In today’s competitive marketplace, organizations are faced with the day-to-day realization that they must be “razor” focused on turning leads into customers and then keeping them happy and loyal over the lifetime of the business relationship. When it comes to turning leads into customers, there are actions needed to make that happen:

  1. Sales and Marketing Process Alignment
  2. Lead Definition
  3. Defined lead qualification and lead conversion strategy
  4. Defined processes to track, manage, and measure your lead and opportunity flow
  5. Once a lead is turned into a customer, it is critical that the relationship is continually nurtured.

So, what are the key ingredients to finding customers and keeping them happy:

  • strong personal skills
  • an efficient customer relationship management (CRM) system

CRM is, in its broadest sense, a technological Rolodex that does much more. In effect, the application offers unified views of leads, clients, contacts, calls, appointments, notes, and more, that make it simpler to keep track of the marketing and sales pipeline from the first contact, through the signing of a deal, to support the customer on a continuing basis.

These systems allow you to manage your sales process more efficient and to more accurately forecast sales and project revenue. They also free up sales reps to spend more time in the field closing deals.

Why CRM System Implementations Fail

But some specialists estimate that from 35% to 70% of businesses fail in their first attempts to install and operate a CRM system. Among the reasons are:

1. Too much focus on technology.

CRM applications come in a variety of shapes and sizes and you need to choose one that best suits your business and doesn't have unnecessary bells and whistles. It is always best to start simple and work towards more complex business automation. The basic functions of CRM systems are to streamline front-office operations, display key information about marketing, sales, and customer support, and make your business processes more efficient and cost-effective. When considering a CRM application, if you don't need a feature, don't buy it or implement the feature until such time that your team has fully absorbed the new technology and business processes

2. Too little focus on the customer.

The core of any CRM system is your company's customers and their needs. A call center can be a great help, provided it is customer friendly. If the system is too complicated it can alienate customers, sales leads, and your staff. Keep each of these party's needs in mind when assessing the capability of each CRM solution you are investigating.

3. Too little preparation.

The people who will be using the system will likely have different needs and expectations. A CFO, for example, will want to view the entire pipeline in order to calculate budgets, while the sales team will be more interested in opportunity management, call scheduling and ease of data entry. Take your time to consider how each of your departments will use the system, how your IT staff will cope with it, and whether you might need new roles in your organization to support and manage your CRM system.

How to Have CRM Implementation Success

Set Up a Team

This team's job is to investigate and determine what CRM technology is required by such departments as marketing, sales, customer service and IT. The team needs to answer the following questions:

  • What processes need automation? The group should analyze your organization's processes from several viewpoints to evaluate how they affect both the business and its customers. This helps to identify what's working and what's not and to prepare for shopping around for an application that best suits your business. During this review, remain open to suggestions the team may make for streamlining some processes.
  • How many leads, contacts, or opportunities do you have now and how quickly and to what extent will this number grow?
  • What platform will the CRM application operate on – Cloud, Microsoft Windows, Mac or Linux?
  • Does your staff need remote access via mobile phones or tablets?
  • Does your company have sufficient IT staff to cope with the demands of a CRM system? If not you may want to consider a cloud-based CRM application.
  • How extensive a system can your company afford and can a CRM system be installed gradually over time? Keep in mind that the expenses involve not only licensing or subscription fees but also the costs of support, training, installation, and integration with current systems.

Shop for a Vendor

Once you have determined your company's resources and needs, shop for a vendor. The most important factor here is to remember that your business shouldn't have to conform to the applications a vendor is pitching. Instead, the vendor should offer applications that can be configured to conform to the way your company operates.

The vendor should also be able to provide a system that will meet your enterprise's current and future demands, as well as understand the specific needs of your company's industry. For example, you may need a system that lets your business meet specific requirements under federal and/or provincial laws and regulations.

The vendor should also be able to meet your timetable for rolling out the system and training users.

CRM System Features

The top ten features you want to look for in a CRM system are:

  1. Marketing campaign and lead management
  2. Sales cycle management and analysis.
  3. Integration to your back office accounting system.
  4. Open, industry-standard technology.
  5. Seamless flow of information between corporate systems and remote employees.
  6. Real-time reporting and analysis.
  7. Automated workflow
  8. Customer service and support capabilities
  9. Ability to easily customize your solution to fit your business needs.
  10. Scalability to accommodate future business growth.

LBMC Technology Solutions employs a team of CRM professionals to help clients plan for such a system; then we implement, train, customize and supports the solution. Contact LBMC Technology Solutions to help you determine the best CRM solution for your organization.

Kenneth Sims is LBMC Technology Solutions' Vice President of Business Systems. Kenneth heads up the teams of experts for LBMC Technology Solutions' financial, ERP, and CRM software solutions. With LBMC Technology Solutions since 2002, Kenneth has more than 30 years of experience in technology, systems engineering, consulting, project management, business operations, planning, budgeting, and personnel administration and development.