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Creating a CRM Playbook

Introduction

Increasingly you will be reading about the need to create a Playbook for when you are introducing a new system or processes or indeed as part of your standard Sales and Marketing training. This concept has come over from the US in recent years and has a place in our view in Customer Relationship Management software adoption.

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Now the first question on this side of the pond we get asked is what is a playbook? At the risk of teaching you to suck eggs, simply put...

“Playbooks can be formal documents… but they are also business process workflows, standard operating procedures and cultural values that shape a consistent response – the play. A playbook reflects a plan; an approach or strategy defining predetermined responses worked out ahead of time.” This definition is taken from an useful article by Accenture.

Now, here you may notice an overlap with the Standard Operating Processes that we have often discussed and mentioned in previous blogs, and of course you will be right. The difference really is that in my view, more time is put into making this a more visual presentation often based on a powerpoint template and offered in one bound volume, or in pdf format. It may even overlap with the traditional Quality Manual for your ISO accreditation.

CRM Playbook contents

So, what should you include in your CRM Playbook?

In my view when dealing with CRM adoption and implementation, this should be a combination of your Sales Processes and how you expect and what you expect should be entered into the system by the Sales team and all your other Users in their processes. As a minimum, to start with, we recommend you should include these processes:-

• Marketing and Lead Generation

• Prospect Engagement

• Customer on-boarding

• Post Sales Customer processes

Don’t forget the Playbook is not just a series of screenshots from the system, but should show and explain your core processes which is why we recommend an introduction section in our ebook download of the whole series of processes and then highlight What and Why information needs to be completed at each process or stage within your software.

The easiest way to approach this is to work through the Sales Funnel from Marketing Lead generation to Prospect engagement through to Customer and post-sale Customer Service, for example Account Management, Customer Reviews or Customer contract renewals. This has the advantage that you can divide the workload, but use the same template design and ensure one person is responsible for the project in managing and collating this.

Of more importance in my view is to get that first draft out quickly, it may have gaps and they may be areas that need to be best explored in later editions, but this is a great way to embed and create User Adoption and Ownership in a clear and easy to digest way which will of course complement any existing User Training and manuals. Over time, these Playbooks can be expanded or form the basis of more detailed SOP’s and even become incorporated into your ISO documentation.

Building your own Playbook

Whenever we engage with clients, one of the aspects we inform them is the need to draw up some sort of Standard Operating Process or if this is too onerous, then a simple Playbook powerpoint documentation to help explain the “information and actions flow through their own system.”

If you are interested in finding out more, then we have put together a simple ebook with our Top 9 tips on "Creating a CRM Playbook" for your next project including some useful resource links for powerpoint templates and icons...

3rd June 2016

CRM in Practice -Social Media Usage

CRM in Practice - Social Media Usage.

One of the biggest changes in the last few years has been the inclusion into CRM systems of links to Social Media. Whilst clients do ask, for many, this is just a simple tick box on their functionality matrix checklist. The two questions most often asked are...

“How useful is it?” and “How does it work in system X?”.

This blog begins to answer the first question...

with the second question answered in our next blog on this topic-:-

“How Useful is it?”

Simply put...very useful!

The key is how to use Social media effectively and ensuring it is not just that functionality tickbox in your CRM system. Effective use will partly depend on Social Media training,CRM Adoption and the profile of your customers and industry. Using social media is for many companies still in its infancy, and you can be carried away, but let’s look at some pragmatic applications.

For me, whilst Twitter monitoring can be useful, the size of the sales Opportunity probably dictates how much time and effort you spend on background Social Media research and monitoring, together with the Customers or Prospects profile. However, it is always useful to check their website and thier social media engagement.

Now to possibly the most important Social Media tool in business use and one in which you should be familiar and competent at using if you are in any Sales and Marketing or Customer Service facing role…

The Power of LinkedIn with CRM

As a LinkedIn Trainer, I am not in favour of using it to just send “Invites” to Prospects or Customers until I feel that there is a strong relationship or connection, but LinkedIn offers the most powerful reason for social media engagement in CRM in my view. Why is this?

