How to Make CRM Your Business Lifeline

There is something slightly unnerving about the idea that your business should rely on a lifeline, particularly one that has at times been viewed as quite troublesome. CRM systems of old have a well-founded reputation for being a lot of hassle, an awkward piece of software that more often than not works against your employees rather than with them. So, once again, why would you want to rely on one as a lifeline?

The answer, quite simply, is that modern CRMs are no longer the same beasts. They offer a wealth of functionality that was previously unheard of, they’re no longer glorified spreadsheets. If used correctly they are capable of being the lifeblood of any organisation, driving it forward and improving processes. So, how do you use it correctly?

  1. Quality Data
  2. If your CRM is the lifeblood of your business, then data is the lifeblood of your CRM. You can’t have an effective CRM strategy without quality data. Whether your company prerogative is to purchase quality data or obtain your own through marketing campaigns, be sure to flood your CRM with rich relevant data. How else are your marketing team to create engaging campaigns if they’re not targeting the right people? How else are Sales going to minimise cold calling and maximise closing?

  3. User Adoption
  4. There is no way that your CRM can be your business lifeline if the business, as a whole, hasn’t adopted it. Ensure that each department is regularly using – and benefitting – from the CRM. If certain departments are less keen, be sure to find out why.

    Is it a lack of user knowledge? If so, encourage the department to take part in more training to become completely comfortable with the software.

    Is there a lack of faith? Explain the benefits of company-wide adoption and how every department has its role to play within the system. In the long term, it will make everyone’s role easier and more effective but it requires a certain level of commitment to begin with.

  5. Improving Results
  6. Once you have successfully increased user adoption, you have to ensure that each department is using the CRM to achieve – or even surpass – their departmental goals. Modern CRMs such as Microsoft Dynamics are capable of improving individual departments through the development of specific workflows that, in combination, better the whole organisation. It boils down to finances; if each department is working more effectively, each department is more likely to bring in more revenue.

    Marketing – Is the marketing department using all the information within CRM to create inbound campaigns that engage effectively? Are they taking it to the next level and segmenting the database to produce more refined content specific to certain groups only? Refining content in this way has been shown to attract more leads that are ready to buy.

    Sales – Is your sales team using the data found within your CRM to create the right first impression on their calls? Are they marking down any useful information gleaned from these calls for use on future occasions? Sales is about creating relationships; if your sales team has to start from zero on every call, they’ll be less likely to get any traction or close deals.

    Finance – Are you directly observing these departments to work out their ROI? A CRM should be offering you full visibility into the workings of every department; are you following this up? Your CRM is the best source for quality information to help you accurately forecast revenue for the coming months.

  7. Respect Your Customers
  8. If your CRM is your business lifeline, it’s only because it’s there to support the most important aspect of business; your customers. Without customers, you’re not so much a business as a club.

    Your CRM should help you keep track of existing customers, supporting those who need it and recommending upgrades to those interested. A CRM is loaded with functionality for automated responses, timers and automatic routing to ensure that any complaints are forwarded to the relevant figure and responded to in the quickest possible time. Quality customer service is a crucial element of business that has a measurable effect on your bottom line.

    Maintaining contact with past customers can also be beneficial, keeping the lead warm and aware of your brand for any future transactions. Customer retention is the name of the game; not only is it far easier to sell to existing customers but customers also act as your reviewers; word of mouth still plays a vital part in business and any poor reviews will spread far more quickly than positive ones.

Align Your Business Strategies with CRM

It’s all well and good investing in a new piece of kit and staying abreast of technological developments – but without considering the wider business effects, it’s nothing short of a waste of money. As with all things, it’s not the technology alone which will be of benefit to your company, but the technology coupled with a business strategy to compliment it.

The right business shouldn’t be afraid to alter its business practices if the technology offers a more practical solution but, conversely, one shouldn’t purchase something that doesn’t resemble your own approach to business in any way. A balance has to be met when trying to align your strategies to your technology.

  • Training
  • Making time for training is paramount to the success of your CRM implementation. It may seem costly to include additional training, having spent heavily on adopting the software and upgrading your hardware but, make no mistake about it, it is crucial. Without sufficiently trained staff at the helm, it won’t matter how powerful your CRM is nor how thorough your business strategies are. They will fail if your staff can’t implement them. Training is to your business approach what foundations are to a building.

    Training should even extend to those who are already quite proficient on the system. The level of customised training on offer now is exceptional, which means that while some of your staff may know the basics and even some intermediary stuff, they won’t know every advanced strategy and technique. Having several in-house staff that are considered pros on your CRM can save you money in the long term; no longer will consultancy and its associated fees be necessary as your proficient staff can deal with all that is thrown at them.

