Well, that's not exactly true, CRM ( Customer Relationship Management) software is a useful tool that allows you to centralise your records, manage processes and create a series of analytical and operational reports which let you know what's going on in your business.

However, they are expensive to set up and to manage and require input and maintenance all of which use significant resources. In one company I met recently, as much as 25% of sales reps usable time was spent just preparing detailed forecasts. So, want to know how you can increase sales by 33%? Get salespeople selling not proving to you they are selling.

Does your CRM drive your business or react to it?

The rather flippant title outlines a fundamental truth that must be any the forefront of the decision to purchase and the design and management of the CRM, which is that you need to focus on what your business needs and remember that the CRM is just a tool to deliver on those needs.

  • You need to have a single point of truth for your customer records
  • You need a clear set of processes so each staff member knows what to do to deliver a consistent experience for the customer
  • You need to monitor your teams as a way of measuring and comparing their performance
  • You need the ability to forward plan and see what your pipeline of sales is going to be into the future to let you take corrective action before it becomes an issue.
  • You need a way to track the conversion of inputs to outputs ( leads generated vs leads qualified for example)
  • You need the ability to analyse your customer base and understand differences between customers won and lost, retained and won back.

The design of the CRM has to be able to deliver on these key fundamental business needs in a way which ensures minimal use of resources both in terms of investment and operationally. There is no point putting a system in place that will generate a 10% productivity improvement if you lose 20% of your time keeping it up to date.

Design your CRM around your work

It also has to be usable and simple. No matter how great the database structure, process management and reporting suites of the CRM are, they are useless if they aren't kept up to date, so build with use in mind. A classic example is field structures. You frequently come across lead records with large numbers of empty fields or where required fields stop reps from entering data, but there is no future use of the data that is supposed to be collected.

If the data collected is not reported on or required for a downstream process, there is no value in collecting it. The usual argument is "we might find a need for it in the future" well, you won't! If you feel there is value in the information, prove that there is value in collecting the information before you spend time and resources collecting what will prove to be an incomplete data set.

Consider the culture of the business. If it's action-oriented rather than administration, adding a CRM is not going to change that, you need to decide whether a) a CRM is the best approach, b) whether you need to incentivise usage to modify behaviour c) invest in admin resources to let salespeople sell and still maintain the integrity of the business.

The key thing to remember that, even with "free" CRM's like Zoho and Hubspot, there is a significant investment to be made in the rollout and management of a CRM, and it is essential that your business drives the design and use of the CRM not the other way round.

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