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 –
- Sharer or collaborator as community expert.
- Case study creator.
- Local user group lead or event expert.
- Creative presenter.
- Social media expert.
- Master at my CRM system.
- Training expert.
- Technical expert.
- 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?
The hot topic of the week of course is the TSA body scanners and the revealing images they produce. A need to prevent such unwanted exposure has spawned an inventor who created TSA-proof underwear to shield private parts from x-ray machines, prying eyes! The good news with this debate is that you can opt out of the body scan, but watch out for the ensuing dreaded pat down if you choose to do so.
I am starting to think that customers should incorporate a bit of TSA like x-rays procedures during their evaluation of CRM solutions. I say this because I continue to run into so many customers who are dissatisfied with their current CRM systems, but are stuck in subscription contracts that prevent them from gaining the value they believed they bought into. My goal with this weeks blog is to try and help you avoid some of the issues I continue to encounter in the trenches.
Below is a short list of items to drill deep on when evaluating your first or next CRM platform to prevent possible regrets or low return on investment:
- Hidden Costs - This can bite you in so many ways so look at areas of data migration; early contract termination; costs of reducing users; training fees; data-ownership issues; integration; customization; data storage; mobility & reporting. In addition, make sure you are not sold on entry level pricing with incorrect functionality if multiple versions are available.
- Performance – Look for performance white papers and scale testing options based on your data set and configuration.
- Missing Functionality - A vendor demo can be a bit misleading. My suggestion is to validate and re-validate your requirements against solution capabilities to insure what you require is core functionality provided.
- Support -Who is providing this when issue arise? Find out if this comes from the vendor or implementation partner and at what cost per incident?
- Training Materials - What is free and what will be required to insure driving proper adoption. See Is CRM training that important?
- Vendor Stability - What kind of dollars are being invested in R&D and will your vendor be around in 3 to 5 years to support you? See Gartner Market Share: CRM Software, Worldwide, 2009.
- Software License Agreements -What happens if your SaaS CRM system goes down? Does your SaaS CRM strategy have a parachute?
- Open Architecture - This is important to understand in case you need to develop future integrations or move to another vendor.
- Deployment Options -What if you decide that a SaaS model is too expensive long term and need to migrate on premise?
- Customer Evidence -It is never a good idea to be the first at anything including the first person to go through the TSA body scanner…can you imagine how many people looked at that first image? Make sure your CRM vendor can provide some form of evidence that what you are asking to do within their system has been done before.
Resources links – See Gartner Blog CRM and Innovation Spending in 2010, Forrester Wave, SaaS & On-premises.
CRM vendor transparency and incorporation of this x-ray procedure checklist will help create a recipe for making the right choice during your CRM solution selection process.
Disclaimer – References in this blog post to TSA, body scanning, product and pad downs are not an endorsement or rebuttal of the need or opposition to these topics but I would love your opinion!
Well I guess not if your goals are as big as “tiny” feature in this week’s blog post. I have spent most of my life staying active by incorporating weight training and conditioning to stay in shape. As part of this process I have learned that the results received directly correlate to goals set and ongoing investments put into my conditioning and nutrition plans. Maybe there are some similarities between trying to achieve a healthy lifestyle and delivering successful CRM deployments.
As we examine further, the #1 issue I continue to see surface in failed CRM deployments is the lack of investments and thought put into system training. I believe a strong training plan is the secret sauce to insure any CRM system meets user adoption expectations and drive true return on investment.
Suggested best practices that need to be incorporated in a training plan:
- User return. Users should know what they will be getting in return for the use of the CRM system which ties back to last week’s blog CRM system end-user givebacks?
- Hands-on training. Provide hands-on training with real-life scenarios and data relevant to your users.
- Job aids. Training should include a cheat sheets with CRM system terminology and step-by-step summaries of the required processes.
- Mandatory system use. System use must be mandatory for not only the users but all executives. I find that companies that tie compensation to the CRM system tend to get the greatest user adoption.
- Measurement & output. Clear metrics & dates should be established that define what data elements must be entered, when users must have all data updated and when reports will be pulled.
- Ongoing investments. Training should be ongoing not just a one-time thing. I suggest referring to a write-up by CSO Insights on “3 steps to improved Retention/Results. “Perfect practice makes perfect: receiving feedback/coaching on a consistent basis and continuously improving is how things get perfected.” Barry Trailer, CSO Insights.
- Training champions. Electing departmental training champions can also be good resources for the user community. This will provide a feedback loop for CRM system process and use case improvement.
- System usage. Most CRM systems or integrators of those systems provide a system wide audit by user so that you can understand how frequently users are in the systems. One good example of this is Control Tower for CRM User Adoption provided by Sonoma Partners.
- Knowledge management. Most CRM systems support KB articles and key topic search. Incorporate your training materials within the CRM will further exploit the power of the system and provide one location of all best practice sharing.
- Executive sponsorship. Executive level support and the importance of everyone using the CRM system must be communicated.
Make training a priority at every turn in your CR M deployment and your organization will generate strong user adoption. Watch for my next blog on the CRM mobility dilemma.