Treating CRM As a Business Strategy

Customer relationship management is often discussed as a technological solution to an essential business problem: How do I make my customers happier and keep them with my product longer? The discourse often turns to the newest applications and software advancements that make it easier to obtain business insights, blend workflows, and keep salespeople focused on maintaining relationships rather than on tracking the metadata associated with customer interactions. But CRM doesn’t just comprise the fancy technology–it’s also the business strategy that demanded the software in the first place.

CRM solutions tend to fail when a business leader gets excited about a new technology without understanding how it will fit into his or her current operations. Too often do leaders jump at an opportunity for better customer management only to find that the technology doesn’t fit the teams who have to do the fieldwork. Team members become frustrated that the technology doesn’t do what they need it to. They have trouble extracting information or adapting their sales process to the technology. They have trouble using the technology to its potential, and find that they can’t close enough sales because they’re spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with data entry. Money is lost.

What gives?

Treat CRM Like An Operations Strategy

A CRM solution is both a business strategy and a technological implementation of that strategy. Are you a company that is so focused on the volume of selling that hitting sales quotas is more important than the nuances of repeat customer use? A business with this focus does not necessarily care about customer relationship management because product proliferation is a higher priority. But what happens when the same business decides to look at all the customers it’s ever sold to for information about a new product it’s developing? Suddenly, the focus on volume diminishes and the need for extracting depth from a customer interaction becomes a priority.

This indicates a shift in strategy that requires a better way to use the data the company already has. How do you implement a technological CRM solution throughout such a business without losing money? How do you ensure that your sales team will use it? How do you ensure that you’ll live to see the return on investment?

The major answer is to first look at your organization as a whole. Are there changes that need to be made to major keystone philosophies before you implement a technological solution? Are the people who will be using your new system dedicated to this change? Will this shift in strategy cause a need for drastic change in your current sales processes? Will it put more work on your sales team? Layering a technical CRM solution onto a business pipeline that isn’t informed by such strategic insight is doomed to fail.

Clean Up Data Before You Implement a CRM Solution

Since data is the major currency that will be flowing through your CRM system, make sure that before you implement a new technology that the data you already have is formatted and cleaned in a way that makes it easy integrate. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my data standardized in a way that makes it easy for new salespeople to access it?
  • Is my data out of date? Do I need to launch an effort to collect updated information for my entire database before I switch to a new CRM system?
  • Is my data complete? Are there a large percentage of entries in my data collection that are missing? Will my technological solution break if it has too many blank fields in the database?
  • Is the data verified to be accurate? Does it include information that needs to be double-checked before implemented in a new system?

By ensuring that your data is clean and that you have buy-in at every level of your company on a customer-centric selling strategy, you can increase your chances of efficient and smooth CRM implementation significantly. In the long run, thinking of CRM as both a strategic and a technological solution will go a long way in saving you money, time, and worry.

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