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Collaboration as a Keystone for your CRM Success Strategy

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

–Henry Ford, Industrialist and Innovator

Buzzwords abound in industry and their overuse can often cause us to become numb to the original intent and meaning of a phrase.  One such term that may suffer this fate is collaboration. This is unfortunate because—as Mr. Ford tells us—success flows naturally out of working together.  I’d like to explore some of the ways that collaboration can deliver this catalyst for your organization.

The genesis of a CRM strategy can come from a number of different sources.  Often, it’s the need for leaders to have visibility into the activities and efforts of their sales, service, or marketing teams.  While a critical and valid benefit of a CRM implementation, if this is the primary or even sole driver of the initiative, it’s many times the downfall of the project.

Fundamentally, approaching CRM from a perspective of “instrumentation of the business” fails to give the individual users back something of value for their effort and the usage of the platform becomes a task to complete rather than a tool to help advance the cause.  We can turn this around and make our people avid users of the platform and help them become more effective by approaching CRM as a collaborative tool that incorporates dividends for the users.

One way that CRM conveys this is through delivering situational awareness.  As mentioned, it’s necessary to provide reporting and analysis to business leaders, but pause to consider the value delivered by giving our peers lateral awareness of our activities as well.  In today’s business climate, the concept of matrix team models with overlay resources destroys the
traditional channels of communication around which businesses grew up.  Coworkers are often pushing in multiple directions at once with limited context and understanding of where their contributions deliver on the larger strategy or where they can contribute most effectively.  By surfacing more than just statistics about sales forecasts and instead showing a bigger picture of what we’re doing, it opens the door for richer interaction and teamwork.

To be specific, this isn’t simply yet another source of noise in our already randomized work environment.  Rather, it works to help us more effectively manage what’s being asked of us.  It
gives our people a means to request, offer, and deliver help in the appropriate context.  By context, I mean not just an understanding of what we’re talking about, but also the timing and medium of communication.  This lets us reach out via the most mutually agreeable means at a time that works.

Perhaps an example will help solidify this notion.

As a front line seller, one of the joys of my job is getting the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of industries and customers.  Unfortunately, this is also a challenge, since it’s difficult to be conversant across every business environment.  I have the benefit, however, of peers worldwide who have likely seen or done something similar to the problem I’m tackling.  In this case, let’s assume that I just left a meeting with my best customer, Fabrikam.  They’re interested in developing a new  and have asked for our help.  I’ve done a lot of things, but building a data center isn’t one of them (yet)!  A perfect opportunity to collaborate! But how? This is where it becomes important to consider the medium of collaboration. We have a multitude of ways I could solicit help. These include:

  • …sending a broadcast email and hope that the right person opens it and responds.  We know how this often works out.
  • … firing instant messages to random peers and asking for their thoughts, but they’re busy, too.
  • …pick up the phone and dial the boss and see if he knows anybody with relevant experience.

For many reasons, none of these gives me an optimal channel for this issue, though.  With the November 2011 Service Update, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 provides a new functionality that may be precisely the tool I need: Activity Feeds. Activity Feeds deliver the wide-reaching visibility of e-mail, but help us lift the message above the noise by publishing my request  in the context of the need.  In this case, I have the capability to direct the message to the right audience, whether it is specific to the customer, the sales opportunity, or perhaps even  my specific work group.  In this case, I’ll throw it up on the wall that’s filtered for others who work with Fabrikam.

Not only does this request show up in the appropriate  context, but it also gives our collaborators immediate access to deeper  information through the linked connections to both the Fabrikam account record  and the sales opportunity in question (highlighted in blue).

In this example, a veteran on the team spots my request and  reaches out with an offer of assistance in just a few minutes.  This has already made me more efficient.  I didn’t have to guess who to call or hope  that the right person finds the e-mail in time for me to get back to my  customer before my competitors.   While  this alone is great, my CRM platform continues to pay me dividends by also  short-circuiting the effort to follow through with Chet.

