Hey, Mr. Chief Sales, Marketing or Service Officer, Don’t Let IT Pick Your CRM Platform!

When was the last time you went shopping for a new bikini for your wife or a set of golf clubs for your husband?  Most likely never…and why?  Because at the end of the day, you are not going to be seen on a public beach in it or teeing off with your buddies at the next golf outing.  These are purchase decisions that should be made by the user since they will be the person using the item.

Buying a CRM system is not much different.  Most likely the user of the CRM tool is someone in one of the following categories:   sales representative, sales manager, CSO, marketing representative, marketing manager, CMO, service agent, service manager, VP of Customer Service or an individual with operations in their title or area of responsibility.

Your IT team would love to dictate the CRM tool of choice because they always know what’s best for you right?  WRONG…they are always going to pick a system that creates the least amount of IT pain for themselves.  This will happen even if it means compromising user experience, time to deployment, support for Bring Your Own Device “BYOD,” or interactions within the social media space.

If I am a CSO, CMO or VP of Service, I would follow these top five guiding principles as I make a CRM platform selection:

  • Involve your front line staff in the selection process.  Yes, I realize they are busy with their day jobs, but at the end of the day they will be the individuals expected to use the tool and can provide the most perspective on use case/productivity requirements. See blog post on CRM end-user givebacks
  • Ensure that the tool supports the growing trend of BYOD.  A truly effective CRM platform should be a tool available whenever and wherever your front line people interact with customers to drive use, value and the holy grail of CRM success: adoption!
  • Activity, message management & social collaboration are a way of life for sellers, so ensure that the tool leverages the required messaging, calendaring & social platforms that your teams already use pervasively to get work done.  What systems do your teams log into every morning to direct their day, communicate and collaboration with customers and prospects?  See blog post on top 14 must have CRM system features!
  • Integration to back office systems is a must.  This one gets blown out of proportion by customers and vendors.  Your IT team would lead you to believe you must stick within the Geranimals IT shop principles.  All CRM systems that reside in the Gartner MQ for 2011 should provide open architecture and — through industry standard web service calls — can be connected to your back office vendor of choice.  Yes, that means you are not restricted to one vendor for both ERP and CRM, so do not let that dictate your final CRM vendor selection choice.  Often, this can lead to weighing down a well-developed, mature business solution with another that just isn’t up to par as far as quality, performance, or capability.
  • Yes involve IT as an advisor during the selection process to insure the tool you move forward with can be supported by your cloud or on premise technology infrastructure.

Good selling and keep your eye on the prize of high user adoption to prevent CRM strategy failure!

- Tracy

Collaboration as a Keystone for your CRM Success Strategy

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

–Henry Ford, Industrialist and Innovator

Buzzwords abound in industry and their overuse can often cause us to become numb to the original intent and meaning of a phrase.  One such term that may suffer this fate is collaboration. This is unfortunate because—as Mr. Ford tells us—success flows naturally out of working together.  I’d like to explore some of the ways that collaboration can deliver this catalyst for your organization.

The genesis of a CRM strategy can come from a number of different sources.  Often, it’s the need for leaders to have visibility into the activities and efforts of their sales, service, or marketing teams.  While a critical and valid benefit of a CRM implementation, if this is the primary or even sole driver of the initiative, it’s many times the downfall of the project.

Fundamentally, approaching CRM from a perspective of “instrumentation of the business” fails to give the individual users back something of value for their effort and the usage of the platform becomes a task to complete rather than a tool to help advance the cause.  We can turn this around and make our people avid users of the platform and help them become more effective by approaching CRM as a collaborative tool that incorporates dividends for the users.

One way that CRM conveys this is through delivering situational awareness.  As mentioned, it’s necessary to provide reporting and analysis to business leaders, but pause to consider the value delivered by giving our peers lateral awareness of our activities as well.  In today’s business climate, the concept of matrix team models with overlay resources destroys the
traditional channels of communication around which businesses grew up.  Coworkers are often pushing in multiple directions at once with limited context and understanding of where their contributions deliver on the larger strategy or where they can contribute most effectively.  By surfacing more than just statistics about sales forecasts and instead showing a bigger picture of what we’re doing, it opens the door for richer interaction and teamwork.

