What to do to implement a CRM?

A key factor in any CRM or sales force automation project is to ensure that the project is planned well in advance.  We share an article from TechTarget, which provides an explanation of the requirements, timelines and costs required for the successful execution of a CRM project.

A highly effective Salesforce CRM system can dramatically improve your company’s bottom line, in terms of customer satisfaction, executive decision making, improved partner and channel interaction, and of course your sales.  The benefits of increased visibility, streamlined operations and faster cash-to-cash cycles are, however, anything but automatic.

Another important key to the success of any CRM or sales force automation project is strong management sponsorship that propels the implementation team and end users.  Peter Drucker wrote that the most important part of solving a business problem is asking the right question.  The same applies here: the best way to achieve results quickly is to clearly define and prioritize your goals.

Read the map, before starting the journey

Salesforce provides a large number of roadmaps, white papers, guidelines and tips for implementation projects.  Alternatively, you can consult the Salesforce blog, its Successforce page or even the book “Secrets to Success“.

Develop a model of your relationship with the customer.

CRM is designed to improve the speed with which new customers are acquired and to obtain the highest account profitability figures – thereby increasing customer lifetime value.  Before you begin detailed planning for your CRM project, you should develop a model that shows how your organization works-showing the basic organizational ownership at each stage of the customer cycle (how your company converts a marketing and sales investment into a billed purchase order).  In developing your company’s customer cycle, you will need to identify the groups responsible for each of these stages; make sure the core groups agree on who does what work, to confirm your model.

The right hand side of the customer cycle is the sales cycle, during which revenue is generated through marketing and sales activities.  Since the sales cycle is the primary domain of a CRM system, your company will need a detailed model of the stages of the sales cycle in your company – who is responsible for each task, how long it takes to execute, and what the projected conversion rates are for each stage.

Your sales cycle can be viewed as a “waterfall” showing the conversion steps for each step of the cycle.  Create a diagram showing these responsibilities and timelines and make sure that the marketing and sales teams agree on the data and relationships in your diagram.  Identify which steps represent the biggest problems and where management thinks a CRM system can best help.

Set business goals

Before you delve into the details, it is important to define a set of business goals that transcend individual requirements.  These goals are best expressed as numerical performance objectives that are not currently being achieved but can be easily communicated to management.  Some examples:

  • Increase daily visits to customers to 55
  • Shorten sales cycle by two weeks
  • Increase conversion or sales close rate by 20%.
  • Reduce customer acquisition cost by 15%.
  • Increase average order size by $1,000
  • Increase profit by 20%
  • Increase gross profitability by 10%
  • Improve customer retention by 80%
  • Increase customer lifetime value by 10%.
  • Reduce customer service claims filed by 30%
  • Reduce incorrectly shipped orders by 1%.

Of course, you won’t be able to achieve everything, so keep your list of goals as short as politically possible.  Regardless of the number of metrics, senior management should prioritize them.  These figures of merit will be benchmarks for prioritizing process changes to be made during CRM implementation.

Establish requirements: who, where, what and how?

To make the business case for a CRM project, you will need to identify and prioritize requirements at the broad level.  Although the details of many individual requirements may not be known until weeks or months after the project has started, you will need sufficient information to scope the costs and benefits.  It is not possible to sell the project to management without identifying specific pain points as well as potential benefits.

The first step in establishing requirements is to identify who and how (AND who does not) need to use a CRM system.  It’s easy to say “everyone” but that decision may involve costly implementation, training and maintenance.  But still, this may be meant to show a desire to keep everyone happy, even if that universe is not just made up of critical users.  In many companies, only a few departments contact customers directly, so many others do not require direct access to a CRM.  It is advisable to create a short list of users, at least initially.

Create a spreadsheet with the names of the users, including the organization, title, location and contact information for each user and the expected interaction with the CRM.  From this list of users, group people who are expected to have similar interactions with the CRM.  Each of these user types represents an actor in the system.  For each of these archetypal actors, create a one-page description that provides general information about them: location, level of education, job title, professional responsibilities, preferences, habits, languages, and so on.  Virtually every CRM implementation will involve at least four stakeholders, but this is a number that will multiply rapidly in large companies.  To keep the number at a reasonable level (more than 10 could get out of hand), your organization will probably need to group stakeholders with similar profiles.  The stakeholder descriptions should cover their general roles and goals for using the CRM; how often (AND for how long) they are expected to be using the system, the functions they are expected to perform, what parts of the system they will use, what activities they will avoid and what is expected in terms of usage (For example, users may need to do their work from a laptop, without being present in the company’s offices).

Do you require external advice?

Your company should consider whether it requires outside consulting at an early stage to help prepare the business case, to prioritize requirements, to understand the implications of alternatives and to receive guidance.  The right consultant can save your company time and money and prevent you from going down blind alleys.

Consider bringing in outside consulting if you are uncomfortable with some of the topics discussed in this article, or if you want to implement best practices from day one.  An outside consultant can help you address the following points:

  • What are your competitors doing with CRM, what does the customer expect in this area?
  • Which departments should use CRM and which should not?
  • What are the critical processes to clean up and which ones should not be touched for CRM implementation?
  • Should your company improve the CRM you have or should you replace it altogether?
  • What are the quantitative advantages that other companies in your industry have received through their CRMs?

Top management should be involved from the beginning of the project to define “how far you want to go”, without defining the detail of each requirement.  Understand how prepared your company is and record which stakeholders are part of particularly advanced or immature departments.

Read the full article at TechTarget.

If in-depth development of this topic is of interest to you, contact SQDM.  For over 10 years SQDM -Software Quality Driven Management- has served countless companies with professional consulting services on CRM initiatives.  SQDM is an official business partner of leading vendors in the global market including Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft.

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