Historically, I would need to know Chet’s phone number or  office location.  Even in a more  contemporary environment with unified communications, I’d still need to look  him up in the directory.  Again, by  providing the tools within context, I’m just a click away from reaching out.

By simply hovering over his name within the activity, I can gauge  Chet’s availability and establish immediate contact via a number of channels,  such as email or, instant messaging.  In
this case, Chet asked me to give him a call and that option is available as  well.  In just minutes, I’m able to tap  critical information that could make the difference in this pursuit.  I think my customer might be surprised at how  quickly I get back to them!

Tactically, this makes life easier and provides a direct  conduit to solving problems and getting work done.  Considering this effort from a much higher  level, my CRM platform has done much more for me than just give me a place to  report on my activities or feed data to my leadership.  It has given me a long lever to make the most  of the skills and experience in the organization.  It has enabled success through enabling  collaboration in context, via the right medium.

In closing, I encourage you to think about the portfolio of  tools that you’re providing your teams and considering if you’re delivering  disparate tools or if you’re helping them realize productivity through a  comprehensive platform that delivers the right tools, in the right place, at  the right time.

Andy Engle

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technology Specialist

aengle@microsoft.com

 

Brand personality will lead to sales success & a bit of swagger!

We so often hear about how companies should drive brand awareness and differentiation via social media to pull ahead of their competition and win your purchase decision.  In this week’s blog, I would like to take this same concept and apply it to why sales teams are always in the land of mediocracy which limits their ability to compete.

Put yourself across the desk for a moment in your customer’s shoes.  They issue the dreaded RFP for your solution, you respond, then show up for that exciting finals day and what do they see?  Of course a dark blue suite, Prada glasses, a Rolex watch, shinny shoes & a big smile.  What your customers don’t see is how you as a person are any different than the next vendor following you in.

One paragraph in a recent article I ready about brand differentiation really struck a chord with me which is “What’s the point of going to market if you can’t stand for something? Most brands are like needy teenagers, desperately trying to blend in with the crowd. In turn, we care little about the companies we support and often make decisions based on who has the best deal-of-the-day since true differentiation is nonexistent.”

Challenge for you as an individual contributor or sales manager:  Focus on one thing that will become your personal brand with your externally facing customers as well as your colleagues and you will notice a change in your win rates as well as your yearend performance review scores!

Some ideas to get you started would be…I am the –

  1. Sharer or collaborator as community expert.
  2. Blogger.
  3. Case study creator.
  4. Local user group lead or event expert.
  5. Creative presenter.
  6. Social media expert.
  7. Master at my CRM system.
  8. Training  expert.
  9. Technical expert.
  10. Customer service darling.

Always remember that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and when doing so land your unique brand to separate yourself from your peers and your competition.

Watch for my next blog on “Stop wasting your time with CRM systems” – why do companies always get low user adoption?

– Tracy

Is your company already out of touch with social media?

It’s been said before but I am going to say it again…If your company has not hired or is in the process of hiring a social media manager you’re already out of touch!  That’s right, and if your sales, service and marketing teams CRM platform is not connected in  some way to a social strategy to listen, respond and collaborate with your supply chain and customers you are already losing market share.

Good news it’s not too late! This week’s blog is focused on lighting a small fire under your firm’s tail with focus on three simple things to take action on so you can get started –

  1. Take the time to develop a Social Media Manager Job Description that maps to your organizations goals then make the hire!  You may want to make that hire a woman based on a recent Techcrunch article on why women excel in social media! I will leave that one up for reader debate but tend to agree based on personal experiences.
  2. Establish your firms Social Media Policies  to prevent missteps by your staff.  Very important because rouge social media activities can create more harm than good.
  3. Outfit your frontline sellers with tools to succeed.  This goes well beyond just a CRM system and stale database.  SocialCRM will provide your users with key givebacks which will drive user adoption of your system.  Bottom line…if your CRM system does not give your users updated news feeds on companies you’re working with, key contact names to prospect to and response tools to take action against then your tool is out of date!  What’s the point of CRM if the tool does not enable your staff to have meaningful dialog and execution?  I will write more about this from a front line user’s perspective and what I think you should desire over the coming weeks.

