Archives For CRM Success

Ok, I know spreadhseets will always have a place in most small businesses. For finance and other teams, the spreadsheet is THE place to hold information.

But for sales and other departments (and yes, even finance in many cases) the spreadsheet is a breeder of inefficiency and a dark cloud where good ideas and information goes to die…

If you have one New Year’s Resolution for your business – make it to try to make the leap away from spreadsheets and into real CRM. By either making the first step in purchasing a CRM tool, or actually using the tools you’re already paying for – I guarantee* you will see a positive return before 2012 comes around. (Guarantee subject to many, many restrictions ;)…)

Not convinced? Take a look at these business cases – especially the case of the Utah Flash – where organizations ditched spreadsheets and saw their businesses bloom.

Also – SugarCRM is hosting a webinar with partner Loaded Technologies and joint customer Mastersoft  discussing how they were able to make the leap from spreadsheets to full service CRM in no time.

There is no time like the present to get started optimizing your operations and evolving past the dreaded spreadsheet!

I have always told prospects that it pays to deploy and open, flexible CRM solution…

Now, for businesses in Singapore it really PAYS!

The country has a long history of fostering the creation of well-run small businesses. The latest installment of Singapore’s benevolent attitude towards growing local businesses: SugarCRM is now listed as a certified solution under iSPRINT (Packaged Solutions).

So – what does this mean?

Simply put – any Singapore business that deploys SugarCRM is eligible for a credit of up to 50 percent of the qualifying costs, capped at S$10,000 of an initial subscription of a listed solution. So, that means deploying a best-in-class CRM system at half the cost. That is, seriously, pretty darn cool.

Imagine adding the ability to better manage your contacts, opportunities, activities etc. across your sales, marketing and support teams. Imagine having access to a full reporting suite to guide your business and gain predictability. Imagine empowering sales and support agents with their critical data on the go with mobile CRM access. Imagine identifying, converting and delighting more customers with social CRM tools.

Oh yeah, and all that comes at half the normal cost.

To take advantage of this insanely awesome offer – contact SugarCRM APAC partner iZeno today.

Editor’s Note: The Sapient Salesman began as a series of internally-focused sales coaching pieces written by SugarCRM team member Erin Fetsko. While initially focused on “selling Sugar,” Erin’s advice and wisdom have proven useful to Sugar partners, and well, anyone in the business of sales. Thus, we are happy to add her insight to the Sugar corporate blog. You can read all of Erin’s musings at The Sapient Salesman.

Have any of you ever seen Starved or even (my personal favorite) Better Off Ted? Overwhelmingly the answer I receive is no, and that’s a shame. Classic examples of major networks abandoning ship before a series ever really got off the ground. In the case of Better Off Ted, ABC didn’t even bother to air the final two episodes. I’m most bothered by the fact that, more often than not, the shows that get prematurely canceled have the best writing. Why don’t the networks understand that given all the crap they sling at us it might take the more refined segment of the public some time to pan for gold?!?

I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our customers, even our partners, often behave with the same haste that modern media demonstrates. Today’s vast market provides so many similar alternatives it becomes quite easy, acceptable even, to simply dismiss a software solution, because you didn’t “get it” on your first try. So how we combat this knee jerk tendency to hate change, blame the tool, and save us from premature defenestration?

It takes 21 days to make (or break) a habit, so first we must gain commitment from our clients of a desire to change; confirm further that they have a desire to improve. We already do this during the sales cycle, but we often belittle the volume of effort involved to succeed with this plan. Why? It’s not as if people can’t relate to the struggles of breaking old habits. Ask them to recall when the last time a New Years Resolution of theirs made it out of February, then further encourage them to take advantage of services we offer to better their odds of success. But that’s only the first step.

Step two requires us to act like a sponsor and advocate for our customers success. This requires us to understand the best practices associated with CRM deployments and to bear them in mind during every interaction we have with customers. When a client reaches out to their account manager we can’t simply supply them with a superficial response when we both know the question’s roots run far deeper. Support should also take the opportunities they are afforded to review a customer’s implementation and steer the veering back onto the road of successful adoption and deployment.

So this year, let’s try to remember that we are in the business of renewals and consequently the selling doesn’t stop at the sale, and as we venture with our clients through the labyrinth of possible implementation paths embrace the lesson of Jim Henson: you can’t take anything for granted.

I really like talking with CRM journalist and all around smart guy Chris Bucholtz. Whenever we have an interview – it always beings around one topic and very quickly tangents off into a great conversation about what we as an industry could be doing better (as well as some side stops discussing WWII aircraft and strategy).

