Category Archives: Collaboration

Hey, Mr. Chief Sales, Marketing or Service Officer, Don’t Let your IS Team Pick Your CRM Platform!

When was the last time you went shopping for a new bikini for your wife or a set of golf clubs for your husband?  Most likely never…and why?  Because at the end of the day, you are not going to be seen on a public beach in it or teeing off with your buddies at the next golf outing.  These are purchase decisions that should be made by the user since they will be the person using the item.

Buying a CRM system is not much different.  Most likely the user of the CRM tool is someone in one of the following categories:   sales representative, sales manager, CSO, marketing representative, marketing manager, CMO, service agent, service manager, VP of Customer Service or an individual with operations in their title or area of responsibility.

Your IT team would love to dictate the CRM tool of choice because they always know what’s best for you right?  WRONG…they are always going to pick a system that creates the least amount of IT pain for themselves.  This will happen even if it means compromising user experience, time to deployment, support for Bring Your Own Device “BYOD,” or interactions within the social media space.

If I am a CSO, CMO or VP of Service, I would follow these top five guiding principles as I make a CRM platform selection:

  • Involve your front line staff in the selection process.  Yes, I realize they are busy with their day jobs, but at the end of the day they will be the individuals expected to use the tool and can provide the most perspective on use case/productivity requirements. See blog post on CRM end-user givebacks
  • Ensure that the tool supports the growing trend of BYOD.  A truly effective CRM platform should be a tool available whenever and wherever your front line people interact with customers to drive use, value and the holy grail of CRM success: adoption!
  • Activity, message management & social collaboration are a way of life for sellers, so ensure that the tool leverages the required messaging, calendaring & social platforms that your teams already use pervasively to get work done.  What systems do your teams log into every morning to direct their day, communicate and collaboration with customers and prospects?  See blog post on top 14 must have CRM system features!
  • Integration to back office systems is a must.  This one gets blown out of proportion by customers and vendors.  Your IT team would lead you to believe you must stick within the Geranimals IT shop principles.  All CRM systems that reside in the Gartner MQ for 2011 should provide open architecture and — through industry standard web service calls — can be connected to your back office vendor of choice.  Yes, that means you are not restricted to one vendor for both ERP and CRM, so do not let that dictate your final CRM vendor selection choice.  Often, this can lead to weighing down a well-developed, mature business solution with another that just isn’t up to par as far as quality, performance, or capability.
  • Yes involve IT as an advisor during the selection process to insure the tool you move forward with can be supported by your cloud or on premise technology infrastructure.

Good selling and keep your eye on the prize of high user adoption to prevent CRM strategy failure!

– Tracy

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

Social CRM – Hype, Hurt or Help?

In life we encounter many “hype, hurt or help” suggestions that can ultimately confuse the heck out of us!  A short list of things that come to mind are exercise, diets, vitamins, the internet, facebook, antibiotics, family, technology in general and yes Social CRM

Just a small set of examples were the word hype, hurt or help all can apply based on the way you incorporate each one into your personal or business lives.  During this week’s blog I would like to spend some time reviewing the hype, help and hurt aspects of Social CRM because I see many of my customers confused by all of the hype and solutions offered.

The hype of Social CRM.  I would say 100% of the top CRM vendors have some claim of integration or offering to this fast moving target?  Of course why not with the speed at which the social media revolution has taken off.  The question you have to ask your self is how applicable are the features offered when looking at your front line sellers, service teams and marketing staff?  I am not convinced the average sales, service or market staff have the time to dig in and understand and use all the social CRM features being tossed around.  The space of social CRM is in its infancy and lacks clear definition but I do believe in time all organization will need to embrace the hype and get on the bus in order to stay competitive. 

The hurt of Social CRM.  The number one hurt is the confusion which exists in the marketplace around the topic.  To many CRM vendors are tossing the social CRM message around but the solutions delivered only offer a subset of the social aspect.  My recommendation to customers is to define a clear playbook on what areas of social CRM you are trying to address with three specific areas of interest to focus on which are:

The help of Social CRM.  There are a number of really good examples of how a company can benefit from Social CRM.  One of my favorite today is a technology set delivered as an add-on to most CRM vendors called InsideView.  This falls into the first category identified in the hurt section around external social channels and does a great job of delivering relevant business & social insights about prospects & customers directly inside your CRM platformAs a sales profession I see this as a true CRM system giveback.