Itis a great tool for doing pre-meeting research and gaining an understanding of the target company, indeed of your Customers. You are able to gain an excellent insight into the people you are dealing with in greater depth than ever before, and you can now do all this from your desk before you even meet. This can have a positive impact on how you sell and work with that client or prospect, if used effectively

My best example was of working with a client who was very visual on a SAGE CRM project. The client was very focussed on “look and feel” and using different coloured workflow icons, all very possible, albeit time consuming. We were questioning the time and effort involved against would Users understand these differences. After ‘connecting’, it became apparent why this was important. Even though I some social time with the client, one item had never come up and that was his attendance at the Royal College of Art. So of course, design was important. If I had connected earlier I would have seen and better understood this. To be fair, I had only just joined myself in 2007, so did not appreciate how it could be used for Sales.

My Five Golden Rules for using with CRM

1. Ensure you research likely targets (Customers or Prospects).

2. Link their profiles for instant and easy clicking (how you do this may vary between CRM - see next blog).

3. Alwats do pre-meeting research and then creenshot and add profiles to a ms word document and attach this to the Opportunity of the likely people you are going to meet.

4. "Click" on all relevant profiles at least a few days before.

5. Follow Company page and thier Twitter account, if the opportunity size is relevant and they use Social Media activity (distinguish between a ‘presence’ and ‘active engagement’).

Doing this does require discipline and there are a few other activities you should do that will enhance your own use of LinkedIn with your Customer Relationship Managementsoftware.

Conclusion

My main argument would be that Social Media monitoring and engagement and the ability to do research should now be part of every Sales and Marketing or Customer Services person skillset. However, it is important that your team are trained to use it properly.

CRMC have developed both an in-house LinkedIn for Sales Workshop and an Introductory Webinar to demonstrate how this works in practice. Our short 30 minute “LinkedIn for Sales” Webinar can give you a useful insight into the skills you need in more detail and how this works with your CRM...

by Gary Perkins 11-Apr-2016 16:30:00

17th May 2016

Using a DMU or Buying Cenrre in CRM

As part of our “CRM in practice series” we thought it useful to talk about the DMU or Buying centre and its use in Customer Relationship Management software.

The Buying Centre

This is not a new concept, since the Buying Centre originates in the DMU (Decision Making Unit) taught in Marketing by Kotler since the 1960’s when B2B or Industrial Marketing as it was sometimes referred to then was not as glamorous as FMCG marketing for say Procter and Gamble with their big TV advertising campaigns.

In those days, B2B was considered a somewhat less interesting marketing role. But, in the last 10-15 years that has changed with the advent of Google and the Digital Age.

Within Business to Business selling the DMU has been a useful concept when explaining how an organisation buys. The caveat is that this concept really works best if there is a complex or group based purchasing process and if the opportunity is of sufficient value.

As a sales person, you need to know the internal decision making process and how each member interacts with the other members. This is standard sales training and the methodology and concept is now taught by everyone from Tack International to Sandler and of course Miller Heiman.

Typically, when selling to an organisation, the various contacts fit a number of roles, classically these may include:-

• Gatekeepers who often control access to the team and may limit what is passed on.

• Initiators who have recognised the issue and are starting search for a solution.

• Influencers could Finance for example or could be external consultants.

• Decision Makers often but not always MD or senior Directors.

• Buyers who may often be the professional purchasing team.

• Users or Stakeholders who will use your product/service.

There are lots of permutations and descriptions and any one person can have more than one role, so a Managing Director for instance could be a Decision Maker but will sometimes be a User of the CRM system reviewing higher level Reports or Dashboards tracking KPI’s. or indeed, actually updating their own meeting notes and activities.

Essentially the Buying Centre concept means you are tracking and recognising varying degrees of influence and also of authority in the decision making process. This can be the secret to closing more sales.

The Buying Centre in CRM

Most systems for the SME sector are targeting business rather than individual consumers (although a case could be made here for example with large ticket items or financial services with the family as the DMU).

Since as the seller you need to understand which role each person holds or adopts and who is influencing who this concept holds significance relevance to today’s sales professionals when using their own CRM software.

Since I have been in CRM from the late 90’s, the visualisation of this process has been a challenge to the software vendors, but still of intense interest to many sofftware buyers and over the years there have been numerous attempts at showing this.

For many applications a starting point still widely used is the use of Referral tabs or Connection Lists with Roles within an Sales Opportunity. Until recently and for many applications still, the visualisation of this concept has been challenging or was solved by more expensive third party add-ons. Now, though this is entering mainstream CRM and as an example of the new cloud based functionality, Pipeliner CRM is one of the innovative applications to include this visualisation as standard, interestingly at both the Organisational level and at the Opportunity level and this is illustrated below.

