CRM – The Way it Really Is – Guest Blog Post

I am lucky to feature a guest CRM blog post today from Mike Ames who is a Business Development coaching expert.  To find out more information about Business Developmenting Coaching go and have a look at this site .  I would definitely recommend signing up to the free Bracer email which you can find a subscription link on the right of the flair website.

I am currently reading Mike’s ebook  – ‘Business Development for Busy People‘ and you can download a  free chapter  before it’s released in May.

He also has  a good blog – The Mike Ames Business Development Blog and now after all that why don’t you read the article he has written below.

CRM – The Way It Really Is

Look at it this way:  CRM should be less of a computer system that you are forced to use and more of a vital mix of processes and software that you cannot manage without if you want to be a highly effective business developer.

I know it all sounds a bit cliched but with over 20 years of business development experience, most of which has been focused on new client acquisition, I can tell you it happens to be true.  Well, if that is the case why do so many CRM implementations fail?  Let’s start with Mikey’s Magic Three:

1.  Because people are trained how to use the system but not how to make use of the system.  They understand how to add and access data but cannot easily graft this onto their real-life business development activities.  In short they have a system but lack any credible BD processes so they can’t see the point of it so they stop using it.

2.  You choose the wrong system.  Surely one CRM system is pretty much the same as another aren’t they?  No they’re not and here are the key issues:

a)  You cannot change the system yourself, so you have to go back to the vendor to do it.  They charge £400 an hour so you don’t bother even though there is a real business need to make the changes.  After a time your system no longer supports the needs of its users so they find alternative ways to meet those needs usually involving Outlook or spreadsheets.

b)  It does not interface with your existing equipment.  If it doesn’t talk to Outlook or whatever enterprise software you use, forget it.  Even if it does can you access it from your phone, Blackberry or other PDA because if you can’t the data will not be updated or used enough and people will find other ways to do what they need to do.

c)  It doesn’t actually do everything you want it to do mostly because you did not write a detailed requirements document to base your gap analysis on when you assessed the CRM systems you looked at.  You took the one that was cheapest/dearest/flashiest/sold by the most attractive sales person.  Preparation prevents pi$$ poor performance and so do create a requirement document.

3.  The data take-on project is way too ambitious so never gets completed.  People imagine that the system can’t go live until all relevant data is collected from Outlook, spreadsheets, old systems, marketing databases, the accounts package and people’s diaries and loaded onto the new system.  I spent 10 years in IT and here’s the thing:  this is an impossible dream and should absolutely, under no circumstances, be considered.

There are undoubtedly other reasons why CRM installations fail to deliver the results they are capable of but I am going to focus on dealing with these three.

So if you wanted to implement a CRM System that turned into a powerful business development tool leading to more revenue being brought into the firm what should you do?  I would suggest the following simple steps be included in your implementation plan.  There will be other steps but these are specifically intended to deal with the three major causes of failure listed above.

1.  Draw up a requirement definition document.  This will list out all the features, capabilities and outputs the new system will need to meet your business needs.  It should embrace all the key stakeholders such as the IT department, finance, marketing, business development and the users allowing each party to include their thoughts.  Warning:  don’t let it turn into a wish list (or worse a “wouldn’t it be great” list) and don’t design anything by committee.  When it is complete get each of the stakeholders to sign it off.

2.  Train your users.  How can you do this before you get the system I hear you snort.  This is the crucial step because what you are doing is training people in the steps necessary to deliver new clients and a sustainable revenue stream.  Actively encourage people to use Outlook, or similar, to become a pseudo-CRM system where they can record their thin and fat CRM data (see my blogpost for more on this) and build a proper pipeline  This serves two purposes:  firstly it proves what a great tool CRM is to save time and achieve more results with far less effort and secondly it should create a hunger for a better system when it is delivered.

3.  Establishing a steering committee.  Make it delivery focused and not just a talking shop or blame platform.  The idea is to identify, install and use a powerful business development tool so this committee will need strong leadership to keep it on course.  Include the key stakeholders and invite specialists as required.

4.  Seek out your new system.  This is too complicated for me to cover in its entirety but these points are worth noting.  Produce a suitability sheet from your requirements definition document to allow the software vendors to indicate which of your requirements their system meets.  Make sure they all fill yours in and don’t use their own format.  Comparing responses is much easier if they are all in the same format.  Ask your suppliers to suggest the strengths and weaknesses of their competitor’s products.  They tend to be lighter on the strengths but much more detailed on the weaknesses, often telling you crucial things that you would not have ordinarily found out yourself.  Do a detailed gap analysis for each package using a weighting system if necessary.  Take the one that wins.