I believe that if your organization defines a clear playbook for Social CRM and keeps productivity a priority for your sales, marketing and service staff experiences, you will be able to leverage and embrace the social revolution.  I would love to get your personal feedback on the hype, hurt and help aspects of Social CRM.

– Tracy

Featured picture courtesy of Mark Smallwood

CRM Sales Mobility – Quotas Untethered!

Guest Writer – Derek Warburton

There’s a new Aberdeen Group Benchmark Report – Sales Mobility: Quotas Untethered and its hot off the press! This report touches on various mobility technologies, with a strong focus an on CRM Mobility.  The research was completed in September and October 2010, and based on a survey of 269 end user organizations, and their real world experience. In other words, this report isn’t based on an analyst’s opinion, but rather on the actual experience of businesses that are planning on, or have already deployed, some sort of sales mobility solutions.

Like all Aberdeen Research Reports, the research and report are in no way influenced by vendors. TenDigits was able to acquire semi-exclusive distribution rights, to ensure our community can access this report free of charge (as opposed to the $399 standard fee).

At the highest level, this report addresses the following:

“Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Sales Force Automation (SFA) access via smartphones has been available for some time – indeed, Mobile CRM access has proven to increase team attainment of quota by 26% (Source: Sales Intelligence, Preparing for Smarter Selling, Aberdeen February 2010) – but to what extent are Best-in-Class Sales teams utilizing mobile selling solutions ?” (Source: Aberdeen Group November 2010)

At a more detailed level, the study focuses on the following:

  • The degree to which sales mobility is deployed in organizations and the impact it has on achieving business success
  • The structure, effectiveness and satisfaction with existing sales mobility implementations
  • Current and planned use of sales mobility tools to achieve desired change in revenue, quota and deal size
  • The benefits, if any, that have been derived from sales mobility initiatives

From a research structure perspective, Aberdeen applies their concept of “Best-in-Class” companies. In the case of this study, “Best-in-Class” represent the Top 20% of the aggregate of performance scores, specifically: Achievement of Sales Quota, Average year-over-year improvement in Customer Retention, and Average year-over-year increase in average Sales Lead Conversion rates.  They then associate the practices and related outcomes, of Best-in-Class companies and compare to other companies, as it relates to their use of Sales Mobility.

So what were the results?

There are dozens of figures and charts, and virtually all of them strongly indicate that Best-in-Class companies approach sales mobility differently than other companies, and are more likely to have enabled their teams with mobile CRM solutions.  The results are quite compelling and for the most part should be read in the context of the entire report.

I have listed a few tidbits of information here (Source for all: Aberdeen Group November 2010):

  • “While not all companies deploy sales mobility, those that do, outperform those that do not across a myriad of measures, including overall team attainment of quota, lower sales turnover, as well as better year-over-year growth around revenue, customer renewals, deal size and CRM adoption”  Source: Aberdeen Group November 2010
  •  “Survey results show that firms enjoying Best-in-Class performance share several common characteristics including:  78% support remote viewing and modification of key CRM sales information…” 
  •  “44% of Best-in-Class consider sales mobility initiatives “absolutely vital to the health of our company, regardless of cost” compared with 26% of other companies.”

There’s even a url within the report that provides access for the reader to take an On-line Assessment, to compare their company’s practices and performance against Best-in-Class companies, and provides a free personal Scorecard.

On the whole, the findings strengthen the case that CRM Mobility is no longer just a “nice to have tool” for some of the sales team. Rather, CRM mobility, in organizations where sales staff is frequently in the field, is a critical component to the CRM solution and has a significant impact on sales performance for staff and the company.

Having said that, not all CRM mobility is equal. There are many mobility applications, but what offering will best enable real business success. It’s not too difficult to find a tool that will “get CRM on my phone”, but that’s a far cry from a solution that is designed for the optimal user experience, with appropriate security and organizational manageability. The more comprehensive solutions can also be configured in a variety of ways to deliver very different user experiences. Don’t assume that you are simply taking a CRM form, and pushing that to a phone. The user experience should be optimized for the use case scenarios, and to reflect that a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) is not a desktop computer. Mobile devices also offer capabilities unique to the device, that aren’t available from a computer monitor, and to incorporate that into the CRM experience. For instance, the ability to capture photos or voice recordings, or GPS data, and upload that into a CRM system.

