Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CRM-Turn Customers to Clients

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the process of bringing the customer and the company closer together. Estimates show that just 20 percent of customers account for nearly 80 percent of total revenues in some businesses. While getting more customers is critical for the sustenance of any enterprise, optimizing returns by furthering relationships with the existing clients is a key business practice. Barry Stamos, in "Best Customers: More Profitable Relationships" points out, "Why spend resources attracting new customers until optimizing the profitability of your client relationships?"

"Successful CRM is about competing in the relationship dimension" explains Bob Thompson, CEO, CustomerThink Corporation, "Not as an alternative to having a competitive product or reasonable price- but as a differentiator. If your competitors are doing the same thing you are (as they generally are), product and price won't give you a long- term, sustainable competitive advantage. But if you can get an edge based on how customers feel about your company, it's a much stickier--sustainable--relationship over the long haul."

Customers come first in business. Managing relationships with them is very vital. Through cross-selling and up- selling techniques, you can continue to add more leverage to your business. High value referrals from them can also procure endless opportunities. Cutting down time and marketing costs through client network selling, you increase the profitability of your organization. Usually, a 'sale' converts a 'client' to a 'customer'. More and more sale transactions with him make him a client. By then, he has developed a liking for your service and has taken you in his confidence. The first transaction was just not a one-time event; it perpetuated continuing business through credible relationship building with the customer.

CRM has clearly defined roles:

? Focus on the customer and develop sustainable relationship with him.

? Manage the post-sale period well.

? Provide flexibility to your solutions in meeting customer requirements.

? Get qualified referrals for more business expansion within the network.

? Always keep in touch and have an explaining mindset.

Customers bring business. The more healthy relationships you have with them, the more is the value addition to your business. Continuous introspection about the level of service being offered and providing innovative solutions can help you to stay in the front. To quote former New York City mayor, Ed Koch, simply asking clients, "How am I doing?" is a great way to know where you stand. CRM provides you with tools and techniques to help you in nurturing healthy and dynamic client relationships and turning more customers to clients.

T Chakrabarti and his global colleagues write for KPO2INDIA (http://www.kpo2india.net), a premier Writing and Content Development Farm.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CRM: Culture or Technology

I was recently asked to present on the impact of technology on sales, has it helped, in what way, or has it had a negative impact?

After examining the issue with some colleagues and experts in the field, it became clear that technology is an enabler, and as such amplifies what is already there, and what is not.

I don't think that that there is anyone in sales today that has not heard of, used or been impacted by a CRM package of one sort or another, be it a simple contact management application with some added functionality, to a top of the line CRM that fully integrate with other enterprise applications. Many companies will tell you of the disasters they have encountered rolling out a CRM, in fact an article in the February 1, 2002 Harvard Business Review: Avoid the Four Perils of CRM, stated that "55% of all CRM projects don't produce results", and went on to say that "According to Bain's 2001 survey of management tools, which tracks corporate use of and satisfaction with management techniques, CRM ranked in the bottom three for satisfaction out of 25 popular tools. In fact, according to last year's survey of 451 senior executives, one in every five users reported that their CRM initiatives not only had failed to deliver profitable growth but also had damaged long-standing customer relationships."

Yet by November 2004, one of the same writers in an article entitled CRM Done Right stated: "Senior executives have become considerably more enthusiastic about CRM. In 2003, Bain & Company's annual Management Tools Survey of 708 global executives found that firms actually began to report increased satisfaction with their CRM investments. In 2001, CRM had ranked near the bottom of a list of 25 possible tools global executives would choose. Two years later, it had moved into the top half. In fact, 82% of surveyed executives said they planned to employ CRM in their companies in 2003-a large jump from the 35% who employed it in 2000."

While the piece went on to suggest a number of factors, we've experienced a number of key things in our work with clients that are worth noting.

First, we very much believe and have seen numerous examples to support the view that Customer Relationship Management is a way of doing business. Most of our successful clients have a consistent view on Customer Relationship Management.

To them CRM is part of their culture, part of their corporate DNA. They see CRM as the proper alignment between software and process to effectively manage their relationships with their customers. The alignment is based on objectives:

Corporate objectives drive the sales organization's objective; which in turn are the foundation for regional/territorial objectives, and client objectives; when properly executed, these objective form the basis for each client/prospect interaction.

It is as much about process as it is about software. If you don't create a balance and alignment between the two, you will fail to manage the relationship with you key customers, and not derive much benefit from your investment. In fact we are working with a company that has spent in excess of $13 million dollars over the last 5 years implementing a CRM software with little tangible results to show in improved sales, increased productivity or understanding of their clients and how to mutually improve their relationship.

