Friday, April 29, 2011


Here are some CRM FAQ's from CRM Landmark

Q:  What's the difference between CRM and SFA?

A:  SFA (Sales Force Automation) solutions are almost entirely focused on sales-related objectives, activities, automation and reporting. SFA software products typically facilitate lead management, account management, contact management, activity management, opportunity management and forecasting. CRM is much broader and typically facilitates all customer facing operations. From a software perspective, CRM normally implies the three integrated software modules of sales force automation, marketing management and customer support.

Q:  It seems like every software vendor is claiming to be a "CRM" software vendor - yet many of them have little in common. How do I know if they really offer CRM solutions or I'm just reading marketing hype?

A:  This confusion dates back to the year the term "CRM" was coined (1992). Many software manufacturers use the CRM industry term in order to ride the CRM wave or otherwise take advantage of a significant market movement. Most analyst and pundits agree that CRM software includes the three integrated modules of sales force automation (SFA), marketing and customer support. If a software vendor offers these three functions in an integrated fashion, they are likely a genuine CRM provider.

Q:  What the difference between SaaS, BPO, an ASP, and an MSP?

A:  SaaS is of course software as a service and is characterized by a subscription pricing model, hosted delivery and a thin web client accessing a common software application operated on either a multi-tenant or single-tenant delivery platform. Reference the Glossary page on this web site for a more detailed definition.
An ASP is an Application Service Provider which generally manages the deployment of various types (thin client, fat client, client/server, etc) of applications. ASP's existed prior to SaaS and have largely been replaced by SaaS solutions, however, some remain. Some ASP's claim to be SaaS providers, however, abuse the term by hosting any application that can be accessed over the Internet. Oracle's On-Demand ERP software and Workday HR software are examples of ASP solutions.

BPO is Business Process Outsourcing and typically focuses on a single or few line of business processes such as billing (invoicing), procurement, payroll and claims processing. ADP is a classic example of BPO.
A MSP is a Managed Services Provider and provides agreed upon services, often technical services, on behalf of its customer. Examples may include managed security services, outsourced e-mail or groupware functions or even managing an entire help desk or call center.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The CRM Journey: Choosing and Implementing CRM

Like most business strategies, CRM is a journey and not a destination. For this journey to be successful, it requires unwavering executive sponsorship, solid objectives backed with key performance indicators, streamlining of multi-disciplinary business processes, constant measurement with trend reviews and continuous process improvement. CRM does not end with a software implementation go-live, and in fact, the go-live is actually the start of the CRM strategy achievement.

Before setting out on the CRM journey, today’s C-level executive or manager must ask him or herself why. Why are we doing this and what do we hope to accomplish? The journey must begin with clearly defined goals and expectations. Common goals often begin in the realm to identify and improve company business operations or customer facing processes, compare them to the business model and then integrate the entire system into something more automated, streamlined, responsive and productive. These types of grand goals are great starting point, however, must be more specifically defined in order to apply measurement and analysis.

While there are a myriad of alternative starting points, step one is often to look at the company itself. How operations were intended to run, how they are being run, what are the strengths, weaknesses, needs, goals and, most importantly – the personnel (who are they, what do they bring to the table, what would make them more productive?)

Step two is to do some research into CRM software vendors and solution providers. Software manufacturers offer varied solutions in terms of industry focus, market focus, geographic representation as well as major differences in features sets, flexibility and ease of use. If dealing with Value Added Resellers (VARS), find out who provides what in your area and then focus on how they deliver their solutions. Find one to three that offer the type of CRM solution you may be seeking and then begin exploration meetings which focus on implementation approaches, training curriculum's and methods to achieve maximum software utilization. Some VARS will offer very well planned and comprehensive solutions. Others may offer cafeteria type solutions and some will offer unique specializations such as CRM software as a service (SAAS) or sometimes referred to as a “hosted” solution where the provider remotely supplies the hardware and software and you use it via the internet. A few meetings should be expected with each before you find enough of a comfort zone to decide whom you will utilize. I personally find the VARS reputation to be the greatest tell-tale of predicted performance.