If you’re trying to address: CRM user adoption, sales productivity, sales effectiveness, timelier follow-up of leads or improved lead conversion rates, gaining a competitive edge, or even reducing the cost associated with sales staff turnover, and then you’ve got a reason to further explore how mobility can support your objectives.

When we work with our clients, we first endeavor to understand their objectives, what their people in the field do, what they use CRM for, and potential use case scenarios for mobility. This allows us to provide insight into how mobility software can best be configured and used for the organization.  A great example of an organization that saw mobility is critical to their Microsoft Dynamics CRM and business success is HealthSouth Corporation. To learn more about how they leveraged mobility for a 1000 field staff, see this MSDynamcsWorld article.

How to access the Aberdeen Report:

You can either visit the Tendigits website or go directly to the following private access link.

Article and materials provided by guest blogger:

Derek Warburton

Vice President of Sales

TenDigits Software, Inc.

How important is the next new feature in a CRM system?

Some would say to be the best at playing the air guitar you need a tennis racket, a pick and some great 80’s rock ‘n’ roll.  I would argue the extras are just nice to have “features” not requirements and your focus should be on the user experience.  Universally we all enjoy playing the air guitar and I would guess if we keep from adding too many features to the process all of us could be rock stars!

This is how I feel about Customer Relationship Management “CRM” systems in general.  Just too many cool features with little value add to the intended audience or user experience.  Today buyers are inundated with flashy features that come with little definition such as social marketing, sales methodologies, business planning & lifetime value monitoring just to name a few.

I do believe there is a place for a set of must have CRM system features.  I am also a strong proponent of CRM systems providing both integrations and insight into the social boom.  With this in mind let me take a stab at Kinsey’s core which I believe will set your organization up for greater user adoption, ability to measure results, improved productivity and calculate true return on your investment.

Kinsey’s top 10 must have CRM system features in no particular order –

  1. Simplified UI that keeps the user in a familiar environment – Microsoft Dynamic CRM’s user interface is a natural extension of Microsoft Outlook.
  2. Strong integration to productivity tools for message management, activity management & quote generation – Microsoft Dynamics CRM surfaced through Outlook allows users to manage customer e-mail, appointments, tasks, and contacts from a single business application.
  3. Dynamic reporting – Microsoft Dynamics CRM ha built-in integration to Microsoft Excel which provides users the ability to export static and or dynamic reports.
  4. Automated processes to support the sales, marketing and service processes – Windows Workflow Foundation is an out of the box set of functionality allowing users to automate defined business process.
  5. Ease of configuration to support system change – Microsoft Dynamics CRM administration allows database field creation, forms editing and ability to create new custom entities.
  6. Mobility support – Mobile Express for Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables access to Microsoft Dynamics CRM data in a web browser on a mobile device.
  7. Deployment flexibility – Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides choice and flexibility in how you implement and customize your CRM application so you can achieve the best fit for your business by providing On Premise, SAAS or partner hosted deployment options.
  8. Open architecture to support legacy system integrations – The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Development Kit (SDK) contains information for developers writing server-side code, custom business logic, integration modules, workflow assemblies, and plug-ins.
  9. Collaboration – Microsoft Dynamic CRM supports iframe integration to Microsoft SharePoint to store content supporting team collaboration.
  10. Data integrity tools – Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides the option to create duplicate detection rules to maintain data integrity.
  11. Ok I am going with a bonus feature “Social Interaction Tracking.”  The reason I list this as a bonus must have feature is that the social space is still being defined, not all of your customers have embraced it and the application of ‘social CRM” is still being defined – The Social Networking Accelerator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help you build and maintain social information systematically and efficiently.  With integrations to LinkedIn and Twitter, you can automatically track the activities of your contacts directly through Microsoft Dynamics CRM. 

Watch for my next blog on “CRM system give backs” – what do users get in exchange for buying into a CRM paltform deployment?

- Tracy