Archives For CRM Success

For people marketing some CRM tools, the job is easy. Well, easier, because most of the established CRM tools were purpose built around what we thought it meant to empower sales, marketing and support agents.

In a lot of ways, this made sense. We tried to hit as many business needs out of the box, and the rest was up to expensive consulting engagements and professional services projects to make a reality.

This is, pardon my French, a really crappy way of building software.

Here at SugarCRM, we have learned from the past mistakes of the application software industry in a lot of ways. Instead of playing “feature wars” with our competitors and thus overwhelming users with a ton of bells and whistles they may (or may not) really need – we are instead creating a highly intuitive platform for building applications they way YOU want to.

This is, really, a fundamental change. Out of the box software was very feature-driven in the past. Now, we want to give businesses tools to easily and quickly morph a blank canvas into a masterpiece of automation and information for their users.

I was reminded of this vision by a great example of how Sugar can be used for virtually anything. Barrett Powell uses Sugar to manage his Real Estate business – not his sales agents or contact center reps. Powell has flexed the Sugar platform to meet his unique processes, and integrated data and features from other systems, creating a very specialized deployment of Sugar that fits his needs perfectly.

For some users, straight SFA features will be perfect. For others, taking the tools we provide and quickly creating a new interaction platform is what makes sense. The best part is that regardless of the project – Sugar offers real value and benefits for the most simple, to the most sophisticated application deployment.

Note – for co-founder Clint Oram’s take on our awesome year in 2010 – read below this post.

One of the great things about being with a company for more than half of its existence – you get to experience the growth in such a profound way. When I first came to SugarCRM, we were an upstart company with a vision – and making bets that people wanted to make the open choice for their CRM and their IT future in general.

Man, has it paid off. We closed 2010 with another record year in terms of billings, and the company has proven that a business model dedicated to providing open, flexible solutions can be a winner – as the company turned cash flow positive in the year.

Below are the details of the great year – grabbed from a press announcement we released today. I am happiest about the amazing customer momentum – the 50%+ billings growth is just icing on the cake. Really, our amazing community of developers, customers and partners makes this success happen every day – we couldn’t do it without you – THANK YOU.

The company increased total billings 56 percent in the quarter versus the year ago quarter, and saw a 13 percent growth in total billings versus the third quarter of 2010. For the fiscal year, billings increased 52 percent compared to fiscal 2009. In addition, the company turned cash flow positive in 2010, capping off a milestone year of growth in all areas.

“Simply put, 2010 was an amazing year for SugarCRM and its partners,” said Larry Augustin, chief executive officer of SugarCRM. “Our record growth is clear proof that organizations of all shapes and sizes are tired of proprietary, restrictive CRM solutions and are now demanding flexible, intuitive and open solutions delivered via a trusted source.”

Partner Momentum Fuels Growth

SugarCRM’s record growth is due in large part to its expansive channel sales network. In 2010, SugarCRM added more than 100 new channel and consulting partners, including leading firms like AmziQSource, Bezier, BTM Solutions, Capgemini, CRM International, CRMADDON Factory, OpusVL, and Walpole.

In addition, SugarCRM Gold Partner Levementum delivered more than $1 million in annual billings to SugarCRM in 2010. “Our success with Sugar is a true partnership. Working together globally, SugarCRM and Levementum provide powerful, flexible, open solutions for our customers,” said Doug Guilbeau, managing director at Levementum. “Levementum and SugarCRM are dedicated to helping customers successfully implement both traditional and inventive approaches to relationship management.”

Continued Customer Momentum

SugarCRM’s impressive growth in 2010 was highlighted by continued record adoption of Sugar solutions by leading companies around the world. SugarCRM added nearly 600 customers in the fourth quarter, and more than 2,200 new customers in 2010. These new customer wins include engagements with leading organizations like All-Guard Alarm Systems, Inc.; BioExpress; Brugg Kabel AG; DotLoop; Douglas Pharmaceuticals Ltd.; GEEP (Global Electric Electronic Processing); Griffin Chapman; GSH Group; Mintec Inc.; Monarch HealthCare; Solara Medical Supplies; Verticality; and Wanger Investment Management, Inc.

“We chose SugarCRM because it is a great tool to allow our company to collaborate and share information worldwide,” said Bev Brisebois, SugarCRM administrator at GEEP Global. “From an IT perspective, SugarCRM is not only easy to manage but also easy to customize. Sugar provides numerous resources for assisting and training users and provides convenience by offering a mobile version for those travelling employees. Sugar 6 is a simple and seamless transition from any CRM.”

Sugar 6 Makes CRM Simple

The company’s record 2010 was highlighted by the release of Sugar 6, a milestone release for SugarCRM. Sugar 6 is winning rave reviews from customers and technology observers for its industry-leading user experience, social CRM capabilities and user-friendly customization and personalization tools.

In addition, SugarCRM also expanded its leadership position in mobile CRM with the release of Sugar Mobile for iPhone. The first of a series of native applications for mobile devices, Sugar Mobile raises the bar for user experience, ease of use and robust features in a mobile CRM offering.

Implementing a CRM system will turn your sales organization into a smooth-running sales machine, jump start your marketing campaigns and help you drive down your customer support backlog.  But achieving CRM success takes organizational focus and an understanding of what to expect while putting your company on the path to that success.

We’ve covered previously the first three steps in the CRM Adoption Curve. The first step in your CRM journey is to recognize the chaos and lack of visibility that happens in your business when you don’t invest in CRM processes and tools.  The second step is all about centralizing your customer information into one system and defining repeatable processes for interacting with your customers.  The third step is where you really start getting leverage from automated customer processes and better collaboration across your different customer-facing teams.CRM Adoption Curve

The fourth, and not-so-final, stage is the “Optimized Stage”.  I say “not-so-final” because this stage is all about continuous process improvement.  This is the ultimate goal of a customer-centric company. You now have a dedicated team focused on continuous CRM improvement which is driving marked growth in the company.

Your customer processes are now highly efficient and set you apart from your competition in a unique way.  Your teams understand how to quickly adjust the way they communicate with customers and work with each other. The systems required by your CRM professionals are fully integrated for both data and process.  Management not only has visibility into the current efforts, but can predict future success based on the accuracy and consistency of the data. Your CRM solution is agile and able to easily meet the evolving business needs.

Achieving the “Optimized Stage” usually requires at least one year of continuous process refinement from when a company first adopts SugarCRM at Stage 2, the Managed Stage.  Again, your local SugarCRM implementation partners can help you chart a path to the “Optimized Stage”.

I hope this gives you a good view of where you are starting from and where you are going with your CRM solution.  Remember, there is no good or bad place to be on this adoption curve.  Some very large companies are in the manual stage and some very small companies are in the optimized stage.  The more important questions are around how you organize your customer-facing activities to create more and happier customers.  In other words, how do you wrap these stages, this evolutionary process of managing your customers, around the needs of your customers?

And this is where SugarCRM and its partners can help you.  We will work with you on defining and planning a strategy to move you along this adoption curve so that your company can optimize its processes to drive the best differentiation possible in the market place.  In the next installment of this blog series, I will share with you some lessons I’ve learned on planning a CRM strategy.

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.