CRM Consultants!

Some CRM ideas to consider...

Understand who you are as a company, where you are going and the role your customers play
A big mistake that companies typically make when considering a customer relationship management system is not taking the time to think about and outline what their broad and specific customer-related business issues are before they make the purchase.

If all you're trying to do is get a better forecast out of your sales reps, just go use Excel. But if you're really trying to manage how a customer is first touched when he comes in as a prospect, how he responds when you ship the product, how you react when the customer visits your Web site or calls you for support then you're looking at a business process. True CRM starts by understanding how you're going to interact with that customer throughout the life of the relationship, not just the forecast this month.

And it's not just about your sales team,  top salespeople are going to be successful with or without a CRM system.  You have to look, not just at what the sales guys are doing with customer data but what the guys in accounting and service are doing with customer data.

Not all CRM products are capable of supporting the business processes of every company. So it's very important to understand how you want to approach and manage your customer relationships. And then you find a piece of software that can effectively give you that desired outcome or handle that business process.

Look for a CRM solution that fits your needs, not the other way around
Not long ago, CRM software was pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get. "Whatever was in the box, that was it.  Moreover, small- and medium-sized businesses were conditioned to believe that they had to change their business to fit the application and that customization was beyond their reach.

But today, growing small businesses can find customizable solutions that fit their needs (as opposed to the other way around), can grow with them and won't eat up all their cash.

It's important for companies to find the right CRM partner. "You want a company that's not just throwing you a product and saying, 'Hey, good luck with this,' but giving you the tools to make it successful."

Choose a CRM solution that's easy to use
This is one of the most important things when you're rolling out an application to your sales, marketing and services professionals. If the salespeople can't figure it out in five seconds, they give up.

But even software that's relatively simple often won't be used without the proper carrots and/or sticks. One stick that seems to work particularly well, at least for some users, is for management to withhold commissions until the salesperson has entered customer data into the system.

Make sure your CRM solution will keep your data safe
Many small businesses often don't think about all the critical customer data that sits on the typical salesperson's PC just waiting for someone with a floppy disk or USB drive to download it and walk away. So when considering a CRM solution, make sure you think about security and discuss any issues you may have with vendors.

Hire experts to help with implementation and training
We recommend that you bring in somebody to do the initial implementation. "We suggest this because small businesses are time strapped. It's not like they have an extra two hours a day to do the implementation and rollout. Having somebody come in to help you get through the process lets you do it in a one-, two-, or three-week time frame."

Set realistic goals and periodically measure your progress
Many small businesses, in their impatience to generate more sales, set unrealistic goals, starting with the amount of time it will take to install and roll out their new CRM software to the entire sales force, as well as other users.

"It all depends on how much of the software you're using. For very simple CRM it could be a month. For more complex CRM, including order management, Web site management, Web site hosting, it could be three months. There are three steps to implementing the software: One, what's my business process? Number two: How do I take that business process and implement the software? And then number three: How do I train my people to use this new software? This all takes some time.

Lastly, make sure you have a way to measure success. Periodically check to see if you are meeting your pre-defined goals. And above all, remember, your CRM system is only as good as the information that's in it.

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