Always remember that your organization should keep the mentality of user experience or as I say user givebacks as a priority to generate strong user adoption when deploying technology and policies.  If you do this then you will drive ultimate return on your investment.

Watch for my next blog on “Stop wasting your time with CRM systems” – why do companies always get low user adoption?

– Tracy

 

 

 

CRM Takes Another Step Forward with Mobile Dashboards!

“Dashboards on my iPad?” you ask.  Yep.

We are seeing considerable excitement within the CRM community about this latest innovation, and for good reasons:  1) Mobile Dashboards are useful, 2) Mobile Dashboards deliver great value to businesses, and 3) Mobile Dashboards will help Dynamics CRM partners meet customer needs and close business.

One of the great new capabilities delivered by Microsoft in Dynamics CRM 2011 was embedded dashboards. Now CWR Mobility has made those available on your mobile device – iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 6.5. Mobile Dashboards provide data visualization; high-level graphical views that turn CRM data into actionable information for mobile users. Dashboards by themselves are a powerful tool when used from PCs, but they really take that power to a whole new level when they become available on tablets and smartphones.

Mobile Dashboards Deliver Great Value to Businesses

Mobile Dashboards now enable a company’s mobile employees – such as those in field sales, field service, or field marketing — to track the things that really matter to them in their business role, from wherever they are, whenever, in real-time. This leads to a state of continually being on top of the things that matter most…being on top of their part of the business. When a customer-facing organization is better informed, cycle times are reduced, responsiveness is increased, and actions are better targeted. If you’re wondering how important this new capability is, just try showing it to a field sales rep and watch their reaction.

CWR Mobility mobile dashboards are easy, flexible and real-time. As an inherent feature of CWR Mobile CRM 2011, they are easy to access and can support any dashboard based on a native dashboard in Dynamics CRM 2011. In this initial release, version 5.0.1.0, CWR Mobile CRM 2011 dashboards are available when a user has mobile internet connectivity, and they can pull any of these online dashboards in real-time, so the user will always have an up to date view of information. Mobile dashboards are read-only in this release; in time, we envision mobile dashboards supporting interactive drilldown capabilities.

Mobile Dashboards Will Help Partners Meet Customer Needs and Close Business

Mobile Dashboards are also great news for Dynamics CRM partners, because they deliver great business value for companies and can really catch a customer’s imagination. As a Dynamics CRM Partner, mobile dashboards are a great new capability to add to your standard customer demos, and you should consider leading with them. Show your customer an example of a mobile dashboard that is specific to their business. This is easy to do since CWR Mobile CRM Mobile Dashboards support any Dynamics CRM 2011 native dashboard. Create a customer dashboard and then demo it to your customer on an iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows Phone 6.5 device. Again, CWR Mobile CRM 2011 makes this easy.

You can learn more about CWR Mobile CRM mobile dashboards here.  And you can add a free trial of mobile dashboards in CWR Mobile CRM 2011 by clicking here — if you use Dynamics CRM Online, you can do it within minutes. Check out mobile dashboards today!

Stefan Burak

Vice President, Sales and Partners, Americas

CWR Mobility BV

cwrmobility.com

 

Time to put your CRM system on a features diet!

Yes it’s true when your company departmental leadership team gets finished with a CRM project they have included the sky, the moon and the stars as desired functionality but what you get as a user is a bloated unusable CRM system.

My recommendation is to put your CRM platform on a CRM features diet and get lean and mean if you want strong user adoption.  The key message is priorities your features & configurations based on the benefits you are trying to deliver to the end user community ala sales, marketing and service teams who have to live within the system you build.