A significant part of your CRM decision may involve the state of your existing network. Some CRM solutions may require upgrades up to and including completely new servers and related hardware. If you are unwilling or unable to incur these type of investments, make sure the CRM solution can work within the limits of your current IT infrastructure. Much will depend on how robust a CRM solution you company can benefit from. If you have a website that includes customer information gathering, lead generation or e-commerce components, system integration will have to be included.

Step three starts once a provider or implementation advisor is selected. You should expect representatives from your new “partner” to meet with everyone in your company except the janitor. If you have an IT staff, most of their time will be taken for this project for the duration of the engagement. The time for these initial meetings will vary depending upon your corporate structure. For instance, the sales manager will spend as much time as is needed to explain, in detail, all of the processes his or her staff goes through. Knowledge workers and data processors will also spend a good amount of time in this stage explaining how things are done. Accounting will be involved more in the manner of reports and the form of the reports they need for the accounting system. This is a very hands-on part of the CRM journey.

Step four will be the actual configuration and integration of the CRM solution with your network. Implementation tasks will be staff facing and significantly detract from staff’s normal job activities throughout the project. Many technical tasks such as data conversion, system integration and testing can be handled in off hours or over weekends. Testing will be ongoing but should not impact daily work. However, there are bound to be kinks in the system that will only be made apparent through real time use.

Step five is training. This is something that should start before the actual integration. Obviously the real time training cannot begin until the system is configured. However, for the sake of productivity, everyone involved should be trained on the basics of the CRM solution as early and as thoroughly as possible. A major aspect of this live state training is employee feedback. This will aid the provider in making whatever final adjustments are needed in order to make the solution as responsive as possible.

The last step is using the configured system in a production environment. This step by nature is where you realize the benefits of all of the hard work and effort that goes into a quality CRM project. No business is static, nor does any business operate in a vacuum. Because of this adjustments will always be needed for the CRM solution. Expect it and make sure any solution you choose is flexible and will accommodate business process changes. In addition, this is where your relationship with the CRM solution provider is of particular importance. Prompt feedback and adjustments can be a key element to your continued growth. That and the ability to work with the provider to get the support needed to make sure your employees are using the CRM system to its fullest capacity.

Thanks to the CRM guy for this article

Monday, April 25, 2011

The #1 Killer of Meetings (And What You Can Do About It)

Aricle by Peter Bregman
Harvard Business Review

"That was dreadful. Not only was I bored, everyone else was bored too. Disengaged. I'm terrible at facilitating these kinds of meetings. But they're so important. I've got to get better at it. I need to find a better way."

I wrote that in a journal entry about seven years ago. I still remember the meeting that finally drove me to change how I run meetings. There were about 10 people involved — the CEO and his direct reports — and we met for two days offsite, in a hotel, so we wouldn't be distracted. The goal was to discuss and agree on our plans for the next year. A strategy offsite.

I had prepared meticulously. I met one on one with each person on the team and collected their thoughts about the strategy of the company and what might get in the way of its successful execution. Using their input, I designed the flow of the two days and asked each person to prepare a PowerPoint presentation of the strategy for their area.

The result? When each person stood up to present his strategy, everyone else did one of two things: tune out or poke holes.

Most presentations elicit those reactions because most presentations are polished and thorough and designed to satisfy their audience, as well as to build confidence that the speaker knows what he's talking about. People tune out because nothing is required of them. Or they poke holes because, if they don't tune out, it's the most interesting thing to do when someone is trying to prove there are no holes.

So over the following seven years, I experimented with designing offsites. I did team-building activities, I stayed at the front of the room throughout the meeting, I took myself out of the meeting completely, I taught skills critical to the meeting like communication and team dynamics, I had the CEO run the meeting, I took the CEO out of the meeting completely, and dozens of other tweaks.

Over time, I identified a single factor that makes the biggest difference between a great meeting and a poor one: PowerPoint. The best meetings don't go near it.
PowerPoint presentations inevitably end up as monologues. They focus on answers, and everyone faces the screen. But meetings should be conversations. They should focus on questions, not answers, and people should face each other. I know it sounds crazy, but I've found that even the hum of the projector discourages dialogue.

Meetings are exorbitantly expensive when you add up the number of highly paid people in the room at the same time. They should be used as a time to engage deeply in issues, not to update each other on progress.

Try this. Instead of having executives prepare clear, well-thought-out (and boring) PowerPoint presentations about their own businesses, try having them lead informal discussions about their colleagues' businesses, using flip charts to collect important points, draw conclusions, and agree on action plans with owners and timelines.

