Customer-Focused CRM (#CX)

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Managing Customer Relationships and Improving Sales Performance

One of the core aspects of CXRM's online software it its ability to provide a simple-to-use CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to its users. But what in practice does this mean?

What is CRM?

In fact CRM is a mixture of things. It's often seen as just managing your sales "pipeline"; allowing you to see what work is on the horizon, what's in progress and what's been delivered. Traditionally these steps might be something like:

  1. Initial contact
  2. Application of Initial Fit Criteria
  3. Sales lead
  4. Need identification
  5. Qualified prospect
  6. Proposal
  7. Negotiation
  8. Closing
  9. Deal Transaction

The person or team responsible for sales will then have a number of leads at different points in this process, and it's their job to see that the pipeline is full and that the leads are progressing to sales as swiftly and effectively as possible. This can lead to a really useful Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for the business; measuring the time taken from intial contact to closing the deal. Measuring the time at each step can give managers important feedback about where the difficulties in the sales process are, and where to focus resource to make sure that the pipeline flows smoothly.

With a visual representation of a the pipeline (like the one in CXRM) you can quickly see where the bottlenecks are in the sales process and look at how to make the sales process move more freely.

Why Have a Sales Pipeline?

The reason for having this type of pipeline is so that the business managers get to see that there is going to be enough work to do into the months ahead (or enough resources if business is booming). They can use the information to predict the likely volume of sales and forecast the value of the work into the future. This might include applying discount factors to the likelihood of future sales being booked, say a 65% discount if a proposal or quote has been  given, or a 35% discount if the customer has verbally expressed acceptance of key terms. A "discounted pipeline" like this can be really useful in understanding the level of certainty in future workload - for instance, is all your pipeline made up of very early stage proposals, or is most of the work nearly closed?

In difficult economic times the sales pipeline can be a really sharp indicator of potential difficulties in the business, with the number of leads either dwindling or becoming harder to move from one stage to the next. This can allow the managers to make preparations and changes ahead of time to respond to the shortfall in orders; either by restructuring the business, or by adapting to look for new markets for their goods and services.

Is CRM Just the Sales Pipeline?

No. The sales pipeline is just the start.

CRM is about ongoing relationships with your clients. This is a lifetime's work; from before they've met you, right through their lifetime as a customer, and even after they've finished being your customer.

Before they meet you, you may already be in some type of contact with them. Your vans or advertising or staff could have crossed their path. They might have heard about you in the news, or through a business network. They might have used some of your products elsewhere. Considering the first impressions and wider impact of your business is going to contribute to improving the wider contact points you have with your potential new clients.

In practice though the day to day focus of most CRM is on active relationships with customers. These are the people and businesses that you have been in contact with, who have approached you, and who may be a client already. In this situation CRM is the business of making sure those relationships are positive and productive.

What is the Scope of CRM?

CRM can encompass all aspects of your relationships with your clients; this includes the formal business to business (B2B) contractual stuff that serves to formalise your working relationships; and also the face to face contact between your staff and your customers' staff; and sometimes your staff and your clients' customers. 

Managing your customer relationships can happen through all sorts of media and methods; face-to-face, phone calls, emails, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, websites, support desks, sales visits, and so on. 

Whatever the methods or contact points the goals will ultimately be the same.

The Goals of CRM

The goals of CRM will be to help deliver on your business mission statement and value set; what you want to do for the world, and in particular what you want to do for your customers.

Do you want to make it easier to do their jobs by providing them with consultancy? Are you helping them to build world class products using your world class components? Are you helping them to find new markets by providing advertising campaigns? Are you supporting their business growth by managing and developing their IT needs?  

or more subtly, 

Are you providing services that take the stress out of running their business? Do you help them with staff training and retention? Is your business there improve their business' value?

The CRM derives from these aspirations and goals. Your CRM is about increasing the ways in which you can achieve your client-centred goals and build on your business values.

CRM in Practice

In practice this means that;

  • you keep in touch
  • you find out how your clients are doing
  • you get to know your clients' staff and how they're getting on too
  • you keep track of your clients' opportunities and stresses
  • you take feedback on the work you're already doing with your clients - is it good, bad or indifferent?

Outcomes from Good CRM

By investing time and effort in communication and building these relationships the synergy between your business and your clients will be enhanced.

  • You will probably hear about new opportunities for selling additional services earlier.
  • You will ensure that your customers feel confident in your business and less inclined to replace you with a less well-known-and-trusted (although possibly cheaper) alternative.
  • You may get more referrals from your existing clients if they're always talking about you and the positive impact you're having on them.
  • You will feel more in control of your own business destiny.
  • You should be able to make more sales.

How To Manage CRM

Some aspects of CRM are simply about admin. CXRM for instance has options that allow you to see when you last contacted a client. This can give you a reminder to pick up the phone for a catch up. Booking in regular calls or visits is essential to staying in touch and fostering a deeper integration of your business with your clients'.

CXRM's sales pipeline management allows you to see where the process stalls or slows and gives you a chance to explore why that happens and make adjustments to imrpove the flow.

Some of CRM is about improving documentation and information sharing. Clients will appreciate it if all your staff know who they are, even if they don't work for them. Sharing appropriate information about clients among your team can really improve your clients' sense of your how much you value them. Sharing any notes and background that relates to aspects of their business that you are helping with can also be hugely helpful. If you know all the facts then you'll make better suggestions, and the client will know that they've really been attended to and are in good hands.

Managing Exits

CRM also extends beyond the active phase of working with your clients. Some sales pipelines have a concept of "Dead" or "Complete" as a final destination; one that often means "Leave this one alone". In fact this can miss an important CRM opportunity. 

Other more positive models see the exit from a business relationship (or the rejection of a proposal) as an opportunity to leave the door open for new opportunities. Even if the exit is possibly difficult or awkward it may be possible to still provide a good experience that will be remembered by the client in the future. 

The value of holding this in the CRM process is that you never know when the customer may choose to return and re-engage with you. After all, their new supplier may turn out to be unsuitable, the cheaper quote they were given may end up having lots of hidden extras, the new deal may fall through; and you will probably want to be at the top of the list for people to turn to if this happens.

What Is CXRM's Best Practice CRM Blueprint All About?

CXRM software includes an integrated blueprint for managing customers across the full life cycle.

The blueprint is based on years of experience in customer management and is built in a flexible process engine - so the 'out of box' best practice can be configured further for your business if you wish – for instance by customising the individual steps, linking to other processes, adding tags for reporting, or adding specific triggers (e.g. phone customer three months after installing equipment). You can even share configurations through our forums.