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Should the maturity of your sales strategy steer your CRM investment?

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7th Jul 2015
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The CRM industry is like the light at the end of the tunnel: it promises an answer to all your business challenges but I’ve seen plenty of businesses find out that the light was actually an oncoming train. CRM isn’t a standalone piece of technology: it’s at the heart of your sales and marketing strategy and you need to take a strategic approach to choosing your ideal CRM.

What do I mean by a strategic approach? You need to understand how your sales cycle works; how your customers buy; understand your budget and the lifetime investment required by different CRM strategies. Most of all, you need to understand the maturity of your sales organisation, of your marketplace (and how you want to differentiate) and pick a CRM strategy that fits.

The maturity of your sales organisation isn’t linear; rather there are three different strategies which are built on top of existing structures. You need to have the first layer in place before you can start building the second.

Basic

An immature sales organisation is one which struggles to track basic customer interactions: phone calls, email, meeting notes and so on. You might be using Excel sheets or even handwritten notes to manage your customers: this leaves your organisation either completely in the dark, or at best it takes an unreasonable amount of effort.

Immature sales organisations will benefit hugely from a basic CRM strategy: it will provide them with actionable data, forecasting, and a way to view and measure their whole pipeline at a glance, not to mention providing a real-time single view of a truth. As a result, they will be able to deliver far better customer service for far less effort.

This may sound obvious, but it really isn’t: I’ve been surprised how many successful businesses manage to cope without a CRM strategy. However, in the market today we’re seeing these businesses try to integrate social media into their customer journey, and without the core CRM to build upon, they find this very complex.

Intermediate

If you already have a mature sales organisation, are able to manage your customer interactions and gain useful data but want to reach the next level, then you need to go beyond CRM to social CRM. This involves integrating wider social media interactions into your CRM: essentially, recognising that people buy from people and understanding what your customers are saying to each other and potential customers.

This has clear benefits: by putting the customer in charge of their relationship you gain more opportunities; leverage the positive interactions they have had with their peers and can step in to sort out nascent problems before they impact your business. This social CRM also allows you to track your outbound and inbound marketing, social media and bring them all into your dashboards and metrics.

That’s why I say that you need to have a solid CRM in place first: without that, this is all just too much to build from scratch, whereas it’s relatively simple to build it on top of an existing process. Once this is accomplished, try to understand whether you want to build a social CRM as a social media marketing platform with the ability to track interactions or as a CRM with extensive social elements.

Advanced

That brings us to the advanced sales organisation. At this point you’re really building a more complete strategy to make the most of your existing social CRM: CXM today is more of an approach than a technology.

The big difference between the advanced sales organisation and its predecessors is that the advanced organisation is concerned with the post-sales customer journey; whereas less mature organisations are mostly concerned with the pre-sale experience. Again, this is why I advise you to have the previous maturity levels in place before trying to move on.

Customer experience management is a strategy of evaluating the steps in your customer’s journey. Having identified what stages and experiences your existing customers have gone through, you can also assess where and why they differ, allowing you to recognise what “type” future customers might be and proactively manage and personalise their journey.

We are currently in the midst of a CRM war led by major vendors who are trying to differentiate their offerings based on features. Before you choose a vendor, you need to decide what you need your CRM to do today and in the future; then choose based on the strategies outlined above.

Dave Akka is CEO at ABRS.

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