Before the meeting, assign each executive an issue to explore that is outside his or her silo. A problem related to manufacturing might be assigned to the head of sales. A problem in marketing might be assigned to the head of operations. The executive's task is to investigate the issue and prepare some ideas and solutions for discussion.

This breaks people out of their silos (a challenge I wrote about in Solving Your Organization's Open-Faced Sandwich), conveys their collective ownership of the company, and keeps people from getting too prideful or too defensive about their particular business. In other words, it keeps the meeting real.

Save at least an hour or two at the end of the meeting to develop communication plans to disseminate the decisions. I'm always a little surprised at how many inconsistencies and disagreements are surfaced only when it comes time to commit to precisely what is going to be communicated.

There is, of course, a lot more that goes into a successful meeting. But following the "no PowerPoint rule" has the greatest impact because it keeps the energy where it should be: solving problems together.

I always get a little nervous when I run an offsite because, if it's run well, it's unpredictable. Ideas, insights, and solutions arise that never would have come up without the collaboration of the people in the room. Arguments can break out at any time. But what makes offsites unpredictable is also what makes them exciting and valuable.

Last week I spent two days running a strategy offsite with the CEO and leadership team of a large technology company that is experiencing the good-but-very-real problems that accompany rapid growth. Each executive led a conversation about an issue in a colleague's business. Each conversation ended with an agreed-upon action plan with owners and timelines. All this was accomplished without the background hum of a projector.

At the end of the meeting, after a two-hour conversation about communicating our decisions to the rest of the organization, the CFO — a true cynic when it comes to spending (wasting?) time in meetings — turned to me and said "that was a really useful way to spend a couple of days."

Coming from him? That's journal-worthy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

CRM is only half the story

Seventy percent of your sales force is selling your competitor's products. You shouldn't be surprised; after all, you don't pay them, you've never put them through an induction, they've never been trained, had no incentives (financial or otherwise), received no sales, marketing or other support from your company. You don't provide them with any product information, pricing, collateral, or sales tools. In fact, you have never actually communicated with them directly or managed their performance to give them a fighting chance of success.

Of course, the sales force I speak of doesn't actually work for you. They work for your indirect channel partners; the tens and hundreds of thousands of nameless, faceless people who sell products just like yours every day to precisely the kind of customers you're targeting. Just not for you.

A recent Forrester report concluded that on average, only 31 percent of a vendor's channel partner community is actively selling for them. Furthermore, 80-95 percent of total sales are generated by between 5 and 20 percent of the entire indirect channel base.

By now most companies of any size have invested heavily in a CRM strategy. Its objective is to target, acquire, nurture and retain customers and ultimately encourage them to renew their products or services. But the overwhelming majority of vendors address the market through indirect rather than direct sales channels.

This is especially the case in business to business sales to micro, small, and medium businesses. Most of the practical components of CRM are executed by people who are not a part of, and do not subscribe to, your CRM strategy.

So, what proactive steps are most companies taking to address this rather obvious oversight? Historically, they've done very little. Many executives take a rather jaundiced view of their non-affiliated partner network, considering it to be a fulfilment channel, fragmented, disloyal, expensive, and inefficient. But as we enter the third straight year with a weak economy and austerity measures have cut sales, marketing, and back-office resources to an all-time low, many business leaders are beginning to look for external solutions to bolster their revenues.

Indirect sales channels are unquestionably the cheapest method of increasing your market reach and augmenting your product offering with value-added services. And in practice they're the only viable way to address the micro to medium business market. But what could be the return? Consider this: If a vendor could increase its active partner-base from 31 percent to 41 percent while increasing revenue yield per partner organization by just 10 percent, the reward would be an impressive 46 percent compound revenue growth borne almost entirely out of increased demand generation and increased market share.

The real key to success is a sound strategy supported by systems, processes, people, and flawless execution. The mistake often made is to attempt to improvise or repurpose existing systems and processes. The capabilities of CRM systems are frequently misunderstood and incorrectly applied to Partner Relationship Management (PRM). The fact is that if you sell your products or services through an indirect sales channel, then CRM is only half of the story. A CRM strategy should nurture your customers through the customer lifecycle. But as I already pointed out, in an indirect sales and support model, the individuals and organizations most likely to interact with your customer on a daily basis will be members of your channel partner community, not your own staff.