5.  Install and train.  Once the system has been successfully configured (which may include some customisation but only that which is allowed through the system – avoid bespoke work in the core system) and installed you can start and conduct the Interface training; that is showing people how to use the system.  This is usually the only training given but it is much less effective without stage 2.

6.  Load up key operational data.  Extracting data from accounts systems is usually very easy, as is loading marketing lists.  My advice is to create a flat file which can be cleansed (removed duplicates) and then imported onto the CRM database.  Get it clean before you load it.  As for the rest of the data either hire a couple of temps and get them to load it by hand or you can get the owners of the data themselves to do it.  If you have followed step 2 above they will by now understand the importance of the data and be quite keen to get it into the new system as quickly as possible.  When the data has been fully loaded run more duplicate detection routines based on telephone numbers, email addresses and names to identify and resolve any other possible duplicates.

7.  Go live.  You may decide to stagger implementation by department or by selecting those that were most keen during stage 2 above, or of course, you may just go big-bang.  There are pros and cons with all options and you must decide what is best for you.  I favour the second option.

CRM systems are a crucial aspect of any business development capability. Without them people will be disorganised, wasteful and generally ineffective.  Those CRM solutions that are installed properly can expect to enable their users to deliver more sales in less time – a worthy and noble objective and one that you are quite capable of achieving.

Business winning courgettes and why multi tasking slows you down

I’m part of a business management group with Mike Ames Flair project, this is because Mike works in the same building and used to be director of Crimson Ltd

Mike is a business development coach who previously built up a company and sold it for 40 million, so getting any advice from Mike is good stuff, plus you can usually wangle a pint if you catch him at the bar.

Business development sounds a bit naff when you read it, it’s reminds of words like “in the cloud”, “social Media”, “internet 2” you are never totally sure what they mean.  I will use this blog post to encourage people to invest some time in it and if you are lucky enough to catch a talk from Mike then I recommend you do it.

Business development in my opinion is basically making yourself more efficient and making the most of your time and situations.  I have been on Mike Flair training course and it’s extremely useful and interesting.  I had been a fan of listening to self help books, things like 7 habits of successful people, Tony Robbins book awake the giant within, 4 day week, who moved my cheese etc etc, The 1 minute manager.

To sum these books up it’s basically about making goals, making a plan and prioritising your time to achieve them.  One of my biggest annoyances in life is battling against procrastination and wasted time.  I recommend reading/listening to these books and if you can get yourself on a business development course then do it.

Mike has got some guinea pigs to help him with new material and he has created the Flair tribe group and for this group we had to write a blog.  Today my blog has been published on Mike’s blog and you can read it here

There was also another guest blog post this week which I really enjoyed with the excellent title of

Is it possible to win new business by using courgettes?

it’s a bit of a Friday diversion for you, everyone needs a rest from CRM once in a while.

CRM 2011 – Microsoft CRM Cloud price adds up to more business

Microsoft has really been promoting CRM 2011, widgets counting down to the launch featured on loads of sites, constant buzz about it on the internet.

I was amused by the aggressiveness Microsoft used in promoting CRM 2011 and openly talking about how bad it’s rival products were.  Oracle, Salesforce and act all got a mention and labelled legacy systems.

I think with the cloud computing microsoft is looking to push this, they are basically moving from owning all the computer operating systems, to trying to own the servers people use and leaving them with a basic desktop and internet browser.

during the presentation Microsoft kept emphasising how it has spent billions getting loads of servers up and running to host all the CRM users coming their way.

This article mentions the important fact of license discounting

But here’s something that’s really going to shake up the cloud CRM market, and not just in the UK. The price of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is starting out at a discounted rate of only £22.75 per user per month. If you compare this price with, which is typically around £45 per user per month; it’s a major difference and incentive to go with the Microsoft product. This is highlighted even more when you consider the extensive features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, its familiarity and ease of use, and the big productivity gains you can expect from it. What’s more, you only pay for what you need in respect of storage, which is again a major advantage over several other online CRM solutions.

The promotional price of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will last until June this year. However, even after the discount is withdrawn, we expect the standard price of the product to remain extremely competitive and the total cost of ownership to be lower than its key competitors. In fact, Microsoft has already seen many businesses switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM from products such as SalesForce, Oracle Siebel CRM and SAP CRM. It will be interesting to see if and how these other online CRM providers, and SalesForce in particular, react to the attractive pricing, ease of use, high user adoption rates and the flexibility of the new version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.