Whilst not quite the Holy Grail, this feature has been frequently asked for and expected by clients for nearly 20 years going back to the Tracker contact management application of the 1990’s which actually included this feature. But strangely this feature is only now in a few mainstream applications like SAGECRM, although many applications do still need additional third party add-in modules to show this in a visual format which is what end users want and expect.

Alongside the need to understand your Sales Velocity (see recent blog), in nearly all B2B sales, invariably more than one person is involved and if the value is big, the Sales Professional and Sales Management will benefit by seeing this Buying Centre visually since it is much easier to comprehend the inter-relationships with the Opportunity.

The Future

Going forward, we would expect innovative systems to adopt this as a standard feature since the technology is there and with LinkedIn and other Social Media integrations now able to bring in the photo’s of people, this becomes a very powerful tool.

If your sales team are involved in complex sales, make sure you understand if the visual Buying Centre is a feature which is needed and will help your sales team to graphically and easily reveal the key connections helping you close more deals.

If this is an important feature for next system why not download our latest CRM checklist which can help you understand which applications best meet your needs.

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24th March 2016

Five Steps to High Quality Data

The purpose of the blog is to identify a number of simple techniques that can be adopted by your business to ensure the quality of the data in your CRM is maintained to an immaculate standard.

1. Preparing and updating your CRM ‘Data Quality Days’

Planning and preparation is key for every task, and CRM data is no different. Every year at CRMC during the quieter periods of the year, we keep aside some Data Quality preparation days, to ensure that the information we hold is correct. We assign 20 key clients to each employee who has to ensure the data is correct and updated if necessary.

By scheduling dates into the diary employees have an expectation and accountability of ensuring data is maintained to a high quality. It also makes them aware of the importance of quality data, continually amending and updating data will make their lives easier, promote better practices and ensure your clients are kept engaged. Importantly this will also impact on the effectiveness of Marketing, helping to create better alignment between Sales and Marketing.

2. Adopting a ‘Do it now’ culture

Sales professionals lead busy lives and keeping data updated can be a struggle at times. With improved mobility and access to CRM on the go, Sales professionals, whether they are office or field based, now have the capability to log into most systems ‘on the Go’, on either a mobile device, laptop or a tablet to update data as soon as possible.

By instilling a ‘do it now’ culture everybody within the organisation can then be expected to update and amend contact information in your CRM promptly. So, if they see an error or a misspelling they will take ownership and amend it there and then. When things get put off, often, key pieces of information are lost prohibiting effective use of the system. Unfortunately, it is not an overnight fix and will take time and effort, but by changing your culture you can improve the quality of data.

3. Checking and cleansing your data

Data quality is important if senior management are to take advantage of their customer data in a meaningful and productive way that gives value to the company.

Data quality issues include:

• Accuracy

• Integrity

• Cleanliness

• Correctness

• Completeness

• Consistency

There is significant business value to be achieved by managing and ensuring your data is clean but all too often senior management find it difficult to justify a business case for data cleansing.

Consider the impact of the following to your business:-

• The cost to the business of processing errors

• Wasted Marketing efforts

• Manual trouble shooting

• Incorrect or invalid invoice data

• Impact on the business and marketing departments reputation

You can now begin to appreciate the importance of keeping your data updated. It is a central aspect of any CRM system, incomplete transactional data is like putting petrol in a diesel engine; it will grind to a halt very quickly.

A lack of clear and up-to-date information has the potential to jeopardise those customer and supplier relationships you have worked so hard to maintain and keep.

4. Monitoring Bounced and Returned Emails

Failures such as bounced emails and returned mail usually mean a failure to sufficiently clean your database. Make sure you monitor the number of returns or bounces as it can be used as a metric to understand how effective your data cleaning procedures are.

Also, it is a vital component for your Email Marketing Strategy, be sure to correct the information in your database as you become aware of it. If you can’t correct it think about removing it completely or try to find out who the most relevant point of contact is now and adjusted accordingly.