At the very least, partners have as much impact on the success of your CRM strategy as you do. In my experience, their impact can be even greater. So does your company have a PRM strategy? What provision have you made for PRM methodologies and systems to ensure that you manage the far more complex relationship with your partners? Managing a partner lifecycle involves the same kind of nurturing as a CRM strategy provides for customers but with the added need for maximizing the partner's propensity to market, recommend, and sell for you. And that's not easy.

PRM systems were often sold to stand alone. The relationship management paradigm for the next decade is Integrated Partner and Customer Relationship Management. In this model social, CRM, and PRM strategies and systems will converge around a central enterprise data repository which may well be the existing CRM system. Businesses will seek to harness the power of customer and partner communities, encourage (but not control) collaboration throughout their partner ecosystem, and influence selling as well as buying behavior.
This will be achieved by developing unprecedented levels of intimacy with partners—upstream, peer-group, and downstream—and through them (as opposed to around them) to better understand the needs and buying behaviors of their customers.

As partner eco-systems become increasingly more important to vendors and as their diversity and complexity increases and vendors' ability to directly influence business buying and renewal decisions diminishes with CRM alone, PRM as both a strategy and a system will finally become as strategically important as CRM and ERP.

Thanks to Mike Morgan for the article

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mobility Stats

According to CIO Whitepapers Magazine, Mobile has hit the mainstream in the U.S. At the end of 2010, the number of mobile subscribers had grown to 280 million, reaching 87% of U.S. households. The availability of unlimited data and text messaging plans has pushed consumer mobile usage beyond voice to text messaging and Internet access. Last year U.S. consumers sent over 110.4 billion SMS messages per month. This number continues to grow. Meanwhile new devices like Apple's iPhone have made web browsing on the phone more prevalent and improved the app store experience to create a better market for mobile applications.

It's always a good time to look at your business and discover how to incorporate mobility to increase revenue, efficiency and how to stay ahead of your competition.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sales Tip: How to Build a Picture With Your Customer

There’s one thing I know–if your customer can’t picture themselves with the product you’re selling, you won’t sell the product to that customer. But how do you you build a picture with your customer so that they envision themselves using the product you’re selling? There are several different ways to help them see the big picture. If possible, allow them to try the product, or to sample it. If you’re going door to door selling knives, be sure to let the customer try the knives and compare them to their own cutlery. Why? This allows them to see themselves using the product every day. However, it’s not always possible to give the customer the opportunity to try out what you’re selling. When this is the case, more than anything else you need confidence. This doesn’t mean that you shove what you’re selling in the customer’s face. Let the words you say paint a picture for your customer so that they can see that what you’re selling is what they need.
If you don’t believe in what you’re going around selling people, they’ll be able to tell. So try asking yourself why you would buy what you’re selling. Think of all the different reasons, and then figure out why this particular customer would want to buy what you’re selling. By the two of you figuring out together why the customer needs your product, you’ll not only find that the customer will want to buy what you’re selling, but you’ll feel great selling it to them, and not just because of your commission. You’ll know that you helped make their life just a little easier, a little more convenient, and maybe a little more fun.
The point is this—once they’ve got the picture, you’ve got the sale. Just work with the customer to help them see why they need the product.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Top 10 Attributes to CRM Implementation success

