This is part 10 of our Marketing Series, for the related article please see our Marketing Articles section.
Contact Resource Management has become a bit of a buzz word of late. It’s the must have, as if it magically increases sales or instantly makes an organisation more efficient. All it really does is digitise a process that has always been in existence. In pre computer days there would be a manual card file to keep a record of purchases made on account, sales reps would keep appointments in their diaries and feedback forms would be a measure of customer satisfaction. Many business owners seem to be bamboozled by the technology and lose sight of what they are actually trying to achieve. The only difference between now and then is that computers are able to retrieve customer information instantly and in greater detail. This may sound like progress but the danger is that we start drowning in data.
Is your business suited to a CRM System?
The other day I was speaking to a manager of a large construction company and asked him what they used for contact management? He rolled his eyes and confessed they probably wouldn’t renew the yearly software licence, as no-one was using it. It was installed at great expense, but as the workforce had not been consulted, or properly trained, they went back to pen and paper. This obviously is an issue for a department taking ownership of a process, but it does highlight the aspect of the user experience and what they get out of it. 50% of enterprise software implementations fail, not because of the technology, but the people. That is why I hark back to “ye olden days” before complex systems as you only kept information that was relevant to the task at hand. Try not to get distracted by what could be done, rather than what should be done. It can be “Garbage in garbage out” or as the adage goes “Keep it Simple Stupid”.
None the less, there are advantages in being able to access more information and track customer history in a digital age. Complete purchasing history, email correspondence and targeting particular demographics can be done in much greater detail than it was ever thought possible before.
There are two types of contact management systems, stand alone or incorporated into enterprise packages. There are pros and cons with both.
Stand-alone CRM Systems
For stand-alone systems, such as Salesforce, that is specifically designed for use within a dedicated sales team environment. You can track the effectiveness of individual campaigns, target products to specific audiences and link in with other social media avenues. There are links to current lists of decision makers and live chats are fed into one system with forecasting data and lead generation providing stats on a team’s performance.
Enterprise CRM Systems
For those within enterprise systems these tend to be cut down versions, but you have access to more information through other related modules. With an accounting package imbedded in the program, a sale rep can not only see their entire purchasing history, but how profitable they are, how long they take to pay or when the account is on hold. They can link the sale to ongoing projects or track the logistics of deliveries. All of these systems can track a sale right through from initial contact, quotation to final invoice and after care. (Enterprise Software)
CRM Systems & Client Engagement
One of the main uses of a CRM system is the ability to diarise appointments on common calendars. Research shows it takes about 6 points of contact before finalising a sale. A CRM system allows the ability to track each point of contact with a potential client. At each juncture this should be a positive experience for the customer. The idea of diarising appointments, and recording the contents of meetings, is not only to measure the likelihood of a sale, but to pace the distance between each follow up. This strikes a balance between “hassling” the client and keeping them engaged with the discussion.
At each conversation the contents of what was discussed should be summarised, and a date agreed to reconvene the discussion. This grants you permission to continue with the conversation and a reminder is set in the system for the future date. Whenever I ring or email them again I always begin with “Hi my name is ….and as agreed I’m contacting you at this time with regards to….” This reminds the potential client that he has agreed to the appointment and prevents any incrimination of being pressured into making a decision. In my case it takes usually four to six months from initial introduction to final sign off, as we are constantly reviewing very technical information to make sure we can meet customer requirements.
Which CRM System is best for your Business?
It all depends on the needs of the organisation to determine which software is appropriate. (“software comparison download”) From my experience the simpler and the more intuitive the experience, the more staff will be engaged with it, and the more productive the system will be. There is not point of a system that is designed to capture information if no-one uses it.
Next in the series we’ll look at the dynamics of a sales team.
Malcolm Ford has spent the past 5 years advising companies on purchasing and implementing enterprise level systems. He also customises and trains sales teams on using CRM software.