To be specific, this isn’t simply yet another source of noise in our already randomized work environment.  Rather, it works to help us more effectively manage what’s being asked of us.  It
gives our people a means to request, offer, and deliver help in the appropriate context.  By context, I mean not just an understanding of what we’re talking about, but also the timing and medium of communication.  This lets us reach out via the most mutually agreeable means at a time that works.

Perhaps an example will help solidify this notion.

As a front line seller, one of the joys of my job is getting the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of industries and customers.  Unfortunately, this is also a challenge, since it’s difficult to be conversant across every business environment.  I have the benefit, however, of peers worldwide who have likely seen or done something similar to the problem I’m tackling.  In this case, let’s assume that I just left a meeting with my best customer, Fabrikam.  They’re interested in developing a new  and have asked for our help.  I’ve done a lot of things, but building a data center isn’t one of them (yet)!  A perfect opportunity to collaborate! But how? This is where it becomes important to consider the medium of collaboration. We have a multitude of ways I could solicit help. These include:

  • …sending a broadcast email and hope that the right person opens it and responds.  We know how this often works out.
  • … firing instant messages to random peers and asking for their thoughts, but they’re busy, too.
  • …pick up the phone and dial the boss and see if he knows anybody with relevant experience.

For many reasons, none of these gives me an optimal channel for this issue, though.  With the November 2011 Service Update, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 provides a new functionality that may be precisely the tool I need: Activity Feeds. Activity Feeds deliver the wide-reaching visibility of e-mail, but help us lift the message above the noise by publishing my request  in the context of the need.  In this case, I have the capability to direct the message to the right audience, whether it is specific to the customer, the sales opportunity, or perhaps even  my specific work group.  In this case, I’ll throw it up on the wall that’s filtered for others who work with Fabrikam.

Not only does this request show up in the appropriate  context, but it also gives our collaborators immediate access to deeper  information through the linked connections to both the Fabrikam account record  and the sales opportunity in question (highlighted in blue).

In this example, a veteran on the team spots my request and  reaches out with an offer of assistance in just a few minutes.  This has already made me more efficient.  I didn’t have to guess who to call or hope  that the right person finds the e-mail in time for me to get back to my  customer before my competitors.   While  this alone is great, my CRM platform continues to pay me dividends by also  short-circuiting the effort to follow through with Chet.

Historically, I would need to know Chet’s phone number or  office location.  Even in a more  contemporary environment with unified communications, I’d still need to look  him up in the directory.  Again, by  providing the tools within context, I’m just a click away from reaching out.

By simply hovering over his name within the activity, I can gauge  Chet’s availability and establish immediate contact via a number of channels,  such as email or, instant messaging.  In
this case, Chet asked me to give him a call and that option is available as  well.  In just minutes, I’m able to tap  critical information that could make the difference in this pursuit.  I think my customer might be surprised at how  quickly I get back to them!

Tactically, this makes life easier and provides a direct  conduit to solving problems and getting work done.  Considering this effort from a much higher  level, my CRM platform has done much more for me than just give me a place to  report on my activities or feed data to my leadership.  It has given me a long lever to make the most  of the skills and experience in the organization.  It has enabled success through enabling  collaboration in context, via the right medium.

In closing, I encourage you to think about the portfolio of  tools that you’re providing your teams and considering if you’re delivering  disparate tools or if you’re helping them realize productivity through a  comprehensive platform that delivers the right tools, in the right place, at  the right time.

Andy Engle

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technology Specialist

aengle@microsoft.com

 

Brand personality will lead to sales success & a bit of swagger!

We so often hear about how companies should drive brand awareness and differentiation via social media to pull ahead of their competition and win your purchase decision.  In this week’s blog, I would like to take this same concept and apply it to why sales teams are always in the land of mediocracy which limits their ability to compete.