I especially enjoyed Chris’ take on one of the roadblocks to CRM success – Executive Fear – that he describes in his CRM Buyer piece. These are all great ideas. The notion that too many executives are afraid to take chances is a scary, but all too often true, situation. In a shaky economy, I believe this problem gets amplified, as top-level execs are too frightened to lose positions etc. – and simply go the “safe” route.

So – in your organization are you a CRM leader, follower…or just in the way?

As Chris so eloquently notes in his article – “Best practices are made, not born.” I love this statement. The sales and marketing leaders in your organization have to know what is important (lead generation, pipeline, the bottom line etc.) but cannot be afraid to shake things up a little. Instead of “if it ain’t broke, don;t fix it” mentality, a great CRM initiative should always foster a “how can we continually make this better?” mentality.

There are very few “turnkey machines” in the business world. More often than not, we are not in an organization with the luxury of ubiquity or near total market share – what I’m saying is that we are not all Google basically.

It is not always bad to “follow the leader” in terms of taking on proven CRM best practices. Startups and entrepreneurs can learn from larger, successful organizations while finding their identity. But, once found, companies need to differentiate and create their own killer experiences for their customers, develop new ways to pull in new leads, etc.

In the past, the technology supporting a CRM initiative was expensive and time consuming to deploy, configure and change over time. So, it made sense that a conservative approach won out more often than not. However, with today’s less expensive, ultra-flexible web and cloud-based CRM tools – there is far less excuse to take the safe route.

The tools are here now to better align the imagination of sales, marketing and customer service leaders with the actual technology solutions in place to make it happen.

Some interesting New Years preview articles and blog posts have been written over the past several weeks. But one that really strikes a chord with us at SugarCRM is Denis Pombriant’s recent post for CRM Buyer that discusses how the rising costs of fuel and other issues are affecting how we will execute our businesses in 2011 and beyond.

Denis makes great points – we are simply not going to be making as many “face to face” meetings in the future because the costs are simply to prohibitive. What does this mean for sales and marketing agents? Well, for those sales agents that rely on “close relationship selling” and “spit and a handshake” type deal closing, there are some new challenges coming.

For one, how do we more effectively close when we do not have a captive audience? When all a prospect needs to do is hang up – well, you have to continually provide strong value points to keep the conversation, and the deal, alive.

How does CRM fit in? Pretty simply, the ability to prioritize activities, accounts, contacts etc. – especially if your data is aided by real-time updates from social networks and other sources – can help turn the “face to face” agent into a killer telesales pro in no time.

In addition, greater frequency (and more important – relevancy) of marketing messaging through email campaigns, drip campaigns etc. can help marketing teams keep close tabs on prospects and customers even from afar.

Simply put – while we may not get to see our target prospects as much in the future – that does not mean our sales productivity should diminish either.

Editor’s Note: The Sapient Salesman began as a series of internally-focused sales coaching pieces written by SugarCRM team member Erin Fetsko. While initially focused on “selling Sugar,” Erin’s advice and wisdom have proven useful to Sugar partners, and well, anyone in the business of sales. Thus, we are happy to add her insight to the Sugar corporate blog. You can read all of Erin’s musings at The Sapient Salesman.

Remember the days when you vehemently opposed getting a smart phone? You hated how your husband couldn’t seem to leave it alone for a entire meal and you vowed to forgo the hyper-connectivity in favor of actual human interaction. Remember teasing everyone about how their blackberry was simply too big for your dainty pockets? Going on to preach how the last thing you need is to give your mom another reason to criticize your purse-free lifestyle. And really, who needs that much access anyway? You’re online all day, when you’re out, it’s because you need to put the Internet down!

… okay, maybe that was just me …

Well, 11 days ago I caved and got a smart phone and I’ll begrudgingly admit, I’m hooked. But not for the perpetual email access and reliable phone call reasons you might think. I’ve come to realize that despite their functionality border-lining on excessive, these phones aren’t themselves evil.

Okay, DUH! But many people have the same stick-in-the-mud attitude toward software. Even I, who generally advocates loudly for the excessive use of technology, found myself irrationally, passionately, cynically advocating for the status quo.

As technical salespeople, we too soon forget how scary change can be, but as they say: with great risk comes great reward. When you find yourself up against a prospect whose breezed thru the sales cycle, the guy who saw the demo – loved it, understands the value prop , and has the budget to buy, only to find them suddenly coming up with wildly off the wall objections at contract time, remember they might just be afraid to change. As soon as they sign, they get to start realizing all the great benefits you’ve promised and maybe they just aren’t ready to be home every day for dinner. Who knows “the wife” might be a sub par chef.