This article compares the Microsoft CRM online price to salesforce

Okay, maybe I am repeating the first point a tad here, but I really believe the buzz around Dynamics CRM 2011 comes from the pricing promotions in the market. Microsoft has been very aggressive getting the word out on the $34 per month pricing they are offering for Dynamics CRM Online, as well as, the offer to rebate $200 per user for clients.

Money talks in this world and I think Microsoft are going to get a lot people signing up because their offer goes until June but I think they are going to use price to grab market share off their competitors.



managed and unmanaged solutions in CRM 2011

I am currently reading about Solutions in CRM 2011.

The solutions are a great enhancement to CRM 2011 but they do have quite a few quirks or things to watch out for.  I’m sure these will become second nature in the future but at the moment when everything is new, you have to keep you wits about you.

The first thing I have noticed is a solution can be managed and unmanaged.  An unmanaged solution is one which you can change and modify.  This is basically how you will have the solution whilst you are testing and developing it.

A managed solution is a solution you don’t want anyone to change.

Another thing I was wondering about, what about plugin registration.  If you supplied a solution with plugin’s do you need to register the plugins.  The answer is yes, although you can include already registered plugins in the solution.  This seems a bit misleading to me and I haven’t quite figured out what you do if this was an app in the CRM market place.   Would he user have to register the plugin themselves or are we expected to write some code to do this programatically.

Managed solutions also cannot be exported.

Deleting a managed solution will uninstall all of the solutions components.

An interesting aspect of Managed Solutions is you can create properties to allow the user to customermize aspects of the solution.

Solutions can be layered and it matters what order you import solutions into CRM.

Solutions only include the changes which are different from the system.  This means you can merge solutions together.

if two solutions both change the same area then the last solution imported will be the winner.  Which is something to remember, especially if you want to layer solutions and try and modularise coding in CRM.

it’s interesting and the more I read about it the more the way it works makes sense.  but it certainly helps to read the SDK and articles about solutions

Passed two more certifications

I have this year passed two more CRM certifications

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Customization and Configuration
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Installation and Deployment

it’s interesting because I sometimes wonder how valuable certifications are but I have certainly learnt a lot of information about the product and I think I know have a broader knowledge of the subject.  Where as before I had a working knowledge of the product.

Personally the value I put to certifications is it gives me something official to show for the hours of effort I have put in.  There are many people who have read a technical book but you can’ t put that on your CV (although you can add it to linkedin!)

I also think Certifications are a good way to get some experience in a product which you might not be using everyday in your work or maybe are using certain parts of it but you want to learn about other sections.

I also read that people who are certified get 5 to 10 percent higher wages.  I don’t think this is just about the certifications but it shows that those people are willing to put extra effort in outside of work , ambitious and are trying to get ahead in their career.

New White Paper – CRM & the Economy

I read an interesting white paper today by a company called Innoveers solutions and the title of the white paper is “CRM & the Economy” and it can be found here

The article paints an interesting picture and has a positive approach to the current economic downturn.  As a positive person I found myself agreeing with the many of the points in the paper.   I found it very interesting and encourage you to read it, it’s only seven pages long and won’t take you a minute.

The paper highlights the importance of CRM and by improving the efficency of your CRM systems you can not only increase efficency but more importantly you can focus on retaining the customer base you have already worked so hard to build up.

Improving your CRM systems is not only something  you should do in a growing economy but it becomes even more important when the economy is contracting because in many ways this is the time  you need to be operating at your most cost effective and where benefits will seem even greater.

The idea of increasing the effectiveness of your marketing and improving your current customer service is vitally important when money is at a premium.

It reminds me of a Zig Ziglar story I heard recently when he mentions a salesman was trying to sell to someone who had just crashed his car, burnt down half of his house in a fire and other misfortunes.  The man was trying to sell him a smoke alarm package for 300 pounds.  The fellow said “listen boy I am down about 30000 dollars and I can’t afford to buy from you”.   The salesman said “sir, the way I see you have already lost a lot and another 300 dollars won’t make much difference but if you lost what you have left to a fire then you have lost everything, I can’t see how you can’t afford not to buy this smoke alarm”.

The point I am trying to make is, when things are going well people can afford not to buy CRM systems because things are going well but when things are going bad and they need to get into shape and become efficient then they this is the time they really can’t afford not to improve and buy CRM systems.