Thursday, September 21, 2006

Never Give Up, Never Let Go...

Never Give Up, Never Let Go...
By, George Ritacco

CRM. When you really take a good look at the concept, customer relationship management (CRM) means different things to different people and different organizations.

On a broad level, CRM focus relies heavily on executing a solid sales strategy through sales opportunity management, customer insight and behavior and marketing performance.

Some organizations use CRM’s to gather their prospects, nurture leads over time and respond to those prospects. Others use it to help them attract, convert, leverage and retain their customers... for as long as they can fulfill their needs.

The bottom line with CRM’s is this. While there are many CRM solutions on the market (a $5.7 Billion dollar industry – Source: Gartner Dataquest, June 2006), so many of them don’t really work and won’t work for your organization.

The fact is that using CRM as a strategy still means different things to different organizations and your wants and needs should be reflected in every aspect of your solution.

If you want marketing insight, then your system needs to be able to deliver automated emails, on a schedule. For the marketing professional, having a consistent and auto-pilot method to deliver 30 to 40 incremental “touches” per year is important. For the Sales Manager, the ability to predict the business with sales and pipeline metrics is their critical take-away.

Correct data gathering and recording is vital to any successful implementation. The old adage... “garbage in/garbage out” is such an important concept and the success of your strategy can be observed by how ‘real’ the information is that your people put into your system.

When deciding on which solution is right for you – consider your business rules and methodologies and use them to serve as your blueprint for how you want your system to work.

If the solution doesn’t match, don’t settle. There are vendors that can provide a custom solution for you using a proven platform. Because of their development platform, they can easily customize a system that meets your critical business needs, rapidly. A solid development platform allows them the flexibility to give you exactly what you want. Again, there is no need to settle.

Here are probably the 5 greatest benefits you can expect when you have the right CRM solution working for you and your organization:

  1. Customer tracking in every interaction they have with your company, regardless of mode of communication. This allows you to better anticipate their needs and get a complete view of how prospects are coming to you and how they view you. This undeniably leads to: a) Improved sales rep/sales force productivity and effectiveness
    b) Improved access to customer profiles and information / analytical tools
    c) Allows each contact to really be an opportunity to sell. Each contact/prospect can have multiple levels of Opportunity tracking, from individual to company-wide and access to all stages of the sales timeline.
    d) Improved communication company-wide, specifically between sales, marketing and customer service people.
  2. Helps you to identify buyer profiles giving you a benchmark of the type of customers you want to target and attract.
  3. Drives ROI for both users and customers. Users have instant access to information. Buyers have a good experience with your organization because you ARE connected. You present a unified front. You have your act together. A good CRM will allow you to pool all of your critical data across many departments so that your message remains consistent at every delivery point.
  4. Best practices can be leveraged. Marketing processes are automated. Results are gathered in real-time for instant, actionable information.
  5. When a salesperson leaves – you are left with a complete database of intelligence. In the old days when a salesperson left, the knowledge of the customer went with them. Not any more.

When considering the right system for you... pay careful consideration to the following functionalities:

  1. Lead, Contact and Account Management
  2. Multiple levels of access based on authority
  3. Sales forecasting and Opportunity management
  4. Competitive Intelligence
  5. Marketing Intelligence
  6. Automated Email Marketing
  7. Key Message & script delivery / Survey-Polling delivery and tracking
  8. Administrative support for sales people – expense report reconciliation, proposal templates, sample delivery, etc.,
  9. Inside Sales / Customer Service / Client Management tools
  10. Integration with real-time sales information and other back office systems and procedures, such as a fulfillment center.

The last consideration when hiring a vendor or implementing a solution is whether to bring the solution in-house or allow them to host it for you. While there are many benefits to a licensed, in-house solution... a hosted solution should not be quickly dismissed. It’s mission critical to do the proper planning and due-diligence to ensure that your IT department is up for the task. If they’re not completely ready and able to handle the additional responsibilities – you may be looking at a disaster in the making. On the other hand – if the vendor has the proper qualifications and security protocols in place... why not leave the IT stuff to the experts and let them host it for you?

In many cases, the initial burden of hosting costs is easily outweighed by not having to manage your system (time and resources) and preventing a potential disaster down the road.

Your CRM vendor should be secure enough to manage and ensure the integrity of your data at all times. Your CRM vendor should be flexible enough to give you the exact system that you want. Customization should be their forte.

George Ritacco