Put yourself across the desk for a moment in your customer’s shoes.  They issue the dreaded RFP for your solution, you respond, then show up for that exciting finals day and what do they see?  Of course a dark blue suite, Prada glasses, a Rolex watch, shinny shoes & a big smile.  What your customers don’t see is how you as a person are any different than the next vendor following you in.

One paragraph in a recent article I ready about brand differentiation really struck a chord with me which is “What’s the point of going to market if you can’t stand for something? Most brands are like needy teenagers, desperately trying to blend in with the crowd. In turn, we care little about the companies we support and often make decisions based on who has the best deal-of-the-day since true differentiation is nonexistent.”

Challenge for you as an individual contributor or sales manager:  Focus on one thing that will become your personal brand with your externally facing customers as well as your colleagues and you will notice a change in your win rates as well as your yearend performance review scores!

Some ideas to get you started would be…I am the -

  1. Sharer or collaborator as community expert.
  2. Blogger.
  3. Case study creator.
  4. Local user group lead or event expert.
  5. Creative presenter.
  6. Social media expert.
  7. Master at my CRM system.
  8. Training  expert.
  9. Technical expert.
  10. Customer service darling.

Always remember that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and when doing so land your unique brand to separate yourself from your peers and your competition.

Watch for my next blog on “Stop wasting your time with CRM systems” – why do companies always get low user adoption?

- Tracy

Is your company already out of touch with social media?

It’s been said before but I am going to say it again…If your company has not hired or is in the process of hiring a social media manager you’re already out of touch!  That’s right, and if your sales, service and marketing teams CRM platform is not connected in  some way to a social strategy to listen, respond and collaborate with your supply chain and customers you are already losing market share.

Good news it’s not too late! This week’s blog is focused on lighting a small fire under your firm’s tail with focus on three simple things to take action on so you can get started –

  1. Take the time to develop a Social Media Manager Job Description that maps to your organizations goals then make the hire!  You may want to make that hire a woman based on a recent Techcrunch article on why women excel in social media! I will leave that one up for reader debate but tend to agree based on personal experiences.
  2. Establish your firms Social Media Policies  to prevent missteps by your staff.  Very important because rouge social media activities can create more harm than good.
  3. Outfit your frontline sellers with tools to succeed.  This goes well beyond just a CRM system and stale database.  SocialCRM will provide your users with key givebacks which will drive user adoption of your system.  Bottom line…if your CRM system does not give your users updated news feeds on companies you’re working with, key contact names to prospect to and response tools to take action against then your tool is out of date!  What’s the point of CRM if the tool does not enable your staff to have meaningful dialog and execution?  I will write more about this from a front line user’s perspective and what I think you should desire over the coming weeks.

Always remember that your organization should keep the mentality of user experience or as I say user givebacks as a priority to generate strong user adoption when deploying technology and policies.  If you do this then you will drive ultimate return on your investment.

Watch for my next blog on “Stop wasting your time with CRM systems” – why do companies always get low user adoption?

- Tracy

 

 

 

Business Reasons for Upgrading Your CRM System

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 – Business Reasons for Upgrading  

Dynamics CRM 2011 has a long list of added features that make it a desirable upgrade for a company currently on a previous version of Dynamics CRM. While these features are meaningful and easily digested by technology professionals that work with CRM, it can be more difficult to communicate the advantages of an upgrade to C-Suite executives so that budgets are approved.

The following list represents core benefits that can be communicated to executive level staff in a way that will resonate with them.

Sales Goal Management

Sales leaders and individual sales professionals now have the ability to set and track sales activity metrics.

Dashboards & Charts

Default dashboard views for each user can be defined at an organization level. Each user has the ability to configure unique dashboards for their use. Charts can be added throughout the application to provide a graphical representation of data.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auditing

Tracking changes on company, contact, prospect and other data in CRM is native. This contributes to user adoption and advances the reality of a “one view” of all corporate client data.

