The term CRM means different things to different people. In fact, if you ask ten people what is CRM you will probably get ten different answers. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, but its roots date back more than almost two decades to what was then called Customer Interaction Software or CIS. Other than a name change, CRM and its purpose in the business community remains the same. CRM is a business software solution that is used to automate the front office business processes that impact sales execution and customer service. Its purpose is to manage the interaction between your sales and support personal and your customers.
Companies that engage in the evaluation and selection of CRM software are traditionally looking to achieve three business objectives:
1) Data Consolidation – information is streaming into your business every day from the telephone, fax, e-mail and the web. What happens to this information is the problem. The objective of CRM software is to ensure that all of this information is consolidated into a single unified database where it is immediately accessible to those employees that need to it efficiently do their jobs.
2) Improve Sales Execution – this starts with implementing a structured process for lead qualification and the efficient management of the sales cycle from introduction to closure. Proper lead qualification ensures that your most valuable asset, i.e. your sales team, is focused on the most qualified business opportunities. Proper management of the sales cycle using CRM software has helped management keep their eye on the most promising opportunities and has been shown to improve close ratios and generate higher returns.
3) Provide World-Class Customer Service – In today’s world where customer loyalty is only skin deep the difference between winning and retaining customers may have more to do with the quality of service you provide than it does your product. CRM can ensure that all members of the organization have access to customer records and can respond quickly and professionally to customer inquiries.
The challenging economy coupled with a highly competitive market place has encouraged businesses of all sizes to seek a way to get a leg up on their competition. CRM software has proven to be an effective tool for helping companies market, sell and provide service to their customers.
Experienced well trained sales managers understand the importance and value of CRM software and how chaotic their world would be without it. Anyone who has managed a mid-size to large sales organization knows it is no easy task. Sales people often come from all walks of life, from college grads to mature people who may have completely changed their careers. One of the biggest challenges in managing sales people is implementing a structure that ensures everyone is working under the same guidelines. Unlike your internal accountants that must follow state and federal guidelines, there are no written rules for sales people. This is where a good CRM system can be a sales manager’s best friend.
You should look at your sales organization just like a crew of new military recruits that just arrived in boot camp. They’re all eager to be successful, but don’t quite know how and are looking for the right path to follow. The implementation of a structure with well-established rules and procedures is what makes the military successful. Once the recruits are comfortable with it they begin to operate like a well-oiled machine. Your sales organization should be operating the same way. Sales people want and need a structured approach to selling and a good CRM system can provide it.
What CRM software can deliver is the ability to document a structured approach to selling where each stage of the sales cycle is managed and evaluated before moving forward. This ensures that each and every sales opportunity is being looked at through multiple eyes and not falling through the cracks. The results speak for themselves. Higher close ratios, higher revenue attainment, happy sales people and happy management. It’s important to note that simply running out and implementing a CRM system is not going to deliver more sales. CRM software is a tool and it does not run your business, people do and sales management is the key to good performance. CRM software will at least give them the tools they need to become a more effective sales organization.
Every company looking for an online CRM system wants one with the most functionality, but it’s also got to be easy to use; kind of an oxymoron I think. There is clearly a correlation between robust functionality and ease of use. Standalone or what’s known as point solutions that do one or two things very well are by nature very easy to use. Those that do a lot like robust CRM systems aren’t.
One CRM solution provider however has done a pretty good job of offering a comprehensive CRM system that is quite easy to use. That company is Commence Corporation, who has been providing CRM software to small and mid-size businesses for more than two decades. “We understand the importance of ease of use,” says Larry Caretsky, President of Commence Corporation. “We may not have every bell and whistle of enterprise solutions, but our customers utilize our solutions and have realized substantial value from our CRM system”.
What makes Commence easy to use begins with the company’s CRM Dashboard, which enables the end user to complete routine tasks such as adding a new account, a new contact, a lead or a new sales opportunity without leaving the home page. Sales representatives have reported that they can conduct 90 percent of their daily business without ever leaving the screen. This makes the learning curve for Commence CRM minimal.
Commence has also incorporated what they call a multi-view inside the CRM system. A multi-view displays multiple windows of information on a single screen. Very much like a Microsoft Windows environment does on a PC, Commence does this using HTML for their online CRM system. This capability provides access to a complete 360 degree view of information on a single screen. There is no scrolling up and down and no flipping back and forth from screen to screen. This capability has delighted the management of companies that have selected Commence CRM.
There are numerous online CRM solutions to choose, but few that offer the comprehensive functionality and ease of use of Commence CRM. To learn more about this online CRM solution visit the company’s web site at www.commence.com.
Q. Dave, I am finding it difficult to manage my personal finances. As a commissioned sales person, my income varies from month to month. It seems like I’m always struggling with finances. Do you have suggestions for me?
A. Congratulations for having the courage to ask that question. Do I have suggestions? Yep, a bunch of them.
First, a little perspective, so you know where I’m coming from. For almost my entire adult life, I have been a commissioned sales person whose income varied from month to month. Even now, my income varies monthly. So, I can certainly understand your situation on the income side. On the expense side, there have been times when I had obligations that, at times, seemed overwhelming. My wife was a full time homemaker, we raised a family of five children, and for many of those years I also had child support payments. Those were heavy financial responsibilities.