Ideas on how to execute on your CRM features diet to create immediate impact or benefit to the user might be:

  • Clean up forms and only include required database fields.  Ask yourself why you need specific information and when was the last time anyone used a specific field.
  • Provide drop down selections to keep data consistent and clean.
  • Integrate with 3rd party data providers to insure data is up to date and relevant.  My personal favorite can be found here!
  • Build automated process to eliminate repetitive tasks.
  • Call your top 3 sales, service and marketing eagles up and ask them what can be done in the CRM platform to deliver a better solution.
  • Consider a cloud based deployment to minimize IT involvement.
  • Incorporate a 3rd party marketing tool to drive drip marketing campaigns that provide relevant and actionable data.
  • Ask the users what personalization they are after and then deliver it by role in a real time dashboard!
  • Eliminate screens, commands, views and reports not relevant to the targeted users.
  • Toss in telephony integration with screen pops to give back something to users!
  • CRM now equals mobile so make sure you deliver on this as a top user priority.

Make CRM system adjustments a ongoing priority and your organization will demonstrate successful, repeatable processes with performance measurements that will deliver strong CRM user adoption.

– Tracy

Out with the old CRM and in with the new!

I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions as I think too many people set themselves up with unrealistic goals and ultimately fail.  I am a bigger fan of making small business and physical fitness changes in my life that can provide quick and measurable impact.  This year instead of sitting around trying to come up with a resolution I just grabbed a trash bag and headed into my office for a major clean out.  When I was done I felt liberated and ready to tackle the New Year with a well-organized office. On the physical fitness front, I decided to forgo my typical weight training routine in place of a yoga class.  I measured my short term success with this by the next day pain I felt all over my body!  I am sold on the stress reduction benefits, coordination and flexibility thing as I was trying to master the downward dog!

I suggest taking this same approach with your existing CRM platform and make minor modifications to the system in order to receive new and immediate benefits with focus on CRM end-user give backs.  Below is a short list of suggestion on how you can take your old CRM system and make it feel like new again and win back user adoption!

  1. Time how long it takes an average user to do the top required tasks in your system.  Start with the creation of an activity, entering a new contact and creating a new opportunity.  Your goal should be to cut your time in half on every required task you evaluate.  This can be done by reducing the number of required fields on entry or turning many fields into a pick list entry.  Your organization should be asking yourself why you are capturing the information and who is benefiting from it?
  2. Introduce a more usable way to access the CRM system.  Sure everyone provides a desktop client but do you really want your sales force sitting at their desk or in front of prospects and or customers? CRM Sales Mobility is an easy way to start winning back your selling organization by allowing them to use the mobility tools they want in order to update the CRM system you have in place. 
  3. Send out a survey to your user base and ask what is liked and disliked around your system.  Although the survey hyperlink in this article is more customer facing in nature, it will give you some great suggestions on how to set up, execute and measure a survey.  I see this as the best way to keep your users engaged in the process of user adoption and avoid CRM failure.  This should not be a onetime thing, but something that you perform on an annual basis for process and system improvement.
  4. Take the time to automate a process that is a time sucker!  This goes back to supporting the #1 point in the list.  If the system can do it then let the system do it not the users.  If a new lead comes in off your web site as an example, then stop asking your sales organization to create a new opportunity to support the pursuit.  Most CRM systems come with inherent work-flow tools so script repeatable processes like the creation of a new contact and opportunity record with assigned tasks for the users.
  5. Measure CRM system use then make it competitive and fun!  Another mistake most companies make is they do not have a good feel for who is using their CRM system and how.  Many CRM vendors have add on tools like the one featured via the hyperlink that will allow you to publish who is using the system on a regular basis.  Doing this will creates a competitive environment which most sales people thrive in.  Sounds strange but giving recognition and awards on a quarterly basis for good and consistent CRM usage can drive the level of adoption off the charts!

Make CRM system adjustments a priority in the New Year and your organization will demonstrate successful, repeatable processes with performance measurements that will deliver strong CRM user adoption.

– Tracy

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we begin the process of departing for the Thanksgiving weekend, we should pause to count our blessings and the freedom of this great country in which we live.  For all of these things we should be deeply thankful.  May the good things of life be yours in abundance, not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the coming year.   My best wishes to you and your family for a happy holiday weekend!

– Tracy