  • Ease of Use
  • It’s important to choose a CRM system that is simple to use and is easily understood by your staff. Even after various training sessions you will still be left with those unable to adapt quickly, which is why ease of use remains an important consideration. Ease of use can be subjective but there are things that should be considered, areas that are generally regarded to overcomplicate the process.

    These include number of clicks to do simple tasks, excessive screen space, and slow refresh speeds. More subjective things to factor in include factors such as how familiar you are with the UI or how customisable it is.

  • Scalability & Flexibility
  • Is the CRM you are looking for a static single solution piece of software? If so, this could lead to problems further down the line. It really shouldn’t be used as a solution to only one problem; cost alone means this is a poor idea but you’re also losing out on the flexibility and scalability offered by using a CRM. Are Sales the only team using the CRM? Implement it company-wide; a CRM like Microsoft Dynamics has clearly segmented functions that benefit every aspect of your company with Marketing particularly having a lot to gain from using it.

    Find your company moving into a different sector or branching out? The right CRM can deal with this rather than need replacing. Microsoft Dynamics CRM has a complete store dedicated to add-ons that can boost functionality well beyond the, already extensive, capabilities the off-the-shelf version has. With easy segmentation into relevant industries and job titles, it is easy to scale and adopt your CRM for your needs.

  • Think Efficiently
  • Being in business is an endless struggle to make your workplace more efficient, whether it’s finding ways to remove costs or avenues to improve time spent. We could list a whole host of ways in which a CRM will improve efficiency, through a whole host small automated features within it but a more leftfield suggestion is adopting a CRM in the cloud. Using a CRM as software as a service (SaaS) creates an extra level of efficiency, well beyond small automated shortcuts.

    Housing your CRM offsite in a cloud also gives you the advantage of cutting back on maintenance costs both economically and in time. A SaaS factors all these costs meaning that you just have to use the system. Additionally it’s a cost cutting approach because it allows you to scale back your IT upgrades. As computing power is handled by the cloud, your onsite computers simply need internet rather than brand new top of the range components.

  • Mobile Access
  • Does your business work heavily on the go? Adopting a CRM based within the cloud could once again be the correct tech to match your business strategies. Having data stored offsite makes it easier for you to access the data whilst on the move, Microsoft even bundles its various mobile applications in with its CRM installations. This gives your travelling sales team the same quality data that your onsite staff have, ensuring better cohesion. Conversely finding out that your CRM is based on the cloud offers you the opportunity to alter your strategy and begin sending more sales reps outdoors, if that is a beneficial move for your business.

How to impart your CRM knowledge onto your colleagues

To capitalise on a CRM such as Microsoft Dynamics, one that is constantly updated and vast in its scope, your staff require training. Your organisation will be wasting money if it’s not making the most of the functionality available and a CRM in its entirety is capable of reducing costs – so why limit yourself to just one aspect of it?

Vary Your Training Methods

Do you remember being categorised as a kinetic, visual or audio learner in school? People learn in different ways. Some people prefer being told something and picking it up audibly, some prefer watching and others taking part. The vast majority of people benefit from a variety of different approaches in spite of their preference.

There is no correct way of passing on your knowledge, after all everyone is different and therefore we encourage you to mix it up a little. You may find that teaching the majority and then working with those that remain a bit left behind and lost, is the best approach to you. Perhaps you may favour grouping people together and getting them to work on projects or follow through after a demonstration.

Check Progress Periodically

To make the most of the training you have put in place, regularly check the progress of your trainees both during and afterwards. Throughout the training process, you’re still in a position that allows you to alter any issues. You still have the time and resources allocated to this project, as well as the group of trainees who can contribute in the aiding of the few left behind.

Keep checking afterwards – it’s likely that there will be an outlier or two; those who were too shy or too embarrassed to interrupt the training at the time but when it comes to putting their learnt skills into practice, they show their limitations. The earlier you catch this issue, naturally, the earlier it can be solved. Also, this helps to save money as the business is not limited by wavering staff members.

Provide Constructive Feedback

Training is a great opportunity to provide feedback to your staff members. Crucially you should aim not to be too critical; there is nothing to be gained from being too negative and it’s not a witch hunt for those that aren’t progressing. Your staff may well resent you for doing so and could forget what they have learnt. Assuming some colleagues were slower to pick up the training, reinforce the idea that support is on offer for them if they forget something after the implementation.

Positive and constructive feedback is far more effective in learning environments.

Take On Board Feedback

Find out what you did right or wrong – after all feedback is a two way street. This is vital if it’s one of the first few occasions you’ve had to teach or train, that way you can hone your techniques for future events. Although less important in some ways, even veteran trainers can benefit from feedback, as the learning process never ends.

Having a level of openness also helps unify teams and team leaders as it gives everyone an opportunity to clear the air. Your role as trainer shouldn’t leave your staff feeling as if you’re inaccessible to them, but precisely the opposite.