A study I read recently showed that over 80% of the CEO's surveyed said their sales organization had a process that was poorly defined or a process that wasn't being followed. A sales process is like a good map or a GPS if you will. Used properly it helps you determine where you are, if you are in heading in the right or wrong direction, also helps you plan what your "next step" should be to get to your destination. A well defined sales process gives a sales organization the same advantage. It should have logical and defined steps that allow both parties to develop a better understanding of each other and a set of questions that help you qualify or "disqualify" an opportunity.

When we meet with a new client we always enquire about their sales process. A VP we recently met responded: "why yes of course, we use XYZ" (name change to protect the innocent, us). Yet he openly admitted that he struggles with forecasting, prospecting, and his people were spending too much time with unproductive activity, in the little activity he was able to glean from the system. (Unfortunately no software will pick up the phone and do a cold call, I'm working on it.)

The clients who do use the software to support their process tell a different story. Activity is focused on the client experience. It is still true that getting new business from an existing client, is much more cost efficient than from new prospects. No I am not saying you should stop prospecting, but don't ignore those that have rewarded you with their business, show them some love, make it easy for them to deal with you, and hard to leave you.

A good CRM (software and process) provides you with a complete view of the client, allowing you to align your resources to best serve them. Reducing service calls, reducing time to respond, reducing the effort to take orders, reducing the cost of sale, increasing their satisfaction level and creating a mutual economical value add relationship.

The data available to you will also help segment your clients better, allowing you to decide where you want to put your focus, and which clients you may want to off load. Remember that some 30% or your lowest margin clients suck over 50% of your resources. A CRM done right can assure that you are retaining the right clients.

CRM system can also break down hierarchical communication barriers allowing everyone, not just sales to focus on the customer relationship, allowing top executive to get involved in meeting client expectation and driving revenue. Of course this will only work where the CRM culture is present. And in many companies that have rolled out the software without the process, with out the training, without the internal value proposition, it is not. As stated earlier it in fact diminishes the client relationship. Many companies are experiencing push back from the front line because they failed to show the ROI to the users. Like the clients sales reps want to know what's in it for them. There is a lot, if there is a supporting process focused on everyone's success, the company, the rep, the client. This can be achieved with a sales process that aligns around key objectives.

One last thing to consider, CRM systems are usually associated with sales organizations. But client satisfaction is the function of the whole organization. A truly successful CRM extends beyond sales to all groups with in a corporation, and as such, a key success factor is the alignment of the sales process with other processes impacting the client relationship.

Tibor Shanto, is a Principal with Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. enables companies achieve sustained growth, by focusing on critical aspects of revenue growth. By recognizing that an outstanding sales force is THE differentiator in today?s environment, our clients with our help, focus on the development of both strategic and tactical initiatives to foster a winning team that will out think, out sell and out perform competitors while consistently gaining market share.

Renbor?s Objective Based Selling (OBS) is a structured approach to delivering ongoing results and improvement by focusing the entire sales organization on a key set of objectives. The overarching objective for any sales organization is to achieve exceptional and sustainable revenue growth. This is accomplished by creating a culture of sales excellence built around the principles and processes adopted by world-class sales organizations.

For more information on helping your team sell better, write to: info@sellbetter.ca, visit http://www.sellbetter.ca or call 416 671-3555

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sugar CRM a new Roadmap to Commercial Open Source Technology

Sugar CRM is commercial Open Source Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for companies of all sizes, based on LAMP stack (Linux-OS; Apache-Web Server; MySQL-Database Server; PHP-Programming Language). Its rich functionality and intuitive user interface provides a gateway to all CRM applications thereby enabling corporates to migrate to SugarCRM to expand their customer base.

Sugar CRM takes your business to a new level by integrating the enterprise server software sales model with that of a software-as-a-service model. It is available in both free and commercial editions.

Free edition of SugarCRM is available and is best suited for small industries. These industries can download SugarCRM under the Mozilla Public License. This open source product offers all the basic customer-centric functionalities.

The commercial edition of SugarCRM is available in two versions, Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise, for medium and large scale industries respectively. They provide more flexible deployment options (On-demand to host you own information; Cube to plug-n-play CRM appliance; On-site to manage CRM on your own server) and advanced features like add-ons, software patches, proprietary code, technical support, etc.

Professional edition is flexible and includes features such as sales, marketing, customer support, reporting and collaboration, migration, integrity and security. It also includes integration with Microsoft Outlook, sales forecasting, document management, access control, multiple deployment options to suit customers' security and integrity needs.

