Generally, there are two important elements when it comes to turning leads into customers and then keeping them happy and loyal: strong personal skills and an efficient customer relationship management (CRM) system.
CRM is, in its broadest sense, a technological Rolodex that does much more. In effect the application offers unified views of clients, contacts, calls and notes, among other things, that make it simpler to keep track of the marketing pipeline from first contact, though the signing of a deal to resolving customers’ needs.
These systems allow you to manage your sales process more effectively and to more accurately forecast sales and project revenue. They also free up sales reps to spend more time in the field closing deals.
But some specialists estimate that from 35 percent to 70 percent of businesses fail in their first attempts to install and operate a CRM system. Among the reasons are:
1. Too much focus on technology. CRM applications come in a variety of shapes and sizes and you need to choose one that best suits your business and doesn’t have unnecessary bells and whistles. The basic functions of CRM systems are to streamline front-office operations, display key information about marketing, sales and customer support, and make your business processes more efficient and cost-effective. When considering a CRM application, if you don’t need a feature, don’t buy it.
2. Too little focus on the customer. The core of any CRM system is your company’s customers and their needs. A call-center can be a great help, provided it is customer friendly. If the system is too complicated it can alienate customers, sales leads, and your staff.
3. Too little preparation. The people who will be using the system will likely have different needs and expectations. A CFO, for example, will want to view the entire pipeline in order to calculate budgets, while the sales team will be more interested in call scheduling and ease of data entry. Take your time to consider how everyone will use the system, how your IT staff will cope with it, and whether you need to create new departments to deal with it.
The first step, then, is to set up a team to investigate and determine what CRM technology is required by such departments as marketing, sales, customer service and IT. The team needs to answer the following questions:
- What processes need automation? The group should analyze your organization’s processes from several viewpoints to evaluate how they affect both the business and its customers. This helps to identify what’s working and what’s not, and to prepare for shopping around for an application that best suits your business. During this review, remain open to suggestions the team may make for streamlining some processes.
- How many contacts do you have now and how quickly and to what extent will this number grow?
- What platform will the CRM application operate on — Microsoft Windows, Mac or Linux?
- Does your staff need Web-based access?
- Does your company have sufficient IT staff to cope with the demands of a CRM system? If not you may want to consider a Web-hosted application.
- How extensive a system can your company afford and can a CRM system be installed gradually over time? Keep in mind that the expenses involve not only licensing fees but also the costs of support, training, installation and integration with current systems.
Once you have determined your company’s resources and needs, shop for a vendor. The most important factor here is to remember that your business shouldn’t have to conform to the applications a vendor is pitching. Instead, the vendor should offer applications that generally conform to the way your company operates.
The vendor should also be able to provide a system that will meet your enterprise’s current and future demands, as well as understand the specific needs of your company’s industry. For example,you may need a system that lets your business meet specific requirements under federal and/or provincial laws and regulations.
The vendor should also be able to meet your timetable for rolling out the system and training users.
Final Note: Because CRM applications and your company’s needs can be extremely complex, consider bringing in an outside consultant.
The top ten features you want to look for in a CRM system are:
1. Sales cycle analysis.
2. Integration to your back office accounting system.
3. Open, industry-standard technology.
4. Seamless flow of information between corporate systems and remote employees.
5. Real-time reporting and analysis.
6. Automated work flow.
7. Contact and campaign management.
8. Multiple language and multicurrency capabilities.
9. Ability to easily customize your solution to fit your business needs.
10. Scalability to accommodate future business growth.