The CRM GUY recently completed a CRM Implementation and here are the top 10 factors that attributed to the implementations success:
  1. The most important factor for the successful implementation of a CRM solution is the understanding of the business itself and specifically how the business plans to interact and satisfy customers. CRM is not a software purchase. CRM is not an IT (Information Technology) application. CRM is a business strategy that uses IT and a Business Practice Solution as an enabler and driver to satisfy customers and grow customer relationships.
  2. Make a plan and follow it. The plan should be clear, complete and backed with disciplined processes including work-leveled resource scheduling, work breakdown structures, critical path identification, real-time visibility, constant measurement and deviation analysis. Know going in what is being done and when. Stick to time frames and deadlines by diligently denying scope creep. The CRM strategy and implementation plan is every bit as important as the creation of the original business plan and must be treated as such.
  3. Assemble a CRM implementation with the right members, not the available members. Recognize that the ‘right’ members are in constant demand and will be the least available. Nonetheless, they are essential to this project and ultimately achieving the CRM vision.
  4. To maximize CRM implementation success, minimize disruption to the current business practices as much as possible. Plan the implementation in phases, achieve a higher number of smaller successes and shorten the time frame of the implementation. Show results as soon as possible. Few things will insure a successful implementation as quick results.
  5. Get customer input. While it may not be necessary to actually get direct input from customers in the form of a survey or other outreach program, it is a good idea to leverage the comments, complaints and recommendations from clients, and especially those people or businesses that are no longer clients, to help formulate redesign or process improvement areas that your CRM solution will address.
  6. It is imperative to choose the right provider and form of implementation. Having a software manufacturer that has taken the time to understand your business or a solution partner that knows your business and can deliver what you truly need, within the cost parameters that suit your growth model can make or break the implementation. Contract only with veteran providers that really know the intricacies CRM and have a strong track record with companies that are similar to yours. Seasoned CRM consultants will bring decades of lessons learned that will accelerate implementation progress, avoid pitfalls and ultimately achieve the business objectives.
  7. Gain early and broad stakeholder support. All staff must “buy into” the program. They must understand exactly how it will work, improve the company’s competitive position and benefit them personally. This is an early step in the change management process and will also help in each of the implementation phases in cutting down on wasted time, thereby increasing the efficacy of the implementation.
  8. Be a realist when it comes to finances and total cost of ownership (TCO). While software as a service (SaaS) implementations generally cost less, many costs apply whether the software is hosted or installed on site. Make sure that the cost of implementation is accurately forecasted, budgeted and within corporate means. Recognize that during the implementation the CRM software cost will likely represent about one-third to one-half of the implementation costs and that post implementation recurring costs will include the soft costs of user training, support and software management.
  9. Make sure that your knowledge workers advance from data entry to true information utilization. Data should be accessible to the parties involved in as ubiquitous a manner as possible. Also, verify and test the data is secured from those who should not have access.
  10. Recognize CRM success is a journey. Continual training, upgrades, new releases, new methods to leverage information and the like will present constant opportunities to evolve the CRM strategy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

