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BLOG: CRM and better B2B customer management

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22nd Jan 2009
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As part of the Oracle campaign to listen to feedback from the MyCustomer.com community, they have reached out to the blogosphere. Over the coming weeks, you will see a number of articles from some of the leading independent voices on CRM, SaaS, and social trends. You can find all of these blog posts, and ask Oracle a question yourself by clicking here.

By Richard Boardman of Mareeba
January 22 2009

I was discussing with a friend who runs a computer services company how CRM technology could help his business unlock the potential of its customer base; something of a pertinent topic currently given the economic climate. As many firms finding winning new business tougher, developing more business from your existing customers becomes increasingly attractive given the established ‘beach-head’ means that sales cycles are often shorter and competitive pressures less.

The following are five approaches we discussed:

Understanding the client potential – the better you understand what products and services your customers are currently buying from you, and which they might buy, or buy more of in the future, the better positioned you are to develop the account. Obvious maybe, but for many customers who have large product and services portfolios, this can be a challenge.

As an example, we did some work recently with a client who sold through a network of resellers. When we analysed what percentage of each reseller’s total business my client supplied, there were a few surprises, with resellers who clearly had vast potential receiving little attention, and less promising accounts receiving a disproportionate amount of resources. Sales effort it seems doesn’t always align neatly with account potential.

Planning carefully – which might sound a little dull, but some of the most effective organizations I’ve come across meticulously plan how they will develop each customer. The planning process takes into account the client potential, and sets out a detailed strategy for achieving it. This doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming, but it works well because it encourages a proactive, structured approach to customer development, and means that efforts are focused on those with the greatest promise, rather than those that shout loudest, or the salesperson likes visiting most.

Establishing a contact strategy – I occasionally get the odd email through that goes something like this: ‘Dear Richard, we haven’t spoken for some while but I wondered if you had a CRM project we could work on?’ I’m sure you receive similar contact from salespeople who haven’t spoken to you in years, but figure that the occasional missive is enough to generate business. Generating business from existing accounts requires an investment of effort over a prolonged period of time, and one of the keys to that is to define how, and how often, each customer will be contacted, and ensure this contact strategy is followed.

Growing the contact base – One of the most frequent scenarios for losing a customer in a B2B environment is when there’s a change of personnel in the customer account. A lot of salespeople will just work with a single customer contact, but get caught out if that person moves on. Therefore one of the key goals for effective account retention and development is to build as broad a base of contacts as possible. Understanding who is, and who isn’t being contacted within a customer, is a very good way to maximize potential and minimize customer attrition.

Developing a customer marketing strategy – If you’re relying entirely on your sales team to communicate with your customers you’re probably not maximizing their potential. By carefully integrating good direct marketing with the account management function you’ve got the opportunity to ‘talk’ with people about products and services you might not normally ‘talk’ about, as well as reinforce the work of the account manager.

While most of the basic strategies I’ve touched on above can be achieved without the need for a CRM system, what CRM technology brings is the ability for management to define a strategy and easily monitor its being effectively executed. It’s also worth noting that the points above are just part of a whole range of approaches to generating more from the existing customer base. While the strategies you apply will vary according to the sort of products and services you sell, we’ve seen over the years that getting the right approaches supported by the effective use of CRM can have a huge impact on the bottom line. And in these tough times this may be the sort of ‘cash in the attic’ that companies badly need.

About the author

Voted as one the top 5 bloggers worldwide, Richard Boardman is something of a grizzled veteran of the CRM space having worked in the industry for the last 12 years and having been involved in implementing over 300 CRM systems.

In 2004 He went from poacher to gamekeeper, and left one of the UK's leading CRM vendors to become an independent CRM consultant with the pretty simple objective of helping organisations get a considerably better return on investment from CRM technology than was the traditional norm. If you want to read more from Richard’s blog here: http://www.mareeba.co.uk/blog/

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