Simplified System Ehancements

The forms in CRM are now easier to enhance and the time to implement needed functionality is reduced. This is an improvement on existing functionality so that the system can be configured as business needs change.

Processes

The Processes “Dialog” feature provides interactive guidance to each professional as they use the CRM system. This guides users through the completion of tasks in CRM.

Client Record Ownership

Multiple professionals across multiple divisions can be assigned as account owners to a single client. This will better define what business divisions have ownership related to a client relationship.

SharePoint Integration (Document Management)

SharePoint 2007/2010 integration is a standard feature that can be used to share documents that need to be accessible both SharePoint and CRM.

Field Level Security

Individual records through the system can be displayed or hidden based on business division, group or individual permissions.

- Tim Thorpe

A special thanks to guest blogger Tim Thorpe who is the Director, Global Marketing & Communications at Black & Veatch Corporation based in Overland Park, KS.  You can reach Tim at + 1 913-458-8415 or via email at ThorpeTN@BV.com.  More about Tim can also be found at his About.Me site!

Note.  Special thanks to Jon Strand for the original comprehensive list that these topics were drawn from. You can visit John Strand’s blog here.

CRM Takes Another Step Forward with Mobile Dashboards!

“Dashboards on my iPad?” you ask.  Yep.

We are seeing considerable excitement within the CRM community about this latest innovation, and for good reasons:  1) Mobile Dashboards are useful, 2) Mobile Dashboards deliver great value to businesses, and 3) Mobile Dashboards will help Dynamics CRM partners meet customer needs and close business.

One of the great new capabilities delivered by Microsoft in Dynamics CRM 2011 was embedded dashboards. Now CWR Mobility has made those available on your mobile device – iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 6.5. Mobile Dashboards provide data visualization; high-level graphical views that turn CRM data into actionable information for mobile users. Dashboards by themselves are a powerful tool when used from PCs, but they really take that power to a whole new level when they become available on tablets and smartphones.

Mobile Dashboards Deliver Great Value to Businesses

Mobile Dashboards now enable a company’s mobile employees – such as those in field sales, field service, or field marketing — to track the things that really matter to them in their business role, from wherever they are, whenever, in real-time. This leads to a state of continually being on top of the things that matter most…being on top of their part of the business. When a customer-facing organization is better informed, cycle times are reduced, responsiveness is increased, and actions are better targeted. If you’re wondering how important this new capability is, just try showing it to a field sales rep and watch their reaction.

CWR Mobility mobile dashboards are easy, flexible and real-time. As an inherent feature of CWR Mobile CRM 2011, they are easy to access and can support any dashboard based on a native dashboard in Dynamics CRM 2011. In this initial release, version 5.0.1.0, CWR Mobile CRM 2011 dashboards are available when a user has mobile internet connectivity, and they can pull any of these online dashboards in real-time, so the user will always have an up to date view of information. Mobile dashboards are read-only in this release; in time, we envision mobile dashboards supporting interactive drilldown capabilities.

Mobile Dashboards Will Help Partners Meet Customer Needs and Close Business

Mobile Dashboards are also great news for Dynamics CRM partners, because they deliver great business value for companies and can really catch a customer’s imagination. As a Dynamics CRM Partner, mobile dashboards are a great new capability to add to your standard customer demos, and you should consider leading with them. Show your customer an example of a mobile dashboard that is specific to their business. This is easy to do since CWR Mobile CRM Mobile Dashboards support any Dynamics CRM 2011 native dashboard. Create a customer dashboard and then demo it to your customer on an iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows Phone 6.5 device. Again, CWR Mobile CRM 2011 makes this easy.

You can learn more about CWR Mobile CRM mobile dashboards here.  And you can add a free trial of mobile dashboards in CWR Mobile CRM 2011 by clicking here — if you use Dynamics CRM Online, you can do it within minutes. Check out mobile dashboards today!

