A lot of wisdom is packed into the term “Customer Relationship Management” (CRM). In fact, the term itself provides a strategic roadmap for implementing a successful CRM system.
Understand your customers
Just as CRM starts with the word “customer”, every discussion of CRM should begin with: how will this help us help our customers?
This only makes sense. After all, if you don’t get new customers and can’t keep the ones you’ve got, there won’t be any relationships to manage, right?
Unfortunately, many CRM systems are built upon sales processes that are about the vendor rather than the customer. Here’s a typical example:
1. Engage the customer.
2. Investigate the customer’s needs.
3. Present a product to the customer.
4. Demonstrate the product to the customer.
5. Propose that the customer purchase the product.
6. Answer objections to buying the product.
7. Negotiate terms by which the customer will pay.
8. Close the sale and get a purchase order.
This kind of sales process assumes that the salesperson is in control of a selling process, when in fact the customer is always in control a buying process. According to Duane Sparks of the sales training firm The Sales Board, customers think of buying as follows:
1. Do I want to do business with this particular salesperson?
2. Do I want to do business with the firm this salesperson represents?
3. Do I want and need the products or services this salesperson is offering?
4. Does the price and value of those products and services meet my expectations?
5. Is this the right time to make a decision to buy those products and service?
As you can see, there’s a mismatch between the steps of a traditional sales process and what customers are actually thinking. For example, in the customer’s mind, objections to buying must be answered at the very beginning of the sale rather than at the end.
Similarly, the traditional sales process completely ignores activities like lead nurturing and sales research that are essential to helping the customer through those buying decisions.
Before implementing CRM, you should understand how your customers buy and set up a process that matches what you need to provide them as they make their decision.
Accelerate your relationships
The second word in CRM is “relationship.” That’s appropriate, because once you understand your customers, you can start building better relationships with them.
The most important strategic concept here is differentiating between automation and computerization.
Automation means replacing busywork with computer power, like how robots automate factory work.
Computerization means accelerating human behaviors so that they can take place more quickly.
Your CRM strategy will need both automation and computerization–in the right places–in order to help your salespeople build relationships.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at how email both automates and computerizes. Email automates the busywork of delivering and distributing content, thereby allowing users to spend more time communicating and less time shuffling paper.
At the same time, email computerizes the creative work. It’s easier and faster to compose emails than write memos or letters; you’ve also got access to better information about recipients, thereby allowing you to better craft your message.
Similarly, a CRM system should as far as possible automate database populating through emails, voicemails, Web searches, etc., so that salespeople spend the minimum amount of time doing data entry.
The CRM system should also computerize the ability to communicate with customers and build better relationships, such as by keeping track of all the customer data and telling you what opportunities to focus on.
Provide insights to managers
If your CRM system helps you take better care of your customers and makes it easier for salespeople to build relationships with them, there’s no question that your managers will have plenty to manage, because sales will go through roof.
Unfortunately, many CRM systems don’t do that great a job of supporting managers because those systems only provide reports. The problem with reports is they’re a static snapshot. Reports must be read, formatted, sliced, diced, turned into slides, discussed and then, finally, turned into a plan for action. By the time this happens, who knows what’s changed?
Managers don’t want reports, they want insights.
A list of qualified leads is a report. The identification of a sales lead that has a similar profile as your best customer is an insight. A sales forecast is a report. A heads-up that sales are down inside a target industry is an insight.
When managers have insights, rather than mere reports, they can better help salespeople build relationships. And when salespeople have both automation and computerization, they can better help customers make better buying decisions.
In the end, that helps your customers, which is the true strategic reason that CRM exists. In other words, the best and most effective CRM strategies take the words in “Customer Relationship Management” seriously… and in that exact order.
1. Check out “Is CRM Included in your 2014 Strategy?”
2. Start your free trial of Base CRM and make your customers happy.