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Where, Why and How CRM Accelerates Your Productivity

Building a successful CRM system isn’t just about choosing the right technology. You also need the right plan in place from a business perspective. Your CRM strategy must be aligned with your company’s actionable business objectives. It needs to be realistic: over-promising might get your budget, but practically guarantees under-delivery. It must take your customers into account. It must be internally inclusive. Everyone from the top down must be rowing in the same direction. It must be tied to measurable analytics. It must indicate priorities clearly. Finally, it must serve as a road map for the future.

A successful CRM strategy beyond launch day considers additional capabilities needed to deliver for the business.

1: Define Your Vision

Some people dismiss vision statements as a waste of time, but successful sales leaders know the value of having a clear, repeatable, action-oriented vision that your team can rally around. Your vision can be many things, from becoming a market leader for sales in your region to redefining customer service within your industry. Make it both aspirational enough to have an impact and clear enough that the entire organization can understand it.

Defining a collective vision can be an excellent opportunity for your team to discuss the future direction of your business, your current market demand, your business value, your company mission, potential partners, and the criteria you use to measure success.

Don’t take shortcuts on the road to gathering information. Make sure every stakeholder, both internal and external, is included. Question your external sources first and weight customer and consumer feedback highest. Prioritize customers based on how profitable, or how likely to become profitable, they are. Returning customers, for example, generally spent twice as much as new customers. Identify the most attractive traits in a buyer and segment your accounts accordingly. Only when you understand how your CRM initiative affects every stakeholder along the sales cycle, do you have a complete vision.

Conduct a full assessment of past CRM initiatives. All previous CRM experiences are highly valuable. Catalog what worked and what could be reworked. Even if the execution of earlier CRM initiatives disappointed, the assumptions, business case, and goals probably remain valid and should not be blindly jettisoned.

Think of the CRM vision statement as a pitch for your project that sums up its purpose and critical aspects in 30 seconds.

2: Define Your Strategy

Once you know what you are trying to accomplish, determine how you plan on reaching your objectives. While your initial vision may be to simplify marketing and sales process, provide better customer service, or discover new customers and increase customer revenue, the strategy should break your goals down into smaller, achievable objectives, and then map out how and when you plan to complete these steps. This initial strategy should be flexible, allowing for revision along the way.

An obsession with the customer must lie at the center of your strategy. Revisit your company’s core value propositions for customers and motivating factors for customer loyalty. What lies at the very heart of what you do well? if the answers surprise you, reevaluate your company based on the potential of its customer base rather than on current revenue or profits.

When you are ready, define three to five top-line objectives for CRM initiatives based on what you have determined as the best way to leverage these core value propositions. These initiatives should be communicated daily to sponsors and executives.

3: Define Your Business Objectives

Business objectives are where vision and strategy get translated into the day-to-day work. A common mistake when implementing a new CRM system is to replicate in it all the old business objectives and processes, complete with their inefficiencies. Instead, view your implementation as an opportunity to review and optimize how you work.

At the outset, small businesses are often naturally customer-centric because there is very little distance between the seller and the buyer. When a business scales, these relationships can become strained, impersonal, even lost all together among vast amounts of customer data. Define actionable ways to close that gap between seller and buyer again.

Say one of your top-line objectives is to be the market leader for sales. Do you do this by competing on price, or by offering different products, or by emphasizing your great after-sales service? The answer to this question lies with the customer.

Day-to-day business objectives that can support your strategy include treating customers like you know them, orienting your processes around the customer, giving your employees the power to solve problems, respecting customers’ time while maximizing productivity, and staying connected in ways that your customer wants.

4: Get Your Team On Board

A CRM strategy cannot be developed in isolation. It must be relevant and linked to the overall corporate strategy, and it must build on existing sales or marketing strategies that are already in use.

Your CRM may be designed to handle large amounts of data and to facilitate communication between various groups, but it is your staff that will determine whether or not your goals are met. Involve your employee in every step of the strategic process. This will help them not only internalize the objectives but will also give them personal ownership over the direction that the company takes. Invested employees will be better able to integrate new policies and technologies in a way that will benefit everyone involved.

That said, executive sponsorship is vital for your CRM vision, strategy and business objectives, and for a successful rollout. A lack of executive sponsorship is one of the top five contributing factors to CRM failure.

In addition, all staff should be on the same page as far as managing the CRM workflow, if they aren’t already trained on the software.

A certain protocol should be clearly outlined so that everyone knows what to do, how to do something, and what people should be contacted when. There is little more annoying than explaining the same story to five different customer service representatives. Your customers should rave about your customer service experience. CRM software can help you do that.

5: Identify the Metrics

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is an adage attributed to many business thinkers. Metrics should be visible to everyone, and this means creating dashboards for all levels of the organization, from sales reps and managers to the executive team.

Be particularly careful when setting expectations about reports and dashboards, as these provide perfect distillations of every possible bug and data quality issue.

Goals should focus on visible aspects of the business.  While cost-cutting or efficiency goals aren’t as popular as revenue goals.  But it’s not all about money: some goals will be expressed as percentage improvements in key performance indicators (KPIs) for each department. To quickly discover a department’s KPIs, get ahold of the VP’s quarterly or annual presentations to the executive committee or the board.

6: Prioritize Your Initiatives

You’re not going to get everything done at once, so decide what’s most important to deliver first. Training is often the priority, so everyone is ready to use the new CRM system as soon as it is available. Consider a phased approach that fits the evolution of your overall CRM strategy.

Make sure to examine the processes and systems in place. Are they agile and comprehensive enough to accommodate the strategy? Do you have the necessary internal resources to integrate technology, or do you need to hire outside consultants or rely on the CRM vendor for this function?

Prioritize the customer at all stages of CRM implementation. Interact with customers proactively, and develop alternate methods of communication to avoid negatively impacting the customer relationship before, during, and after implementation. Will existing customers be negatively impacted by your new CRM strategy or at any stage of planning and implementation? If so, is this sacrifice justified to achieve your overall goals?

Decide how you will handle data breaches and worst-case scenarios related to internal and external data. Consider what customer information you share and who has access.

7: Define Your Roadmap

Try not to compare building an effective CRM system to a “big bang” event. While a successful rollout is vital, being able to deliver enhancements and new features after you go live is equally important. Plan beyond launch day and consider what other capabilities you need to deliver for the business. Now that your CRM system and strategy are in place, it’s time to see the best ways to measure and maximize the technology.

If some aspect of your business isn’t working the way it should, you might feel pressured to implement new policies and technologies as quickly as possible in an effort to minimize any damage. Too many simultaneous changes can have a negative impact on your employee’s productivity. Introduce your new CRM policies gradually and in phases whenever possible to minimize any “shock” to your workforce.

Above all else, don’t forget why you implemented a new CRM system in the first place. Has it improved your customer relationship strategy? At the core of CRM is the relationship between the buyer and the seller. CRM is a philosophy. Technology simply supports your customer-centered vision – it is not the outcome.