Building your brand so that you can generate more leads, improving sales execution so that you close more business, and delighting your customers with high quality customer service is not easy. If it were you probably would have done it by now, but do not be fooled into thinking any low cost CRM solution can handle these significant business challenges.
Building your brand requires a marketing strategy and mix of programs from advertising campaigns, mass e-mails, direct mail, social integration, and content distribution. CRM software does not do this, people do. CRM can help by automating the processes for campaign management and distribution. However, if you do not have a value proposition (what you do better than your competition) and a rock solid plan for how you are going to communicate this to your target audience, then your CRM initiatives will fall flat.
Sales Process Execution
If you are looking to close more business, look no further than your sales organization. These people need to be properly trained and capable of representing your product, your service, and your company. CRM software is not going to sell your product or service for you, but it can help by implementing a structure to track every sales opportunity, and generating reports to manage each stage of the sales cycle from introduction to closure. If you do not have a formal sales process in place, your CRM software will provide no value in helping you to close more business.
In today’s competitive environment, providing excellent service is paramount to customer retention and add-on business. Ask yourself who is on the front line of providing high quality customer service – is it my staff or my CRM software? Perhaps it is both. CRM software is not going to talk with your customers and discover their concerns, but what it can do is provide a vehicle for customers to get answers to their questions 24/7 via a series of self-service tools such as a Knowledgebase and Frequently Asked Questions area on your web site. This will provide good service to your customers, and will reduce the number of calls into your service department.
Making your business a more effective sales and service organization is not an easy task. Management must have a firm commitment to implement structured processes and a willingness to invest the time in using tools like CRM that can help automate and streamline internal business processes. It is not easy and you cannot do it alone. Look for a CRM solution provider with dedicated people who can provide you with expertise in the areas you need it most.
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CRM has begun to look like so many other software programs that held so much promise but simply did not deliver the value customers expected. The only difference today is that cloud based CRM software does not require the costly hardware or lengthy implementation schedules of products just a few years ago. All that is required is some training and a commitment to its use.
Some businesses seem to be struggling with this concept and believe if the product requires professional training then it is too hard to use. Smart businesses however recognize that with an hour or two of training they can exceed their initial expectation of what they can realize from a CRM solution.
If you are considering an online CRM solution get some training and you will appreciate how these programs can help you to become a more efficient sales and service organization.
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Small businesses have been aggressively seeking online CRM software primarily for account and contact management. While many express an interest in sales and marketing automation they often do not have the resources or expertise to properly utilize the software and as a result they just don’t. For these businesses they would be better served to simply engage outside expertise for marketing and lead generation assistance, but this does not mean they should not use a CRM system. I believe they should.
While many small businesses are doing well with CRM software, there are those still fighting the trend and prefer to manage their business using an Excel spreadsheet. I am currently working with a company like this and it is frustrating to continue to support our business relationship. This company, which shall remain nameless, is working on international business development for my firm. Their objective is to recruit business partners to expand our company’s footprint and business outside the United States.
Since their primary objective is to contact and recruit potential business partners, CRM software is the perfect fit for this business objective. What I expected from them with regard to reporting is simply the following;
- a list of the companies contacted,
- the name and job title of the contact,
- notes about the call,
- the level of interest
- and the next step in the process.
All of the above is a walk in the park for a CRM system which I have provided to them, but have not been able to get them to use it. The account manager stated that they have been using an Excel spreadsheet for customer reporting for many years, as if this statement makes it right. He and his firm simply do not understand the value CRM software can bring to a small business or any business for that matter.
When I receive the Excel report the first thing I do is compare it to the one from the prior month. This is a fun exercise requiring me to spread out paper reports then search to see what’s different. Of course the information cannot be shared unless I make copies of the report and hand them out to my staff. With regard to notes there is a one line update with no date or time, no contact and no next step in the process. Perhaps this can be built into the Excel sheet, but why bother.
This is one of the core reasons small to mid-size businesses are implementing CRM software. With CRM you have the account name, key contacts, notes, history, e-mail correspondence, next steps and where the opportunity is in the sales cycle, all accessible to anyone with the authority to see it. The value here is not just for my firm but the one I have engaged as well. What is it that this company just doesn’t see about the value of CRM software? Having immediate access to your notes and other information about a prospect allows you to manage your leads more effectively and make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. So do small businesses really need CRM software? Absolutely.
CRM systems can be low cost basic tools for managing accounts and contacts. More complex solutions can also be used for managing sales, marketing and customer service. Regardless of the scope of functionality, there are few things you can do that are critical to ensure you realize value and a return on your investment from the system you select.
1. Assign a system administrator
The administrator should be the only person who can make changes to the structure of the system. These include system password and security permissions, adding and removing custom fields, or changing views and reports within the system. Failure to control this is often the cause of data integrity issues, inaccurate reports and potential security breaches.
2. Departmental ownership
Management at the departmental level needs to take ownership and support the utilization of the system. Employees catch on quickly and can see if utilization of the system is not a priority to management. If management does not support its use, the employees will follow their lead and the CRM software will become nothing but shelf ware.
