How to report better with CRM
In a tough economic climate, Finance teams can make a significant difference to the profitability and operational effectiveness of an organisation.
The question is, how do you empower your Finance teams to really understand and support your broader objectives? How do you transform them from a traditional number-crunching unit to a team that really understands the key figures behind your organisation’s success?
The answer? Give them better information. Accurate, up-to-date information that they can access quickly and use effectively. Here’s our top tips for financial reporting with CRM.
- Utilise your CRM system
A Customer Relationship Management System is not just useful for people who deal directly with customers. That’s a common misconception. A CRM System like Microsoft Dynamics can help your organisation to retain invaluable data that your Finance team can turn to your advantage – especially when they are forecasting how your business will grow and develop in the future.
- Make every transaction visible
Make sure your CRM system unites your customer facing teams and your support functions, enabling every department to see the same information. This means that your Finance team will have complete visibility of every customer transaction, large or small.
Your Finance teams will then be perfectly placed to isolate trends in how your clients are spending their money and then to identify which clients are likely to be most profitable in the future.
- Manage overdue costs and invoices quickly
Your CRM system should enable information about incoming and outgoing costs to be up-to-date and always available to your Finance teams. This way, you’ll be able to see where outstanding invoices need to be chased and when incoming costs may be expected to arrive.
Your Finance teams are now able to plan ahead, working with information at their fingertips rather than backtracking through client information to investigate every missing invoice, cost or late payment. They can concentrate on forecasting for the future, rather than getting side-tracked by administrative backlogs.
- Turn financial reporting into business proposals
A finance team that is under pressure due to day-to-day workload will never have the time to really add value to the business. They will only ever be able to supply figures for the business to use.
A Finance team supported by an effective CRM, however, will have much more freedom to analyse figures, make predictions and support different departments with clear recommendations and business proposals. This is Finance transformed into an intelligent business asset, making best use of the brainpower and the resources in the team.
- Make your financial expertise a real differentiator
Supported by a Finance team that has real-time access to information and the welcome freedom from administrative burdens to think and plan effectively, your business has a distinct advantage over the competition.
What do you need for your business to achieve? Increased profitability? Greater market share? Increased sales or enhanced operational efficiency? Reduced overall costs? Whatever your objective for the future, your Finance team will be able to support you to deliver it – as long as they too have the support and systems they need to perform at their best.
How to forecast better with CRM
Many entrepreneurs survive by reacting quickly to change when clear financial forecasting could paint an entirely different picture of what your business should be doing next.
By helping your business move from reactive thinking to proactive revenue forecasting, you can play an instrumental role in helping the business to plan for the future, plan for change and build the platform for further growth and success.
Here are Redspire’s best practice top tips for accurate forecasting:
Make the Most of Your CRM
Are you using your CRM to its full potential, gaining total insight into company history, data, processes and more? A CRM is a crucial intersection into your business, giving you full access to the way in which all company departments are performing. How can you accurately forecast future revenue if you are incapable of finding out how much profit you’re currently making and have done for the past few years?
If you have chosen a user friendly CRM like Microsoft Dynamics, all the information you will need should be obvious to you, increasing your pipeline visibility. So information is power. Use user-friendly CRM system to ensure that information about new business leads, customer acquisition and product performance is accessible, visible and in a format you can understand.
Train your teams
Effective CRM technology also frees up your people to do what they do best. It enables your Sales teams to focus on achieving their Sales targets, without getting side-tracked by figures and planning. While, at the same time, your Finance teams are equipped with the information they need to accurately forecast what your business can deliver in the future.
The best way to get the most out of your CRM is to make sure that all your staff are well trained in using it. Firstly, get to know the ‘quick win’ functions within your company’s CRM. Take part in some general all-round training then advance this knowledge with further training, specifically honed into the financial elements of the system. Knowing your way around the CRM means that you’re only ever a few clicks away from visibility of your company’s financial information.
Think Long Term, Act Short Term
The key to all revenue forecasting is to think long term; there is very little point in forecasting for the following week. It doesn’t provide enough useful information for your business to develop. Having said that, in all likelihood, the forecast you lay out for the next 6, 12 or 24 months won’t run exactly to plan. With this in mind, you must implement a short term approach to long term thinking.
But don’t just forecast, use the information in your CRM system to plan your next steps. Accurate financial forecasting will help your business to identify clear strategies for the short and long-term future. If your sales pipeline isn’t strong enough, you can focus on lead generation. If you have lots of new business arriving, you can focus on conversion and customer service –all efforts that can be supported by a forward-thinking CRM system such as Microsoft Dynamics.