13 Things You Must Do Every Week As A Startup CEO

Being the CEO of a startup is a hard and complex job.  Here’s my quick list of the 13 things every startup CEO should make sure to do each week:
  1. Remember your One Thing.  Your startup can only do one thing well at a time. Know Your One Thing.  Write it on the wall.  Repeat it every day.  Put it at the top of every regular company-wide communication.  Don’t let anything distract you and your team from it.
  2. Remember that you’re only as good as The Team around you.  Spend time cultivating your team.  Bring in people who are better at their jobs than you could ever be.  Motivate them and drive them to do things they never thought they could do.  Give them freedom to roam and discover while guiding them towards the One Thing.  Treat your co-workers like family.   Startups can be a grind.  Getting your team to love being part of your company is critical to success.  A startup is not just a place to work, it’s a way of life.  As CEO, your job is not to do everyone else’s job.  Your job is to help everyone else do their jobs better.  Also make sure to give regular feedback to your executives on your expectations for them and areas where you need them to improve.
  3. Set the Tone.  Everyone — your co-workers, your customers, your partners, your investors, the press, your Twitter and Facebook followers — takes their cues from you.  Does your company value Speed?  Analytics?  Innovation?  Customer Service?  Ultimately your company culture will largely reflect how you function as CEO.  So, don’t be a rude jerk.  Walk the walk and personally act the way you want people to think about when they think about your company.  It’s easy to get this wrong.  If you run around like a chicken with its head cut off, your company will too.  If you forget to smile, your company will too.  If you lack patience, your company will too.  If you don’t say please and thank you, neither will your company.  The company is bigger than any one individual but it reflects the personalities and work habits of its employees, and you’re the leader.
  4. Spend at least 75% of your personal time on your Product.  Your company is only as good as its product.  Put your stamp on it.  Insist that it be excellent.  Dig in and get your hands dirty and manage features and user benefits.  Where I come from the CEO must be the Chief Product Officer.  As CEO you should feel responsible for every pixel on the screen.  I know that may seem like overkill but your product is the user-facing output of all your hard work and its every function should reflect your goals and objectives.
  5. Run the Numbers.  I’m talking less budget and cash flow here and more key metrics.  Send a weekly email to your team summarizing all the key data that drives your business.  Write this email yourself.  Writing the email will force you to dig in and analyze the data.  Own the data.  Share the data.  Make it your job to make sure that everyone in the company is focused on the numbers that really drive your business.  Boil it down to at most 3 to 5 metrics that really matter.  
  6. Exercise.  I can’t stress enough the importance of this.  Make yourself go to the gym at least 4 days per week, preferably 5 or 6.  Working out gives you the energy and stamina to solve complex problems.  Being CEO is incredibly mentally challenging.  Use the gym as a way to stay fresh and to clear your head.  If you don’t do this already, I promise you you’ll be shocked at how much easier life gets when you are regularly working out.  Step away from the keyboard and enter the gym!
  7. Ask for Feedback.  Guess what?  You’re not as smart as you think you are.  And you will make mistakes.  Ask your employees, customers, partners, etc. for regular feedback.  Make sure you have at least 1 executive on your team who can give you honest feedback about your own performance.  Make sure you have at least 1 outside board member or close advisor who can give you regular input on corporate development issues (e.g. fundraising, board management).
  8. Get Out of the Office.  It’s all too easy to manage from behind the keyboard and just live around your email inbox.  Get out of the office and talk to real customers, partners, suppliers, bloggers, press, etc.  Listen to what they have to say and take it to heart.  Don’t just feed them the vision.  Stop and listen to the reality.
  9. Blog, Tweet, Read, & Participate in CEO forums.  Writing stuff like this is therapeutic.  Share your lessons learned, pain points, and your tips and tricks.  Don’t be afraid to hang it all out there and get feedback from your virtual network.  Read hacker news to keep up on what other startup CEOs and tech geeks are sharing.  Leverage your investors’ networks to get advice and input from other CEO’s who are in similar situations. 
  10. Manage Cash.  Cash is your lifeblood.  You must know at all times how much cash you have left, how long it can last you, and what the impact of decisions you make will have on your cash position.  And don’t forget to raise more money long before you need it!

  11. Act Like an Investor.  At the end of each week, ask yourself the following question:  Did our actions this past week increase value?  What was the ROI on your time spent this past week?  If you go 2 weeks in a row or 2 weeks in a month without a positive ROI on your time spent, you’re clearly doing the wrong things.
  12. Have fun.  This stuff is too hard and takes too much energy to not enjoy it.  Make sure to have fun every single day.  Even the tough days need to have some joy in them.  If you’re not having fun, you’re doing the wrong things.  One of my favorite sayings is, “mature, but don’t grow up.”
  13. Love.  Love your company.  Love your co-workers.  Love your investors.  Love your partners.  Love your suppliers.  And most importantly, love the people you come home to — the people whose support makes it possible for you to get up and do it again each day.   
Do follow Sprouter? We found Jason Goldberg there! He is the CEO of and the author of this article.

Monday, April 11, 2011

21 Ideas for a Successful Career in Sales

Are you suited up, trained and ready to get out there and win?

Success in this world is fundamentally a matter of selling, of using its principles whether in business, society, or politics, and applying them properly and effectively.

During my workshops and seminars I am regularly being asked for my opinion on what is needed to be successful in sales. Here is a short list of things that every salesperson needs to do regularly, day-by-day, week-by-week, to ensure the continuous success in sales.
  1. Never ever stop learning
  2. Stay positive
  3. Take time off
  4. Stay in control of your emotions
  5. Work with decision makers exclusively
  6. Set your selling quota
  7. Stay committed
  8. Put the rubber on the road, not on the carpet
  9. Stick to the system
  10. Watch your language, appearance, and behavior
  11. Get organized
  12. Set small goals
  13. Prepare a “to do” list each day
  14. Cultivate contacts
  15. Contact three past buyers a day
  16. Contact three prospects a day
  17. Become the number one communicator in your office
  18. Increase your personal association with top performers
  19. Know the nuts and bolts of the business
  20. Improve your attitude to yourself, your company, and its products
  21. Ask yourself, “Is this what you want?”
Let me ask you again – are you suited up, trained and ready to get out there and win?