Stefan Burak

Vice President, Sales and Partners, Americas

CWR Mobility BV

cwrmobility.com

 

Time to put your CRM system on a features diet!

Yes it’s true when your company departmental leadership team gets finished with a CRM project they have included the sky, the moon and the stars as desired functionality but what you get as a user is a bloated unusable CRM system.

My recommendation is to put your CRM platform on a CRM features diet and get lean and mean if you want strong user adoption.  The key message is priorities your features & configurations based on the benefits you are trying to deliver to the end user community ala sales, marketing and service teams who have to live within the system you build.

Ideas on how to execute on your CRM features diet to create immediate impact or benefit to the user might be:

  • Clean up forms and only include required database fields.  Ask yourself why you need specific information and when was the last time anyone used a specific field.
  • Provide drop down selections to keep data consistent and clean.
  • Integrate with 3rd party data providers to insure data is up to date and relevant.  My personal favorite can be found here!
  • Build automated process to eliminate repetitive tasks.
  • Call your top 3 sales, service and marketing eagles up and ask them what can be done in the CRM platform to deliver a better solution.
  • Consider a cloud based deployment to minimize IT involvement.
  • Incorporate a 3rd party marketing tool to drive drip marketing campaigns that provide relevant and actionable data.
  • Ask the users what personalization they are after and then deliver it by role in a real time dashboard!
  • Eliminate screens, commands, views and reports not relevant to the targeted users.
  • Toss in telephony integration with screen pops to give back something to users!
  • CRM now equals mobile so make sure you deliver on this as a top user priority.

Make CRM system adjustments a ongoing priority and your organization will demonstrate successful, repeatable processes with performance measurements that will deliver strong CRM user adoption.

- Tracy

The DNA of a Sales Rainmaker!

One thing is for certain if you are tagged as the “Rainmaker” in your company you can count on your quota going up year over year!   You can also count on your peers and leadership team looking over your every move to understand you’re DNA.  During this week’s blog I will focus on what I think makes up the DNA of a Sales Rainmaker and point out the tools that must be sprinkled in to keep the DNA in check. 

Below are 8 “DNA” qualities I think make up a great sales professional:

Patient “It takes 7 sales touches to win a deal” – Author Unknown

Creative “You need 2.5X in pipeline to make revenue goals” – Author Unknown

Performer “Work hard & get lucky” – Friend CS!

Multitasker “80/20 rule or 20% of your prospects make up 100% of your goal” – Author Unknown

Fearless, “Treat every day like its month, quarter or year end and you will exceed plan” – Me

Honest “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you” – Jesus

Persistent ”There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.” – Peter A. Cohen

Embracer“If the deal is not identified in our CRM system you don’t get paid” – Your Sales Mgt.

The need for tools to glue the DNA strands together:

According to the Just Sell Blog a sales process consists of Prospect, Interview, Analyze needs, Present, Negotiate, Close, Service & follow up.  Multiply that many steps across multiple prospects and you have ingredients for disarray.  Add to this the need to harness the power of Social CRM channels and your rainmakers will quickly loose their mojo and become reactive vs. prescriptive in their rain dances! 

The Recommended Tools:

  1. CRM platform that gives back value.
  2. Sales intelligence platform to tell you who you should call.
  3. Mobile sales platform allowing your staff to use the mobility tools they want in order to update the CRM system you have in place. 
  4. Strong sales leadership.
  5. Effective compensation plans that have sales teams and sales leadership in alignment.

Incorporation of these ideas and others provided through the resource links will drive your company in the right direction around sales excellence and good customer relationship management!

-          Tracy

A great sales blog authored by Kelley Robertson on the 6 Reasons why sales people need to watch American Idol.

The Chris Farley picture referenced in this blog is for education purposes.  All Rights Reserved to Chris Farley Movies.

Social CRM – Hype, Hurt or Help?