Remind them of the last time they took a technological leap that seemed excessive or risky or one that forced them to break a bad habit, and ask them if they would ever go back to the old way. You don’t see VCRs, answering machines or phone books  giving DVRs, voicemail and Facebook a run for their money anymore. So why should Rolodexes, spreadsheets and Post-it notes continue to blockade your prospects road to CRM success?

In fact, less than a week after seeing the shiny new world the flashlight app on my Droid illuminated, I’ve already talked my never-had-a-text-plan-in-her-life mother into getting one too. So I guess the moral of the story this week is: I’m a hypocrite. (Just kidding.) Seriously tho, you may find that once your most stubborn prospects allow themselves to try Sugar, they won’t only improve their own processes (and your bottom line), they just might turn into your biggest advocates.

Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in the UK-based B2B Marketing magazine blog series. And, since I think these are points worth repeating (and I wanted to get a blog post out this week!) I am reprinting my thoughts hereAlso note, while it’s true I am too lazy to change spelling back to American English – I think the British English stylizing gives my thoughts a bit of an air of respectability ;)

The explosion of social media over the past several years has certainly begun to make its mark in the business world. What started out as a primarily consumer-driven concept has become big business on many fronts: companies are marketing to customers via social networks; supporting customers and identifying trouble spots via Twitter; and leveraging these new social channels for market research and to qualify leads.

While social channels present an opportunity, companies must not forget the core foundations that actually manage the core data and processes within the organisation. New concepts like ‘social CRM’ are appealing for many reasons. But, ultimately, are not a replacement for traditional CRM. Rather, it is more important to augment existing CRM strategies and systems with social tools – because abandoning core systems could lead to chaos inside the organisation.

To best navigate your move into social CRM, it is useful to ask yourself five simple questions before spending precious time and other resources towards a social media endeavour:

1. Where are my customers and prospects aggregating online?

This seems fairly simple, but might be more complex than it seems.  For large B2C organisations, it may be enough to blast messaging across sites like Facebook. But for more niche markets and products, or more specialised B2B sales models – it may take some more research and listening to your customers before you begin any outreach via social channels.

2. How will this social initiative enhance the customer experience?

Just being social for the sake of being social is useless, and can backfire. For many B2B sales and support organisations, social media should be a means of adding convenience to the sales or customer support cycle – not an intrusive waste of time. Insure that your social interactions are a benefit, not a detractor to the overall customer experience.

3. Am I using social media to hide deeper flaws in my business?

Many companies are using social media as a “band-aid” to hide poor support processes or other problem areas. Customers who tweet about a bad experience get preferential treatment; but what does that really solve?  Before adding layers of social engagement, try to insure your customer-facing processes are already strong before exposing them to the hyper-critical social channels.

4. Who will be responsible for our social outreach?

This is a huge problem area for those looking to jump into social business. If you are going to generate leads, or attempt to handle customer complaints via social media – insure that a proper escalation path is in place. If a customer reaches out via social media and gets no response – it is almost worse than not having a social policy. Insure the right people are in place to quickly and consistently manage inquiries received via social channels.

5. How will I track and measure success?

It is very easy for a social media initiative to create even more data silos, with loads of data not providing insight. However, if you tightly integrate your social tools and data with well-structured existing systems like a CRM tool, you can more effectively track interactions and outcomes. Again, social CRM is not a new concept in itself – we are just using new technology to do what we have always done as  businesspeople: attract and manage customer relationships.

Editor’s Note: The Sapient Salesman began as a series of internally-focused sales coaching pieces written by SugarCRM team member Erin Fetsko. While initially focused on “selling Sugar,” Erin’s advice and wisdom have proven useful to Sugar partners, and well, anyone in the business of sales. Thus, we are happy to add her insight to the Sugar corporate blog. You can read all of Erin’s musings at The Sapient Salesman.

People say silicon valley was founded by proud members of the autism spectrum. Having spent most of my adult life navigating the minefield of idiosyncratic behavior many uber geeks lay, I’d believe it. The engineer charm makes way for exceptional development power which yields truly valuable solutions. I often joke: there’s only so much room in one mind … you can’t expect me to be clever and nice at the same time. But this got me thinking, do successful CRM adoptions fall on a spectrum as well?