Thanks to Alen Majer for this article and his wisdom

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Benefits of CRM

CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, as a technology solution and application is not simply a product to be purchased with associated benefits enjoyed. CRM, in this light, is a business system that integrates and enhances a customer centric business plan of a given organization. A precursor to gaining a quality CRM application is the complete understanding of HOW the organization operates and interacts with customers. Most businesses have a clear picture of how they are supposed to run, but with a complete process review (the initial stage of any successful CRM implementation) often shows that the “what is” is separated from the “what was intended.” In many instances, this helps companies realign themselves or see better ways of accomplishing goals. Either way, productivity increases and management gets a better view of the actual corporate operations and a 360 degree view of the customer relationship.

The second affect of a quality CRM application is realized as a result of the automation of each business process; creating a series of benefits, which include the integration of systems that are immune from system deviation. The workflow processes are all dependant upon earlier stage input in order to function correctly. This makes sure that all activities add value, each process is complete, necessary steps are not skipped and the end result is consistently accomplished. For instance, in the case of a customer request for information – the request itself starts a CRM process, which must result in an action (in this case an acknowledgement and response). This action can then escalate to a supervisor based on a subsequent or downstream stimulus (such as if no response is given within a pre-designated time.)  As this type of process can occur in an automated and measurable fashion, the customer request is not ignored, or if ignored can continue up the supervisory chain until action is taken. In the case of a sales inquiry, appropriate notices and commands would go to appropriate functionaries in the proper departments. The bottom line in this instance is that nothing started can end without a defined resolution. All sales inquiries are responded to and sales managers are involved automatically. If an existing customer (i.e. one of a stand-alone electric generator company) places an order for a part, or needs their work redone, not only is the appropriate sales representative notified, but his or her supervisor, the parts manager, the permit department, and the accounting department are all notified and the appropriate forms and approvals generated. Everyone who is supposed to be involved in whatever process is required becomes notified and, held responsible for their own actions and contribution to the process. If any process member fails to do their job, the system stops and the appropriate executive is alerted with relevant information.

Simply put, a company using a quality CRM solution has clearly defined workflow processes and message consistency. It has defined business rules, key metrics and customer value drivers. These benefits significantly improve productivity and, with the CRM solution’s reporting capabilities, provide real-time visibility across the process lifecycles.

Everyone involved, from the customer to the CEO, gains from a shared understanding of what their roles are, what is expected of them, what they can expect from the business and how it will all be accomplished. This results in increased customer retention through higher customer satisfaction levels, increased efficiencies through enhanced operation analysis, lower employee turnover from better defined responsibilities and job satisfaction, and lowered operating costs as the need for support staff is lowered and operating redundancies are eliminated.

Thanks to the CRM Guy for this article

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Four Major Steps in Sales

By definition, a sale is the act of meeting prospective buyers and providing them with a product or service in return for money or other agreed upon compensation. A sale is an act of completion of a commercial activity. The “deal is closed”, means the customer has consented to the proposed product or service by making full or partial payment (as in the case of installments) to the seller.
Selling is therefore a process in which you need to follow certain steps, one at a time, to reach your final goal – the sale itself. Your sales process will also depend on your efforts invested in research and understanding your customer base, together with your energy and enthusiasm about your product.
Sometimes you can skip some steps if the customer is giving you signals to move further, faster. Otherwise, it solely depends on you and your readiness to be prepared before contacting the prospect.
If we simplify the whole sales process we can agree that there are four major steps in sales:
  1. opening/qualifying
  2. information gathering
  3. presentation of your proposal, and
  4. closing.
Opening phase is usually a result of a cold call to someone who has not yet heard of you or thought about working with you.

Information gathering
is a second step when sales person is asking customers what they do, how they do it, and why they do it that way. Then he/she ask how his company can help them do it better. Usually second step means getting the meeting or presentation opportunity.

is next step when sales person is giving the presentation based on the gathered information, and giving the recommendation or meaningful solution to solve their pains, issues, or needs.
When customer decides to buy that is a fourth step in sales process and the only step that actually counts –

Closing the deal.
This means they see the value in your solution and you assisted to buyer to make a decision based on information you provided.

When you don’t close the deal you did not completed your process. It is very similar to playing baseball when you get to the third base but never reach home and score; in sales this means you have gone through three steps but on the end you didn’t engaged buyer enough to see the value in your solution.