So how long ahead should you forecast? Most businesses want a clear strategy for the future while also having the flexibility to adapt to short-term change. Forecasting revenue and sales on a quarterly, half-yearly and annual basis may seem like overkill, but it will help you to capitalise on opportunities in the short-term and plan for change in the future. These efforts can be supported by a CRM system that has the functionality to adapt at the same rate as your business objectives.
Expect the unexpected
Even with an effective CRM system and good quality sales information at your fingertips, there may still be a fear that you could get your forecasts wrong. Whilst a modern CRM system such as Microsoft Dynamics significantly reduces this risk, should you be aggressive and risk over-reaching? Or should you be cautious and risk missing out on opportunities? One option is to do both: use your forecasts to create two scenarios and as the market changes, you will know exactly how to respond to keep your business on track.
Plan for multiple outcomes
Once you have established a system that is capable of working on both a long term and short term scale, have multiple back up plans in place. If a short term goal post has been shifted, it does not mean that the long term goal is completely out of reach, so plan accordingly. Find different solutions to problems that are both probable and improbable; there is rarely just one path to a destination, so be sure to find the others.
Once again refer back to your CRM and continue to review past strategies and the effect that they had on your bottom line. You may even find the workaround to a current problem has already been identified in the past. Similarly, external issues may have previously arisen and the same solution could be applicable this time around.
Things change. And when they do, having a knowledge base of previous forecasts can help you make the right, proactive decisions for your business this time around. This can give you a real edge over the competition: especially if their forecasting is based on instinct rather than analysis.
If, during your review process, you find that some things aren’t working as well as possible, make it known. For example, if your sales pipeline isn’t as burgeoning as you would like, get Marketing to focus their efforts on lead generation. Conversely, if your pipeline is filled with leads but Sales aren’t getting much traction on them, then consider nurturing your leads better. A function-laden CRM, such as Microsoft Dynamics, will be capable of implementing a thorough lead scoring system to help monitor your company’s nurturing efforts.
Importantly, the more you do this in the short term, the less you’ll have to do it in the long term as your forecasting gets stronger and stronger.
Don’t forget your customers
Once you have sales and revenue forecasts in place, it is important to compare them to your clients and customers, as your growth relies on their spending power. Do your forecasts for growth match theirs? What factors are they considering that you might have overlooked? What will you change? Once again, your CRM system will provide the perfect tool to collate, maintain and access your customer information.
Get the best out of your Sales & Marketing
Your role, in monitoring the economic aspects of your organisation, requires that you supervise the activities of both Marketing and Sales. That’s not to say they aren’t capable of managing their own affairs but, as you control the finances of the organisation, you have to look beyond department divisions to report back accurate figures to your superiors.
The business enclaves that are Sales and Marketing are quite often a law unto themselves, which can make monitoring them all the more difficult. Using your CRM is crucial to get a fair and unbiased view of your company and its departments.
- Use Their Calendars
Perhaps the most obvious way by which you can keep an eye on Sales and Marketing is by accessing their calendars and itineraries stored within your company CRM. Analyse the calendars and identify if tasks and procedures outlined within could be streamlined, then use automated workflows within your CRM to do this.
Having spotted trends and issues by observing the shared calendars, report back to the heads of each department. During this collaboration period, return to the CRM and try to identify further points before working to overcome or justify them. As an added bonus, working with department managers will help align departments.
- Fresh Eyes
Don’t underestimate your viewpoint; you may not be as well versed in Sales and Marketing as the department itself – but you could provide valuable insight into their processes. Like a writer staring at a word for so long it loses all meaning, Sales and Marketing may not be able to see the wood for the trees. Your take on Marketing and Sales’ work will be from an economic point of view, which is good for improving efficiency but bear in mind that some things you deem to be unnecessary from a financial point have important uses within each department. Overtime you will gain this insight, particularly if you continue to use your CRM to gain access into those departments.
- Rank Clients
Help Marketing and Sales in identifying their most important clients. You should identify not just the most profitable client but the profitability of a client in relation to the time and resources spent on your end to obtain the sale. Finding this information out could help the other two departments to become more efficient and effective. Your fresh perspective coupled with your CRM should easily be able to achieve this.
- Request Reports
A CRM not only stores your company’s valuable data but can also help present it in a clear and valuable way. Make sure that Sales and Marketing are producing regular reports to help you stay on top of the business they’re bringing in as well the expenses they acquire to do so.