For more than two decades companies have been managing and maintaining their business software on traditional client server platforms. This requires the purchase of the proper server hardware and software along with backup and recovery systems, virus protection programs and disaster recovery plans. In addition you need experienced IT personnel to manage and maintain these systems because they have been highly customized over the years. All of this is costly and with today’s difficult economic environment small to mid-size businesses are struggling to maintain their infrastructure.
Many of these businesses are looking at cloud computing options to address this challenge but are discovering that migrating these highly customized applications to the cloud is more difficult and costly than they expected. This is because most of the cloud based solutions are generic in nature and have to be customized to meet each customer’s unique business requirements.
Commence Corporation is offering a unique approach to address this challenge and it is quickly gaining traction with their customer base. Commence is using the cloud to host client systems that have been maintained internally for many years. The CRM hosting service not only alleviates the IT infrastructure cost for the customer, but enables them to continue to utilize and take advantage of the application software that has been running their business.
With Commence, the server hardware is provided and the systems are maintained 24/7 by the company’s engineering staff. It’s a nice offering for companies that want to move to the cloud but maintain the integrity and structure of their in-house business software.
You don’t have to be an 800 pound gorilla to provide a quality product and make an impact in the CRM software industry. In fact, pure play CRM solution provider Commence Corporation has been doing it for more than two decades and has a large and rapidly growing customer base.
So what does being a pure play vendor really mean? “It means developing and supporting Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) is all we do” says Todd Pape, Chief Technology Officer at Commence. “Because we are focused on one aspect of the business we can in fact be better than the industry giants.”
“The rapid evolution of cloud computing means that smaller organizations like Commence can build software solutions using the same underlying architecture as enterprise software companies like Microsoft, Oracle or Salesforce.com” continued Pape. “The functionality may be different and that’s exactly why companies like Commence can be a better fit for the small to mid-size business sector we serve. While the enterprise companies are focused on addressing multi-language requirements, high transaction volumes, and integration with ERP and other disparate systems, companies like Commence are focused on delivering a CRM solution that’s comprehensive, but also easy to use and affordable. It’s our core competency and what has differentiated Commence CRM for the past two decades” says Pape.
“We are focused on adding new features requested by our customers while the big guys are instead ripping out functionality that small to mid-size businesses don’t want. They need to do this in order to make their product less complex and costly. Surely a product designed specifically for small to mid-size businesses is going to be a better fit than one that’s been re-engineered to address the requirements of a different business sector.”
Then you have the issue of service. “CRM is a service oriented sector” continued Pape. “Customers often require assistance with importing data from other systems, training, customization and integration with other software programs. Companies like Microsoft are poorly equipped to provide high quality service to their customers. They instead use local value added resellers who more often than not are not properly trained or don’t have a great deal of experience with the product. The customer may think they bought a CRM product from Microsoft, but the implementation, service and support comes from someone else.”
CRM software comes in all different sizes and flavors from basic contact management programs to comprehensive solutions for managing front office business processes such as sales, marketing and customer service. What makes one CRM solution better than another is not necessarily apparent to the consumer whose focus is primarily on features, function and price.
The difference between a top rated CRM software solution and an average one often lies under the covers and is not apparent unless you know where to look and what questions to ask. If you’re a mid-size to enterprise level company scalability and the hosting service should be top priorities on your list. Scalability relates to the CRM system’s performance when large groups of people are trying to access data or run reports. Low cost CRM solution providers have traditionally not paid particular attention to this due to limited resources and the cost associated with the development of highly scalable solutions. As a result, it is not uncommon for customers using these systems to experience slow access speeds or reports that take hours to run. Fixing this is no easy task, so if you are experiencing this with your CRM solution provider, don’t expect this to change anytime soon.
The CRM providers hosting service is another key concern for mid-size and larger companies. Some CRM solution providers that host your data do so on a shared server or servers while others offer a cloud computing environment. Like any hardware component, there are limitations and capacities as to how much data can be stored on the server. With hosted CRM solutions when the server hits its capacity you may find yourself having difficulty connecting to your database. Cloud based providers have addressed this using the ability for cloud technology to quickly add computing resources when required thereby reducing the potential for slow speeds and downtime.
Of course it is also important not to overlook the reputation of the CRM vendor itself. Companies with a proven track record for a high quality product and service often have years of experience in the industry and a very large customer base. Contacting a few customers and learning about their experience with the vendor’s product and service may be the best vehicle for helping you to make the right decision.
We’ve teamed up with the best sales people to bring you these insights into customer relationship management each month. Below is the latest Sales Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.
They really hadn’t done anything wrong. They were responsive when I called. They appeared to keep up with the latest information in their profession. Their work was neat, accurate and timely. Their prices were fair. They conducted themselves professionally.
But, I fired them anyway.
Here’s why. While they consistently reacted professionally, they never, ever pro-acted. They never came to me with an idea, never offered a suggestion that I didn’t first initiate. Never suggested a change for my benefit. I wanted someone to think about me, to hold my best interests up before their regular scrutiny, to extend themselves in order to keep me at the forefront.
My life insurance agent, on the other hand, makes it a point of contacting me at least twice a year, more likely three or four times. While there always is a bit of self-interest motivating these contacts (he always asks for referrals), I always take his calls.
He can be counted on to share ideas with me based on his knowledge of my business and my personal affairs. I don’t know if he has ever tried to sell me something I didn’t need (like more life insurance), but he has consistently demonstrated that he’s thinking of me by making recommendations and exposing me to ideas that I would not have had otherwise. He recently, right out of the blue, approached me with an idea for a different kind of business retirement plan. Only one of 100 people qualifies for this kind of plan. But, he knew me well enough to know that my business did, and to make it a point to educate me about it.
Hmmm. Keeping my interests at the forefront… Knowing me and my business well enough to be able to regularly scan the horizon and find things that would fit me. Pro-actively presenting solutions and ideas that would benefit me and my business. Could there be a lesson in here somewhere?
Of course. People like to know that you are thinking of them. (Observe the greeting card industry, which is built on that thought.) They like to know that you are considering their interests. They want you to understand their businesses well enough that you can scan the horizon, and spot things that may help them. When they consistently see that in the people from whom they buy, they quickly develop loyalty to those people.
Why is that important?
You know that it is far more difficult to see your customers today than it was just a few years ago. People just don’t have the time to spend with sales people today. Their jobs are more demanding, their task lists are overwhelming. More and more, they are asking the question, “Why should I see you?”
Ultimately, the answer to that question will, to a great degree, determine your success. They will make the decision to spend time with you based on what they think of you, and what they expect to get from the time they invest with you. In other words, they make the decision based on your reputation.
In the long run, your reputation will be your greatest asset. While there certainly are lots of other elements to your reputation, you develop that reputation in large measure by your proven and consistent ability to show that you are thinking of them.
That doesn’t mean that you show up every month and leave them a catalogue, or that you regularly spew samples of the latest gadget on their desk. It’s not a “throw a lot of mud against the wall and see if anything sticks” approach. The world is full of sales people who focus on their product instead of the customer. Don’t do that.
Rather, spend time coming to know their business goals and objectives and finding products, services and ideas that you believe will help them – whether you sell them or not. Then make a point of showing those to them and explaining exactly how you think your recommendation will help them reach their goals. Do this, sincerely, regularly and with forethought and sensitivity.
In return, they’ll come to respect you. They’ll see you as an important and integral part of their business. You’ll develop a reputation as a valuable professional.
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven 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.