In life we encounter many “hype, hurt or help” suggestions that can ultimately confuse the heck out of us!  A short list of things that come to mind are exercise, diets, vitamins, the internet, facebook, antibiotics, family, technology in general and yes Social CRM

Just a small set of examples were the word hype, hurt or help all can apply based on the way you incorporate each one into your personal or business lives.  During this week’s blog I would like to spend some time reviewing the hype, help and hurt aspects of Social CRM because I see many of my customers confused by all of the hype and solutions offered.

The hype of Social CRM.  I would say 100% of the top CRM vendors have some claim of integration or offering to this fast moving target?  Of course why not with the speed at which the social media revolution has taken off.  The question you have to ask your self is how applicable are the features offered when looking at your front line sellers, service teams and marketing staff?  I am not convinced the average sales, service or market staff have the time to dig in and understand and use all the social CRM features being tossed around.  The space of social CRM is in its infancy and lacks clear definition but I do believe in time all organization will need to embrace the hype and get on the bus in order to stay competitive. 

The hurt of Social CRM.  The number one hurt is the confusion which exists in the marketplace around the topic.  To many CRM vendors are tossing the social CRM message around but the solutions delivered only offer a subset of the social aspect.  My recommendation to customers is to define a clear playbook on what areas of social CRM you are trying to address with three specific areas of interest to focus on which are:

The help of Social CRM.  There are a number of really good examples of how a company can benefit from Social CRM.  One of my favorite today is a technology set delivered as an add-on to most CRM vendors called InsideView.  This falls into the first category identified in the hurt section around external social channels and does a great job of delivering relevant business & social insights about prospects & customers directly inside your CRM platformAs a sales profession I see this as a true CRM system giveback.

I believe that if your organization defines a clear playbook for Social CRM and keeps productivity a priority for your sales, marketing and service staff experiences, you will be able to leverage and embrace the social revolution.  I would love to get your personal feedback on the hype, hurt and help aspects of Social CRM.

- Tracy

Featured picture courtesy of Mark Smallwood

CRM shouldn’t stop with the closed sale!

When was the last time you had a good customer onboarding experience?  What I am referring to is the period just after a sale is transacted and the sales staff is off hunting the next big game.  I struggle to remember one personally but really believe this could be the secrete sauce as they say to building that customer loyalty and brand we all strive to achieve.

In this week’s blog I want to provide some onboarding suggestions to all organization utilizing a CRM platform today.

Define a 12 month onboarding process.  Some initial ideas below to consider:

  • Initial thank you communication with key entry level resources a new customer could benefit from such as customer service phone numbers, training resources and links to FAQ’s.
  • 30 day out survey to gain understanding of customer experiences.
  • Drive to strengthen your customer community!  60 day out communication sharing information on user groups and customer conferences.
  • 90 day out communication on additional value add services or products that your customer might have an interest in.  This step should be followed up with a phone call to gain critical customer feedback/experiences.
  • 6 month touch point to request customer reference and written case studies.
  • 9 month communication to provide notice on any possible renewal fees or warranty expirations.  These notifications should land once per month for the remaining 90 day period of the first year.
  • 12 month customer loyalty thank you letter with relevant new product enhancements and upgrade options.

Once you have agreement on #1 move to the Process automation  phase.  This should be a fairly standard feature with most CRM systems out of the box so why not use it?

Incorporate social CRM channel feedback in your process.

Always include your extended value add channels in your process.  Many organizations leverage an extended support, delivery or implementation channel to insure their products or solutions are delivered.

Be prepared to make adjustments!  Defining the process for customer onboarding is important but always question the process and how your organization through social CRM feedback can improve on the model.

Incorporation of these ideas and others provided through the resource links below will help create a recipe for driving your company in the right direction around good customer onboarding & long term loyalty!

-          Tracy

Best Practices: Customer Onboarding, Forrester Research. A Visible Target During Economic Uncertainty by Craig Le Clair

Onboarding – How Do You Welcome Your New Customers? By Barb Lyon

Customer onboarding: Could new practices produce programme success?

A CRM industry veteran providing ideas to companies during the CRM software selection process