In all of this, I have learned some things about managing personal finances. Here are some of the lessons I have learned along the way.
First, as much as possible, avoid debt. Debt adds tremendously to your stress. You know that you must make those payments or you are going to have lots of unpleasant consequences. That may be constantly on your mind, contributing to sleepless nights and rising blood pressure.
Debt reduces your options. If you have monthly payments, for example, they must be paid even if you have a bad month or two. Without those payments, you can generally find a way to ride out low income months by temporarily reducing your standard of living. You can eat in every day, for example, instead of buying pizza or going out. Without monthly payments, you can even survive a few months of no income at all.
Interest you pay eventually reduces your standard of living, because your interest payments are expenses that bring you no value. So, be careful about putting anything on that charge card. And if you do, try to pay it off each month. Deciding to make just minimum payments is one of the most expensive decisions you’ll ever make.
Also, be careful about any long term commitments. Instead of a three year lease on a new car, think about buying used and paying it off in two. Instead of a two year lease on that apartment, try 12 months.
You may not ever be able to be totally debt free. However, you can make decisions which, over time, will significantly reduce your amount of debt, easing the pressure on you and allowing you more options.
Second, develop a monthly budget for reasonable living. In good months, don’t spend the excess, put anything you make above that amount into a savings account. In bad months or years, tap into that savings account to meet your budget. At the end of the year, use some of the excess that you’ve build up to make those big purchases that you were tempted to put on a charge card during the year.
For example, say that you set up a budget of $4,000 a month. In January, you take home $4,400. Of that, $400 goes into the savings account, and you live on $4,000. In February, you take home $4,500. You repeat the discipline, putting $500 away. In March, you take home $3,500. You take $500 out of the savings for your day-to-day expenses. When you’ve built up a comfortable surplus, buy those big things that you’d like to have.
This is one of the best things that I ever did. Even to this day, my wife and I operate on a budget. Here’s an example. We have a certain amount of money dedicated each month to “entertainment.” We use this for meals out, concerts, etc. When the money’s gone, we’re done. If we want to go out to eat, but don’t have any money in the entertainment budget, we don’t go. It’s called deferred gratification, and it’s the secret of surviving financially in a turbulent environment.
A number of years ago, I was involved with a group that had an excellent budgeting system, and taught it in small groups that met in homes. If you are interested, check out Crown Ministries.
Finally, one last thought. This will sound counter-intuitive, but I have followed this rule for all of my adult life, and have found it to be extremely powerful. That rule is this: In times of economic uncertainty, increase your giving.
There is something about giving that helps you put your situation into perspective. It focuses you on people around you who need help in ways that you don’t. It gives your family a broader perspective, injects new purpose into your life, and encourages everyone to be less self-centered.
Realize that I’m coming at this from a Christian perspective. There is a promise in the Bible that says we cannot out-give God. When we give of our time and talents, God will respond by returning to us much more than what we have given. I have found that promise to be as bankable as my paycheck.
You may not share my perspective. Regardless, just from a purely pragmatic point of view, there are still some very practical reasons to increase your giving. When you get involved in some volunteer organization, you mix with a different group of people than that with which you are accustomed. New people, new situations, new issues are all invigorating for sales people. Also, you’ll find, through your investigation of places to which to donate time and money, lots of people who need help a whole lot more than you do. That helps you put your situation into perspective. And that helps you stay positive, optimistic and effective.
Think of giving in two ways: giving of your money, and donating your time and talent.
If you have some organization, cause or church to which you regularly donate, consider increasing your donation. If you don’t, now is the time to find some place to donate some of your money.
Find something in which you can donate your time. If you are not involved in some volunteer work, find someplace to give of your time and talents. For a number of years my wife and I were foster parents, caring for a total of 19 children of various ages, races, and emotional and physical disabilities. It kept us humble, broadened our lives, and taught us a lot. I’d recommend you find something like that – something into which you can invest your time and talent.
It really is the difficult times in your life, and your reaction to them, that shape your character and make you a better person.
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leadng sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog. For a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.
Companies engaged in the selection of a CRM system should not automatically select the most popular one or the least expensive solution, but instead take the time to document their business requirements.
You may have heard the old story that no one goes to a hardware store to buy a drill, they buy a drill because they need a hole. The same can be said about CRM systems. If your requirement is to simply manage contacts, then select a contact management system and don’t worry about all the other bells and whistles you may be excited about. On the other hand if you are trying to build your brand, generate more leads or manage the sales process you may need a more robust CRM system.
CRM systems are also available in-house or on premise, hosted by a third party vendor or as cloud based CRM systems that are deployed over the internet. You need to once again consider your business requirements when selecting how you would like your CRM system deployed. If you staff is all on-premise, an in-house CRM system makes good sense. But if your sales and support organization operates remotely or from a home office, a web based CRM system would be a better choice. Also look for a vendor that will spend time with you and help you to determine the applications or functionality you need and the best deployment option for you. Those that won’t assist you before the sale will certainly not help you after the sale.