Enterprise edition is a fully customizable for the most demanding businesses. It includes features like SQL reporting, offline client synchronization, support for Oracle 9i and 10g etc, and is ideal for organizations having a large number of users. Apart from all the basic functionalities and features of Professional, it provides Oracle database support and offline client synchronization.

SugarCRM has also launched a server appliance called Sugar Cube, for companies which don't want to devolve their customer's details to third parties.

Sugar Cube if attuned with Professional edition gives an extra edge to overcome implementation and technical support problem and also bringing down costs of CRM deployments. Sugar Cube conglomeration with Enterprise edition provides complete hardware and software solutions with minimal resource utilization at lesser expense. "Software is bought, not sold," says John Roberts, co-founder and CEO of SugarCRM and this is the strategy that must be followed. The Sugar CRM product has created a strong gravitational pull for the customers trying the open source version and making there investment a success by paying a premium for our Enterprise Edition. This great CRM product provides complete CRM functionality ranging from opportunity tracking, lead management and customer tracking to task management, marketing campaign, trend analysis, advanced reporting and team selling and many IT enabled services.

There are lots of online communities and many more are emerging all around the web where you can share your innovative ideas with CRM developers. These communities provide customer feedback, range of informational services and support for CRM players. A wide array of forums and discussion boards are available enabling users to learn about the best practices and upcoming functionalities of Sugar CRM.

With the release of Sugar4.5, Sugar CRM continues to move ahead with the following features:

* Personalized home page by drag-drop of relevant items for fast access to view important information.

* Improved sales forecasting with better planning and forecasting worksheet.

* Improved information sharing on any topic, with the integration of different Sugar modules with discussion forums.

* With saved and global search and inline adds and edits user interface has improved.

* Enhanced installation and upgrade process offline client synchronization has also improved.

* Administration is simplified with improved Sugar Studio for code-free customizations, back-up and recovery.

* Multi-lingual support and internationalization.

Look for you're A-Z SugarCRM solutions at http://www.icreon.com.

A consultant of Sugar CRM - a new Roadmap to Commercial Open Source Technology.

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Things You Need To Know When Switching A Crm

CRM database migration is never an easy undertaking for any company, no matter what its size. Naturally it is always best if you thoroughly evaluate and choose the right application for you first. Then moving to new a customer relationship management application becomes unnecessary. But unforeseen things can happen and making the switch can become something that simply cannot be avoided.

One possible reason could be that your company's needs change. A new manager may recommend a system that he is more familiar with. Or the company may have outgrown the old system, requiring a CRM with greater functionality than the old one can provide.

There are many issues to consider when migrating from one CRM application to another. It is important to ensure that there is not system downtime. This can mean that both systems are running concurrently for a short duration while the switch over is made. The data migration needs to be properly monitored to ensure success with no need for data fixes required.

Even with the best attempts to get everything right you can still run into problems. For example, if you are currently running the latest version of ACT!? software, and you want to switch to another popular application, such as the GoldMine? software, you will discover all manner of difficulties. Transferring the complete calendar, history and customer information across will prove difficult at best, and because of restrictive measures built into the newer versions, impossible in some cases.

Contact management software like ACT!? and GoldMine? are desktop based. But web based systems fare no better in many cases. Extracting the full files with all the history information required, along with calendars and notes for your sales team, may prove equally impossible, or very difficult at least.

After years of using one CRM system, such as the GoldMine? software for example, it is likely that you will have made many customizations that are specific to you and members of the sales team. It may be the case that it is not possible to make the exact same customizations in the new application. Modifying customizations in the new system so that you have something similar to what you had in the old system may not be acceptable.

It is likely that staff members will require some degree of training before they are fully comfortable with using a new customer relationship management system, whether it be ACT!? or GoldMine?, or any of the other applications available. Proper training will reduce the need for tech support. Sometimes the changeover from an old familiar system to a new unfamiliar system needs more training than may be obvious. Old habits can die hard.

On the other hand, if your sales team are totally fed up using an outdated system, they may welcome a new one that has all the bells and whistles they have dreamed about, with open arms. This kind of staff attitude is likely to reduce any training time required.

If the task of database migration from one CRM system to another seems to be just too daunting, there are companies who specialize in these matters. One such company is CRM Switch. Really Simple Systems produce a free online guide outlining the 10 CRM pitfalls to avoid, which may help in getting it right first time.

Syed Ali, is the lead CRM consultant for a Toronto based company. His company offers, GoldMine CRM and ACT! Software CRM Syed can be reached at Tel : (905) 815- 1995 ext 22, email :asyed@cqsolutions.com

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