3. Change management
Implementing a CRM solution, whether hosted or cloud based, will require change. This may be a change in policies and procedures, or changes in employee responsibilities. It is important once again for the company executives to manage and endorse whatever change is required to improve the overall performance of the company.
If you are not prepared to address the recommendations above due to limited resources or changes in your business environment I would suggest you wait until such time that you are. Managing how your team uses a CRM solution is critical to making your front office business processes more effective, and this will impact how you market, sell and provide service to your customers.
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Commence Corporation has always taken an active role in the university sector and has several universities using its CRM software for recruitment and other business services. Customer Relationship Management is now also becoming an important part of the educational system.
Students are learning about how the efficient management of customer relationships can play a critical role in sales, marketing and providing customer service to clients. New York University’s Stern School of Business recorded the following classroom presentation on the subject of using CRM software to improve business performance.
VIDEO: Observe a discussion about CRM systems with the Chair of the Stern Marketing Department.
Step inside the classroom and view these short samples of real Stern classes.
Image by Dennis Crowley on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
There are so many benefits to CRM Systems
The benefits of CRM systems are endless. Here are just a few of the benefits that will leave you wondering how you ever survived without a system in the first place. The first one is shared data. In today’s world, everything is connected and if you haven’t already, you will soon realize the benefit of having data shared throughout your organization. Provide better customer service. With the data you need to solve a customer’s problem right at your fingertips in one convenient location you can easily solve a customer’s problem and make them want to continue doing business with you. With better customer service comes increased customer satisfaction, which will help spread the word about your company and make sure your customers are coming back. So not only will you have more repeat business from happy customers, but you will also get new business when they tell their friends and family how happy they are with your products and services. The CRM system can also help with sales, which will help get you new business.
Customize your CRM systems
Make your CRM system work for you. At Commence.com you can add on features that your business will use and not have to get ones that you won’t use giving your more for your money.
With a web based CRM system you will also be able to get access on your mobile phone. Being able to get access on any popular smart phone, including iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Windows Mobile, will increase the productivity of your staff. Your staff will be able to address inquires and any problems to customers and leads no matter where they are. Not only will it increase productivity but it will also enhance collaboration since everyone will be able to get the information they need at any time.
What to look for in a web based CRM
When you are searching for a web based CRM you want to make sure it has an easy to use user interface. You want to be able to easily navigate your way through the database and have all the important information in one place. If you will be using your web CRM on your phone you will also want to make sure that the interface on your phone screen is easy to use otherwise it won’t do you any good to have mobile access. Visit Commence.com to learn more about web based CRMs and to see how they can improve your business.
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CRM Management: Implementing your CRM
One of the first steps in CRM management is to get your CRM properly implemented. One of the common mistakes that can occur is the lack of leadership. Since the CRM will usually go across all different departments it is important that there is leadership that goes across all levels so the right people are using the CRM effectively. Treating the CRM as just technology instead of a business strategy is also a common mistake. Even if the technology installation is flawless the CRM system won’t be properly managed if no one sees it as a strategy to improve business.
CRM Management: Using the tools
Part of your CRM management is to make sure that the system is working the way it should for your business and that it is giving you results. Using the many graphing and reporting tools will let you know if your sales tactics and other methods are working. It’s also a good idea to measure customer satisfaction after you implement the CRM. One of the main purposes for the CRM is to help improve your relationship with your customers so this is an important step. Visit Commence.com to learn more about the reporting features that are offered in your CRM.
Customer Management improves your business
Without customers you wouldn’t even have a business. While you may not always want to abide by the old saying “the customer is always right” you do need to make sure your customers are always happy with your business. Having customers happy with your business is important for two reasons. First if they are happy they will keep coming back and they will tell other people about your business, helping you get more customers. Having the right customer management techniques is one of the best ways to keep your customers happy and always coming back to your business.
An effective way to help manage your customers is through a CRM system. The CRM system will help you manage all your customers’ contacts and help improve your relationship with them. When you have a happy relationship you are sure to improve your business. Visit commence.com to search for a CRM system that will help improve your business.
Best Customer Management Tips
Besides getting a CRM system to help manage your customers and make them happy, you can also follow other customer management tips. These tips include always keeping your promises, actively listening to your customers, and knowing that your first obligation is to the customer.
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Learning CRM management
Managing your CRM system is an important part in making sure the CRM system you choose will work for you. In order to understand your CRM system so you can have proper CRM management, take advantage of training sessions and webinars that are offered. They will usually come with your CRM package and are a great way to understand everything your CRM system can do for you. This way you can take advantage of everything you are paying for. An online CRM system should come with support so you know that your data is properly maintained and managed. Visit Commence.com to learn more about training webinars and global support for your CRM system.
CRM Management for employees
It’s important that the managment team in the company know the CRM system and CRM management but it’s also necessary for employees to learn what to use it for and how best to use it so the system is effective for your business. You can either put them though the same training you went through or come up with your own CRM training program specific to your company so they know how to use the system in a way that is effective for the specific policies you have set forth. Learn more about CRM training at Commence.com.