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CRM Systems In Sales And Marketing – Well, They ‘Should’ Work!

It’s that word ‘should’ that’s the problem. According to research from Gartner, as many as 60% of all CRM implementations fail. So given that CRM systems can help in many aspects of sales and marketing, why do they go wrong?

If CRM systems fail in sales, marketing or both, you’ll usually find a lack of user buy-in. Yes, things can go wrong technically, but technical issues can nearly always be overcome with the right software skills or changes to hardware. Products like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sage CRM, and GoldMine Premium Edition are established and proven CRM software. But if staff don’t see clear advantages, find the system difficult to use, not right for them or that it doesn’t seem to make their job any easier, it’s a good bet the project will fail.

Reasons for lack of buy-in often start before anyone in the sales department, marketing department or even IT, has thought about CRM. Say for example, an operations department wanted a new planning system. Then someone noticed it’s got a CRM add-on – “Great, lets get that for sales and marketing”. Well, without taking an in-depth look at the sales processes, the company could well end up shoe-horning in a CRM add-on that does not meet the requirements of their business. If it doesn’t do what sales staff want it to do and doesn’t actively demonstrate any benefits, it will naturally meet with resistance.

But what if you’ve spent time choosing a CRM system that you know should be right for your company? It’s suited to your business needs and sales and marketing processes, you know it can do what you want it to do and you’ve seen it work in other companies. And because it’s software, it should be the IT departments responsibility: ask them set it up on your PC’s and off we go. Job done.

Or not. It isn’t the IT departments responsibility. You’ll certainly need their help, but sales and marketing teams need to own their bit of the CRM system, and co-own the rest of it. And this means allocating time and resources from the beginning. Keep sales and marketing staff informed and listen to their feedback. Nearly every CRM system will need a degree of configuration to suit particular businesses needs. Leaving CRM software implementation to the IT department doesn’t mean the project will fail, but could result in a system that needs a serious amount of amendments after the go-live date. This can immediately de-value the system in the eyes of staff, and there goes another chunk of user buy-in.

And whose idea was it to implement a CRM system in the first place? If the initiative has come from the top down, there may be fears of it just being a device for management to keep an eye on what staff are up to. Management (or any other staff member if the systems configured that way) can look at who’s done what, when they did it, what’s in their diary and what they haven’t done.

Then there’s task allocation. Other people can set you tasks, schedule your calls, put you in meetings and see what you’ve got planned. The system may even allocate some tasks automatically. This can generate a perception of time management being taken out of the hands of the individual, and fear of work overload.

These are natural concerns. They can all lead, directly or indirectly, to resistance to CRM system implementation. However, once the system’s up and running, these fears usually vanish pretty quickly. Everyone’s in the same boat. Errors in processes that could lead to individuals being overloaded will usually be identified during the business process analysis stage, and improving business processes is part of the benefits a new CRM system brings. Plus the various tools available in modern CRM software often result in a marked improvement in many staff members time management.

So what about other changes, like a perceived increase in data entry? Some CRM systems may need sales or marketing staff to type in information they didn’t enter before. And yes, this can seem a hassle to some staff. However, it’s important to capture this data and keep it in one place. Access to accurate, comprehensive information and elimination of duplicate data entry are two of the most visible benefits to show early on in a CRM project. Data has to be entered somewhere. All the information that was previously kept on pieces of paper, on spreadsheets, on individual laptops and so on, is now in one place, and entered only once. Old habits can be difficult to break but quick and easy data retrieval from a single source is a big win for everyone in the sales department, and a seriously big win for staff in the marketing department. Also, CRM software is improving and steadily making data entry tasks much easier.

From a business process point of view as well as a user buy-in one, it pays to get sales and marketing staff involved early on in the project. However, they also need time to give their input. Implementing a new system is not part of the day job, and the day job doesn’t go away: a point which surprisingly often gets overlooked. It will need staff time allocated and covered, even if it’s the odd hour here and there before the system’s launched. You’ll also need to give them time to adjust to new ways of working.

Few companies implement a new CRM system without working closely with a software reseller. However, CRM implementations are far more likely to fail if you choose the wrong one. Ideally choose a software reseller that specialises in CRM, or at least one that can provide references from successful CRM projects. Preferably they’ll offer a selection of different systems so you can choose the most suitable product for your business. If not they may try to impose a particular software package because that’s all they work with. Make sure they don’t see CRM as an add-on to a larger or different system, or as an aside to their core business. Also, CRM system implementation is far more likely to succeed if your provider offers a range of services such as business process analysis, project management, support and training – not just software supply and installation.

