Editor’s note: CRM software has revolutionized business performance and equipped companies with tools for building a trustworthy and long-lasting customer relationships. Currently, the cloud solutions draw more attention and meet the requirements of any size companies. Nevertheless, the thorough strategy planning plays a key role in CRM implementation. By agency of the interview with Nick Bird, seasoned CRM expert and experienced business strategist, we’ll figure out the peculiarities of CRM and its practical usage. As the owner of Everywhere Business Tools, Nick will share with us his unique view of business platforms.
Within this interview, Nick dwells on the pros SaaS, role of social media in marketing processes and effectiveness of CRM for B2B companies. Apart from tips on choosing the platforms, he gives pieces of advice about the competent lead management.
1. What has inspired you to found your own company?
I was very much thrown in at the deep end when I was handed the project of introducing Dynamics to a part of the Public Sector in the UK. Before that my background was largely in the practice of sales and marketing rather than the tools. However, my attitude had always been client centric and so I understood the job that Dynamics was meant to do.
I think that this is the key – Dynamics, Salesforce, Sugar, ZOHO and all the other CRM software packages are tools to do a job. Where most implementations fail is not due to the software most of which is good, its because companies and their staff are not clear on what that job is. That is what inspired me to start my own business – the vision of delivering tools which really add value by working with clients to understand what they are trying to achieve and helping them get there. I happen to use ZOHO because my clients are small businesses but I would be just as happy with Dynamics, Salesforce, Sugar, Infusion Soft and the rest.
2. When was your first experience of using CRM software?
My first experience of using CRM software goes right back. In fact I designed a manual CRM system using carbonised one write systems back in the 80’s and wrote several systems for my own use in FoxPro and Access amongst other systems. I have also used RightNow. To be honest I suspect that all the software is reasonably sound although you do pay for what you get in underlying sophistication. There is a reason why Dynamics is more expensive than Capsule for example.
3. How can the cloud solution improve company’s performance?
For small businesses cloud based SaaS systems are always going to be attractive. Thats because cash flow is important in running them and they usually do not have a large Capex budget for starters. They are also unlikely to have the in house expertise and so the support that comes with SaaS is attractive. For larger organisations it is a bit more mixed. Here there are still advantages because the IT departments usually don’t want to support yet another system and there is a lot of mobile working. Again some of them may prefer Opex as apposed to capex costs. However, when you look at total cost of ownership it is a close run thing and there are some concerns in various Industries around data security – much over blown in my opinion but there you are.
4. What are the must-have points of successful sales operations?
The key ingredients of successful sales is discipline. Sales is full of pearls of wisdom passed on from each old pro to the juniors. One of these is Plan your work and work your Plan. The work your plan element is a must and a CRM solution helps you do that and track whether you are on or off plan. That means you can then do something about it.
5. What are the peculiar features of lead strategy?
There are two aspects to this question. Increasingly marketing is moving away from mass campaigns such as eshots and towards more permission based marketing. This is a much more complex processes involving multiple channels of communication such as social media, blogs, email and more. The structure of campaigns have also become more complex which requires automation (automatically acting on specific responses.) Systems like Infusion Soft have some particularly impressive kit in that respect but at a price. Most other systems also offer similar functionality.
The other aspect which most CRM systems can offer is to understand which of your lead generating activities is actually working. They could also analyse the ROI on lead generation because they cover but only the investment made in marketing but the sales delivery in sales. However ROI is quite a sophisticated area for most businesses as it doesn’t just see whether the costs of the activity where covered but also which activity is most efficient and fastest at giving a return.
6. How can companies convert more end customers with social networks and email campaigns?
In talking to other businesses there is still a lot of confusion over this. Everyone feels that social media is underused but few know how to use it effectively. Of course there are businesses that can and do make a great business by converting enquiries from facebook but these tend to be B2C rather than B2B.
Increasingly CRM systems are helping with the rise in Social CRM. An aligned area here is Customer Experience Management or CXM which is becoming more well understood but still far from being fully adopted in the UK at least.
7. Can B2B companies advance their business with CRM software? How?
In my opinion it goes a bit deeper than this. CRM is often thought of as a piece of software but actually it is a process and attitude to doing business- developing the value of client relationships. A company is actually defined not by its products or what its sales figures are but the life time value of the clients it already has and those that it is trying to recruit. That depends on the value that they can add to each individual client by knowing and understanding who they are, communicating to learn from them what they want and then give it to them. A CRM system is an invaluable tool in helping companies do that BUT it is only a tool.
8. How to choose the appropriate CRM software?
There are two main issues with roll out. First people buy CRM Software as a magic bullet to solving issues such as falling client retention or because they feel they should have one because everyone else has. If you start there you are doomed to failure – which is why something like 70% of implementations aren’t a full success and nearly half a complete failure. You need to start with understanding the job you want the CRM software to do – i.e. get your processes fixed first before you decide to introduce a tool. That should then drive the tool you select and the way you specify the services.
The second which is a huge piece is getting senior level sponsorship and having an effective internal project team. Without that the project will falter and in the end fail.
My advice would also be to focus on one area of the business where you can easily fix the processes and introduce the right tools to ensure success. Do this properly and then move on rather than going big bang.
9. Could you offer a short-list of sources that will enlarge the CRM knowledge of our readers?
For me the leaders in this area are Peppers and Rogers and they have written several excellent books on the subject of CRM as a process. I think people should also start to look out for any books on Customer Experience Management which is an area that has exploded in the US and is about to in the UK.
We’d like to thank Nick for his useful and explicit answers, as well as practical pieces of advice. His extraordinary insights on the cloud solutions and business development, as well as tools for advancing sales and marketing processes, will assist our readers in their CRM strategy planning.
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