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Two approaches to building a CRM system

How to reconcile the sales and marketing views?

There are two main ways of approaching the selection of a CRM software.

As I pointed out in a previous post ( CRM 2.0: Why the Challenge is mostly in adoption ), most folks have traditionally started with the “marketing” side of the sales-marketing continuum. Which is, build a great campaign management piece, with all the bells and whistles: segmentation and targeting, e-mail engine integration, opt-in and opt-out handling, drip-marketing, lead-nurturing and all the shebang.

Okay, so, after all this, if sales still dutifully “auto-forward to trash” all the leads, that’s THEIR problem. After all, we have 27  “fields” in the contact screen, and 18 in the account. All doing their job in ensuring that we really “know the customer”.
Like hell they are and like hell we do!

Who puts in the data? It’s sales. All those contact records with 27 fields and account records with 18 (I am making up these numbers, but you get the point).. all those fields’ data have to be entered by sales guys. And, they also have to keep them updated, in addition to entering sales leads that they get through their efforts and keeping them updated as well.

Life’s not fair if you are a sales guy. There is this blasted variable salary and weekly review with bosses and on top of it, “you want me to fill up all those records”.

And, since the CRM software was written with the primary goal of satisfying marketing, it will be high on reports and analytics but, low on usability and triggers and alerts which can make it useful to the sales people.

In a nutshell, the sales view of a CRM software is: “It is a software where I fill in all the customer data just so that marketing can look good; prepare those cool reports with colourful charts (and coloured data!).” In one word, trouble!

The other major way of approaching this is to take the sales view and build a Funnel Management System or a Sales Force Automation. Most of the contact management piece is common to both approaches.

The focus here is on workflows, sales reports, funnels and performance vs targets and so on. While this sounds great from the sales point of view, even this suffers from problems. For one, the data entry work for the salesmen is not any less. For another, since the focus is  lower in the funnel, the organization has less long term view as a result and marketing’s ability to make sense of the present so that they can build the future prospects list is undermined.

My experience of more than 15 years of designing, customizing and using (and abusing!) various CRM softwares have convinced me that a good CRM software implementation needs to have the following:
1. Have only those “profile fields” that you will seriously, seriously use for “active profiling” of your contacts and accounts.
By “active profiling” I mean, a profile that will drive action on your part.  It is no use to know someone’s birthday, if you do not remember to greet her on her birthday. . Similarly, what good is knowing that someone attended a seminar on Topic ABC, if you did not have any follow up action planned, either by marketing or by sales?
2. Ensure that primary data-entry is automated.
3. Ensure that  profile triggers action and the action and results are visible to sales people.
4. Drastically cut down on profile fields count; most, you will realise were not necessary.
5. Make it possible to distinguish between “activity profiles” (profile built over time based on the interaction history) and “static profiles” (profiling done basis demographics, designations, stated interests and so on).
6. Have good analytics, forecasting and targeting capabilities. It is important that everyone can use the same tools and for that, the tools themselves must be user-friendly.
7. Every CRM software is different- not just in workflows and capabilities, but also in fundamentals of how they view the marketplace; so, when you implement yours, ensure that the sales and marketing teams get training in not only using the software, but also in the core principles of CRM and how you are planning to use this software to enhance productivity across the sales and marketing functions.

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3 thoughts on “Two approaches to building a CRM system

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