A CRM system needs buy-in from everyone in a sales or marketing team. It can’t be used by some staff and not others, or just used when convenient. It’s often a cultural shift for a company, but the gains inherent in successful CRM implementation will (not should) be outstanding.

In a Recession CEOs Turn to Sales and Marketing

During a recession most CEOs (chief executive officers) turn to their sales and marketing people to get revenues, profit and liquidity turned around. They do that because most CEOs continue to respect the corporate old wives tale that dictates “Even during a recession the last budget a CEO wants to cut is their sales and marketing budget.”

So, even in these very difficult economic times many CEOs are stretching to protect their sales and marketing people and to sustain their sales and marketing spending levels. Unfortunately, what their CFOs (Chief Financial Officers) are frequently forced to point out is that sustained sales and marketing spending has a direct (negative) correlation with deteriorating financial operating results.

The reason that CEOs are hesitant to cut sales and marketing investments is that sustaining those investments during 20th Century downturns was often the right thing to do. Back in the 20th Century sales and marketing people were often able to work harder, smarter and faster and (with sustained budgets) were able to get turnaround situations turned around. Put another way, sales and marketing folks were often heroic back in the 20th Century. But, that was then . . . and this is now. And here in the 21st Century something fundamental has changed.

Today, Internet wired and inspired customers want what they want . . . when, where, how and at the price that they want it. They know when they are being marketed to and sold to . . . and they do not like it. In fact, they often punish companies whose sales and marketing people push products or services at them by paying only the lowest possible prices and by deserting those companies (in a heartbeat) for an even marginally better competitor.

Because the age of pushing products and services at customers is over (again, thanks to the Internet), maintaining traditional sales and marketing tactics and spending levels, in the face of a recession, may be exactly the wrong thing to do. CFOs seem to instinctively know that. They also seem to instinctively know that stepping back from traditional sales and marketing approaches (which often facilitates substantial budget cuts) is a good idea. Do that allows CEOs to take a zero-based look at who their customers and should be and to determine what it will take to build loyal, sustaining and profitable bonds with them.

So CEOs, if your CFO thinks that you are nuts for sustaining traditional sales and marketing tactics and budgets, listen up! He or she is probably right.

Business Prescriptions: Sales and Marketing Consulting Firms

We do not need statistics to prove that one of the many reasons why newly established businesses fail is because they, first and foremost, do not understand their market. Venturing into unfamiliar markets involves more risks and uncertainties than that of what a businessman is comfortable with. However, there is no need to fret and get into panic attacks as sales and marketing consulting firms help businesses swim, not sink, on unknown waters.

The need for sales and marketing consulting firms is greatly evident among foreign businesses, who are trying to penetrate the Asian market. With the recent global financial crisis and a declining hegemon on the west, the far east has become more appealing than ever, especially with the rise of China as a great power in the region and as a huge potential market. However, foreign businessmen, with their knowledge and experience with the markets in the western part of the world, are totally impaired when it comes to dealing with the markets in the Asian region. Sales and marketing consulting firms become their eyes and ears as these firms collect and filter information that may prove to be crucial in the decision-making of businesses in establishing themselves here in Asia.

Sales consultants, for instance, do not only have the function of selling products and services to clients and companies but also have the function of understanding and identifying their needs. They serve as a guide in terms of what goods and services are really need by their clients. Being a sales consultant therefore goes beyond merely selling products and services. They ensure that the services and the goods being received by the company are necessary for it to grow and flourish in the market. However, to further accomplish this objective a sales consultant goes hand in hand with a marketing consultant.

Venturing into an unknown market requires a company to know their consumer and their behavior. This is where a marketing consultant comes in. A marketing consultant does the research for the company and tries to identify who their target consumers are and how they behave. Marketing consultants not only gathers information but they also try to understand what motivates consumers to, for example, purchase a product; and then create a specific strategy or approach, tailored to the needs and nature of the company, on how they should sell their products.

So, why do companies go to sales and marketing consulting firms exactly? Aside from the bottom line, these consulting firms help foreign companies in the Asian market by making sure that their resources will not go to waste, but instead be focused on opportunities that would bring greater returns and growth to the company. This will then prevent the company from incurring unnecessary losses. These firms also help foreign companies realize and gain advantage against competitors in the market. Lastly, sales and marketing consulting firms help develop employees and personnel in a company to acquire important skills. In a nut shell sales and marketing consulting firms provide business prescriptions that would help foreign companies become lean and mean business machines in Asia.