The CRM Debate Goes On: Do We Really Need It?

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Over the years, we’ve worked with literally thousands of companies considering a CRM system. Big companies, small companies, in-between companies. Some bought ours, some bought someone else’s, and some did nothing. It is this last group that this paper addresses.

I recently polled an industry group of manufacturers who sold capital equipment and services to a narrow, B2B market segment. Their sales cycles are long, complex, and varied, the competition is stiff, and the repeat business substantial. A dream market for CRM. Over half of them have no CRM system, and no active plans to implement one.

One part of me says “great, more sales opportunities for me.” Another part says, “why not?”

The reasons I hear (and interpret):

  • “We don’t need it.”

This is usually accompanied by “Excel/ Outlook/ Quickbooks/ Other works just fine.” But you do need it. You think you don’t because business is going along as it always has, so why rock the boat? The answer is because your customers and competitors are already rocking the boat, and you’re gonna get swamped sooner or later.

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Successful CRM Implementation #4: The Checklist

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Reading about CRM implementation is one thing, and actually doing it is another one altogether. To maybe help the transition from theory to practice, here is a checklist of all the things that you need to consider and do as described in the first three installations.

We have included the full paragraph of each checklist item for context, and then listed the steps you should be taking. Here it is.

  1. To preclude either of these outcomes, the existing state of the business has to be reviewed in detail to see how the new technology will fit. Bad procedures have to be cast aside and effort given to developing new ones that will work with your technology of choice.
    1. Review the existing state of the business.
    2. Identify and eliminate bad procedures.
    3. List the necessary new and replacement procedures.

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Successful CRM Implementation #3: Make It Work

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In this installment, we’ll take a look at the remaining steps to a successful CRM implementation, starting with your processes.

Hone up the Processes

Process is intrinsic to CRM systems—they live and breathe through process. But these are not processes based on moving paper around from desk to desk, these are electronic processes that move around instantaneously on a computer network. Existing processes will inevitably need to be tweaked or changed before the CRM project gets underway, and new ones will need to be developed to take advantage of the technology. The better and more freely-flowing the old process, the easier it is to duplicate it on the computer.

Bring the groups together that are responsible for processing all of the customer’s transactions and look how information flows between them. Is it efficient, and does it work? How will it work when the computer is pushing digits instead of people pushing paper? When you try to move a paper system to an electronic one, current problems will surface very quickly. Moving to CRM provides an excellent excuse to get on a new page and to fix the disruptions, road blocks, and delays caused by established bad or poorly-defined practices.

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Successful CRM Implementation #2: Develop the Plan

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Even before the CRM system is specified, researched, and purchased, there should be discussion amongst all the functional groups within the company that might be impacted, and that will be pretty much the entire company. In these discussions, the previously defined vision will begin to permeate through the organization. Just like any project, if there is no plan to translate the vision and change into a working system, things are bound to go awry.

The plan will include an overview of what has to be fixed and a detailed operational description of how and when to do each step. Key people will be assigned as stakeholders and will take charge of the piece of the project that they control or influence. Goals must be set, expectations must be aligned with real tasks, and measurement criteria has to be identified and assigned.

These can vary in scope depending on their expected impact. A sales manager may set down the goal of having an accurate day-to-day bookings forecast available. Someone in sales administration may want to see clean customer information in one place. A CEO may demand real-time information about, well, virtually anything. CRM is so all-encompassing that each company will have its own unique set of aspirations. The important thing is to get them written down in a plan. That is the only way the success of the project can be monitored.

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Successful CRM Implementation #1: Getting it right first time

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Over the years my team has been involved in a large number of CRM implementations to all types and sizes of company. I think we’ve done a good job overall. One reason for this is our CRM technology was developed for running our own sales distribution company – we learned on the job.But still, today, over twenty years since the idea of CRM was first developed lots of CRM projects are failing or not getting the traction they deserve.

The next four posts are from material we wrote a few years ago, tuned up for changes that have occurred since then (although there haven’t been many.)

If you are just getting into CRM or having a rethink on how your current system is working these posts will be of interest.

Keith Thompson
Sept 13, 2016

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Probability and Priority – Do You Need An Umbrella?

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Recently I heard a piece on National Public Radio about probability in weather forecasting. The central question was, what does a 20% chance of rain really mean? To some it meant take an umbrella, while to others it meant pack up the kids for a picnic. To statisticians, it meant that when you look at the 1,000 days with the closest variables to the day you are in, it will rain on 200 of them.

In the first case, you’re risk averse and probably a little pessimistic. In the second, you’re a risk-taker and willing to play the odds. As the statistician, your value lies in being able to provide the basis for the decisions of the other two.

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Full-Service CRM: Completing the CRM Cycle

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While many companies still struggle with implementing even the most basic CRM solutions, others have moved a big step forward by including their service organization and letting it share customer information with marketing and sales. Service contributes to a company’s success in many ways, and understanding this contribution makes the performance impact of an integrated CRM solution obvious and significant.

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The Army of New Sales CRM Vendors, and Why They’ve Got It Wrong

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We have recently released a new version of ASPEC that has added Accounts, Contacts and Interactions to our Sales Tracking and Opportunity Management functions.  Some call this CRM, others call it Sales Force Automation. I tend to view ASPEC 4 as true Sales Automation.  As usual, however, there is no standard definition out there on what Sales Force Automation actually is – some say it includes inventory management while others define it literally as the automation of sales tasks.

I mention the distinction because there is a resurgence in what seems to be called “Sales CRM.”  Startups and Investors have recognized there is a large market opportunity in CRM, specifically for the sales organization. There are a number of relatively new players in this Sales CRM market, and their focus is almost entirely on sales process and opportunity management.  They all agree one thing – the established current CRM vendors just aren’t cutting it with helping sales people and sales teams win more business, be more disciplined, and be more productive.

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Why CRM Fails: Inflation!

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The introduction of a customer relationship management system has the potential to highly improve the productivity of the sales and marketing teams through better access to information and streamlined processes. Nevertheless, according to various studies, between 50% and 70% of CRM system introductions fail to fulfill these expectations. This may partially be attributed to the systems themselves, but to a greater extent, the problem lies in the implementation process.

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The 3 C’s of Groupware: Communication, Collaboration and Coordination

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In my last post I talked about Lotus Notes—how Notes was the first commercially available software application that positively improved the ways teams of people worked together. This new breed of business application was labeled “groupware.” Groupware emerged as computers and networks became universally available across organizations. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Sales Automation (SFA) were the first front office applications made possible by groupware.

In business, people work in teams. Teams are designed to address mission critical processes like finance, production, or development. In the so-called “front office” (customer facing) the three core teams are marketing, sales, and service. CRM uses technology to create information across the core teams and to provide an infrastructure for using and sharing it. There’s no doubt that storing and sharing customer information is the central tenet of CRM— if the information is bad, or incomplete, the CRM initiative will fail.

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