You didn’t address their needs that will trigger a buy to happen. You have wasted your time and your customer’s time, and there is hardly any chance of getting back to that customer to try to sell again.

Thanks to Alen Majer for this article

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Saying “No” Can Be Good for an Early Startup

By: The Grasshopper Group

In the grand scheme of the business world, a new startup is pretty insignificant. Without track records, profitability or guaranteed success, it’s easy for founders to adopt a submissive “who are we to know” approach. Yet in more situations than you may realize, saying “no” can be a profoundly good thing for early startups to do. Here are several ways for young companies to take a more assertive posture in day-to-day operations:

Rejecting Investors

If your startup is going to say “no” to anyone, it should probably be to an investor. While not all venture capitalists are automatically bad, investment capital has been the downfall of more than a few startups. Peter Ireland, author of The Smart Startup Guide, writes about how accepting investment erodes control – basically turning founders into slave-wage employees of the company they started. (This isn’t an exaggeration; one of the first things big-time venture capitalists do after investing is replace the CEO with someone they trust.)
The problem is that your objectives are not necessarily the same as the VC’s. Their goal, from the moment their money hits your bank account, is liquidation. Whether it’s a buyout or an IPO it makes little difference to them, so long as a sufficient ROI is achieved. Your goals of changing the world or building something incredible immediately take a backseat to the financial interests of most investors.

Changing Your Original Plan

What can be immensely harder than saying no to an investor is saying no to yourself. Entrepreneurs tend to be passionate, principled people with strong visions for what they’re trying to create. These are admirable traits, but taken too far, they are the enemy of startup success. Sticking to a plan at all costs is great for losing weight or getting into a top grad school, but deadly in the business world.
As venture capitalist Paul Graham explains, launching a successful startup is a lot like science, where you have to follow the path wherever it leads. The Googles and Facebooks of the world didn’t become world-changing businesses by religiously adhering to the first plan they came up with. Instead, they listened to what their users wanted and adjusted course when appropriate.

Ignoring Feedback from Non-Ideal Customers

In the early days of a startup, it’s tempting to take customer feedback (however inane or contradictory) as gospel. If a user wants it, surely you should comply and give it to them, right? Actually, that’s not always true. Before automatically granting the wishes of your users, it helps to consider the source.
Is the change in question something that many users are asking for? Something that intuitively makes sense and sparks an “ah-hah” moment as soon as you hear it? Or is it instead the half-baked theory of one or two users who don’t fit your ideal customer profile? Maybe the request is coming from someone who has soaked up all your free content for the last year and wasted your time on back-and-forth emails without ever buying. This probably isn’t the user segment that should be guiding your decisions.

Turning Down a Buyout

One of the toughest challenges any startup can face is rejecting a lucrative (but ultimately unsatisfactory) buyout offer. “It’s not about the money”, you might say – and you might even mean it. But saying that during the inspired, high-energy first few months is easier than keeping that stance when hundreds of thousands of dollars are offered later on.
Of course, there’s no one “right” answer here. Plenty of founders have accepted buyout offers and lived to tell about it (or even start new businesses with their loot.) But if the ultimate goal is taking your startup to the top, you’ll need an iron will to say no to an early-stage buyout.

Firing Lazy or Negligent Partners

Remember all those one-man startups that made it big in the last ten years? Neither do we. Successful startups don’t just happen to be run by teams – it’s actually an occupational requirement! The challenges, emotional ups and downs and the sheer volume of work to be done all necessitate more than one person running the show.
But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If one of your team members is lazy, negative or unproductive, trying to heroically overcome their damage is not the best policy. More likely, this person’s toxicity is dragging down the morale and performance of your entire team. A stern warning – or even an outright dismissal – could be the best decision going forward.

Saying “No” To Endless Contract Work

It’s common knowledge that startups can generate working capital by taking on contract work in the early months. A startup of programmers, for example, can take on programming jobs in addition to whatever they’re building as a company. It’s a great way to keep the bills paid and reduce dependence on outside investment.
Yet in business as in life, too much of a good thing is dangerous. Overindulged, the steady cash from freelance jobs can distract your team from the bigger objective. When this happens, conscious changes must be made to keep everyone focused – even if that means cutting the cord of contract work.