “Business Contact Manager,” which can be a very good CRM system if used correctly.  Which brings us to the next point.

What makes CRM successful?  PARTICIPATION and MANAGEMENT.  If you want a CRM system to work successfully, your sales reps have to enter data on every customer contact.  This has to be managed and driven from the top, through sales management.  Further, ideally, everyone who has customer contact should be a participant in the CRM system.  That means customer service, tech support, etc. – anyone who can make an impact on that customer, good or bad, or who can gather data on that customer, should be a participant.

Why would sales reps want CRM?  Isn’t it just Big Brother?  That, dear manager, is where you can make the difference.  CRM can be an invaluable tool for the sales rep IF it is implemented and managed correctly.  CRM is never more valuable than when the sales rep can check his customer’s record right before a sales call and read that service had an interaction with the customer this morning, and what the result was.  CRM can be a launch pad for marketing support activities, as well, that can help the sales rep win more business and build stronger relationships.  If you only use it as an overseer tool, then sure, sales reps are going to rebel.

What technical capabilities should the CRM have?  When I say “techical capabilities,” I’m not talking about features that track data.  I’m talking about the actual interfaces of the program.  To me, there are two keys.  First, your CRM must offer some sort of sync package that allows it to ‘talk to’ your accounting package.  This allows salespeople full visibility to purchases, returns, billing, A/R status, etc.  Second, in this day and age, it must offer smartphone capability, preferably in real time, so that the salesperson can make the aforementioned smartphone check before a call, and enter the data on a smartphone after the call.  Finally, it should also sync with Outlook.  Yes, modern CRM systems have their own email and calendars, but let’s be real – Outlook is the standard that our customers use, and when we send meeting invitations, they’re Outlook invitations.

What should we be tracking?  Again, here’s where management comes into play.  First, understand this – the modern CRM systems are so feature-packed (much of it with features that are meaningless to a quality sales process) that even the best teams will struggle to use up to 40 or 50% of the software’s capabilities.  Don’t worry about maximizing everything on the software or your salespeople will rebel at the burden.  Instead, make sure that you have good field data – meaning the business-card information of each contact within your customer companies, plus meaningful user-defined data.  For instance, if your business works on contracts, you should be tracking contract expiration dates for your prospects and customers.  You should also track competitive data; i.e. who are they buying from and what are they buying?  The list can be long or short, depending on your industry.  Take a package and make it yours with good planning.  Yes, I can help with this.

You should also be tracking each interaction and activity with the customer.  Emails, calls, sales calls, service visits, etc. so that everyone who deals with that customer can have visibility to what everyone else is doing.  Use the Opportunity Management module to manage the proposal process.  Use Sales Statuses to track the movement of customers through the sales/buying process.

Finally, manage the program.  The Sales Manager must be diligent in creating standards for acceptable data, and manage to that.  Run Blank Fields reports to clean up customer data, and use the Opportunity Management tools to help you close sales (won or lost).  Yes, this does add work to everyone in the sales department, but managed well, it doesn’t have to be onerous, and the additional wins you’ll get will be worth it.

Disagree?  I have an open mind.  Email me at troy@troyharrison.com, and tell me your point of view.