Sugar’s CRM adoption curve outlines a framework to establish where a business is, and guide it as its processes mature. But how do we measure success at each step? I often boast that SugarCRM successfully uses Sugar to manage their business; I use this morsel to imply a perspicacious persona and gain the trust of prospects. But does anyone truly adopt and use a CRM system the way we advertise?

During my stint with support I worked cases. Cases that had subjects, descriptions and substantive notes. Cases that reflected time spent and actual work done. Today I also work cases. These cases, however, sport a combined subject and description that, on a good day, contain 4 words: demo | customer needs demo. Both implementations are “successful,” but one yielded a reportable, measurable way to track employee efficacy. The other only relieves me of several hours a week as I futilely map disjointed email conversations to cases with the hope my efforts reflect resource consumption.

We sell a vision like that of a modern Corona commercial: people on a beach reviewing perfect reports on their favorite flash enabled tablet PC. The epitome of hands off visibility and insight into their company’s heath. Too soon we forget about the poor schmuck who runs around the office populating the data that drives these reports. I wonder if my fellow salesmen really appreciate what it takes to successfully adopt CRM.

When Sugar is an afterthought, when users start their day in other systems, or when employees see Sugar merely as a way to “getting credit” for work done – an otherwise “adopted” system remains at risk. One day the guy holding it all together, back-filling the data for reporting purposes, will leave and the implementation will fall apart. Truly successful CRM adoption results from a more socialistic approach. Every user of the system must prepare themselves to actively participate, and it’s important to communicate the commitment necessary to have a plenary implementation with sweeping adoption.

In the first post in this CRM Adoption Curve series, we discussed the challenges companies encounter before investing in their CRM processes and tools.  In the second post, we covered the benefits of centralizing your customer information into one system and defining repeatable processes for interacting with your customers.  The next stage in adopting your CRM strategy and driving company growth is  “Step 3: the Defined Stage”.  This is where your hard work really starts paying off.

At this stage, the customer-centric processes that you began defining in the Managed Stage are now battle-tested and you are ready to automate them via Sugar Workflow.  Leads are automatically passed to the right sales person.  Stalled inquiries are automatically identified for management review.  Hand-offs across teams are tracked and audited so that you never lose track of your customer when moving that customer from one department to another.  Your CRM professionals are collaborating within, and across, teams because they now have access to the same data.  Management has clear visibility into the processes via well-defined Sugar Reports and has begun predicting future success with accuracy.  Your company is more responsive than ever to prospects and customers and your customer acquisition and retention rates have grown.

Keep in mind, it can easily take six to twelve months to move from the Managed Stage to the Defined Stage.  Progress doesn’t just magically happen.  It takes focus and dedication.  This is where the vast network of local SugarCRM implementation partners can make a big impact on your CRM adoption success and help you accelerate your customer growth plans.

In the next post, we will describe what happens when you move from the Defined Stage to “Step 4: the Optimized Stage“.

In the last post, we explored where every company starts with their CRM efforts.  The first step, the “Manual Stage”, is typically defined by customer data locked up in spreadsheets, misplaced emails, uncertain next steps and all too often, unhappy customers.  You’re ready to pull yourself out of the chaos and get your company organized.

This is where you turn to SugarCRM and move to the second stage, “Step 2: the Managed Stage”.  After first implementing Sugar Professional, your company has taken a huge step out of the chaos and put all of your customer data into a single, managed system of record for customer information. This is the single biggest value you will realize with your first step up the CRM Adoption Curve.  Everybody now knows where to go to get customer data.  Tasks are tracked.  Emails are quickly shared.  Notes are no longer lost.

With this single view of your customer data, you are now able to start defining repeatable customer interaction processes and start training your people on a common approach to working with prospects and customers.  Your CRM processes are maturing, though many are still manual – which is OK.  Repeatable processes will lead to better automation in the next stage, even if everything is not integrated right now.

But there are still gaps in your CRM success.  You have identified customer-centric goals (e.g. responding to prospect inquiries within one hour, following up on every quote within two business days, keeping your support case backlog under a certain threshold), but measuring progress isn’t always complete or accurate.  Some of your teams are hitting their objectives, but not consistently.  You are better at being responsive to customers than in the Manual Stage, but manual process are still inconsistently executed at times.  In short, you are beginning to chart a course towards CRM success but you still have work ahead of you.

Every SugarCRM customer quickly achieves this stage.  The challenge is to not stop here.  In the next post, we will describe what happens when you move from the Managed Stage to “Step 3: the Defined Stage“.