5. Who is the Data Quality Commissioner?

Yes, the Commissioner! You want to find an employee within your business who will take ownership of the points mentioned below and ‘Champion’ these initiatives. This is important as we all know maintenance is key to avoiding silly mistakes on the system that can be quite impactful. By correctly selecting your ‘CRM Champion’ can save a lot of time in the data management process.

Conclusion

As I am sure you are beginning to appreciate, there is more to managing and maintaining high quality data than meets the eye. The aforementioned steps should provide a platform to improve the effectiveness of your CRM and deliver a database with high quality information that will enable both Sales and Marketing to do their jobs more efficiently.

To help you to organise and better understand your data, CRMC are currently offering a CRM Optimisation Workshop. This will teach you to use data to align your processes to get the most out of your system. To find out more, click the button below.

Find out more about the 'CRM Optimisation Workshop'

by Charlie Barrett

24th February 2016

In CRM. Are they Leads or the Usual Suspects?

Continuing with our occasional ‘CRM in practice’ blog series, probably one of the biggest questions which comes up is:

What is the difference between a Lead and a Suspect?

The answer is that it will somewhat depend on your chosen CRM software. Writing this blog, I thought it would be simple to find some definitions, but surprisingly it is not. Do a quick search yourself and the definitions are very close, so it depends on your perspective. Here are mine...

Leads

The most confusing term is that of a Lead. This is a Sales Lead where, and this may depend on your own business use, they are not currently doing business with you. Usually they are new to your database. This could be classified as an Account level classification type, although sometimes a Lead is created and tracked in its own right before being promoted to a sales Opportunity after qualification if they meet your profile. A Lead could be simply someone you met on at a tradeshow or just a phone call-in. Importantly your CRM enables you to track this Lead and also Assign it. Losing and not following-up on Leads is still one of the main catalysts in choosing a CRM system.

Leads can start outside of the system as a separate entity in their own right and may not be registered as an Account or Contact on your system yet. This is where it comes to understanding how your software treats Leads. In Customer Relationship Managementsoftware, it can sit in a separate ‘container’ slightly distant from your main database, although and this is confusing, you can often attach a Lead to an existing company or contact.

Suspects

Now a Suspect is easier to define, since generally they are seen as someone that has been either partially qualified and that you believe fits in with your target profile and you could potentially do business with them. This is just another Account Type within your main database since they have been sufficiently qualified to create a FULL record. So, in our use, anyone who has a CRM system could be a target for one of our CRM Optimisation Auditssince this is not system centric. You may now have more additional information completed and this could include number of employees, a great indicator of size and most clients will give you this information readily.

Now an easy one…Prospects

We are now ‘out of the jungle’ and in clearer territory, where everyone can pretty much agree and there is a lot less confusion and no need to search Wikipedia!

Prospects are people you are actively engaged with at Account level and they meet all your key criteria to sell too whether now or in the near future. Most likely you have created aSales Opportunity, but even if you lose this particular sale, they may still remain a Prospect for the future. You know that you can meet their requirements, but they may not be in a position to need or want your services just right now.

Using these within a typical CRM System

We now need to apply to our own CRM database.

According to the CRM Triangle which we use to begin to explain the concept there are three core entities. However, this is now not strictly true since most full systems such as Sage CRM, Pipeliner CRM to name some of the Big Five have the concept of a separate Leads Entity.

Leads as an entity are often used by Marketing as a ‘container’ for Marketing campaigns before being “passed across” to the Sales Team as strong Suspects or Prospects after your various qualification criteria have been met. Sales now own these and must progress them.

Within this CRM world, these definitions remain blurred. We can all accept that a Prospect is someone you can deal business with and who meets your key qualification criteria. A Prospect will most probably have, if they are at the right stage, a Sales Opportunity against it.

As we have said earlier a Lead can be promoted to a Sales Opportunity AND Account/Contact since they rest in this separate ‘container’ as shown.

So, looking at the diagram, in CRM terms a Lead is unqualified, really a Suspect waiting to be qualified but possibly with an embryonic Sales Opportunity, often with some value. Once Qualified it is either promoted into the main Database and an Account/Contact AND an Opportunity is created at the same time. Typically, it is now a Suspect or Propsects depending on your own processes.

What to do now?

Writing this blog reinforces the need to document your own Sales processes and definitions and share these in your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s).

A great starting point is a workshop between Sales and Marketing to agree on your own definitions and processes. To help create this sales and marketing alignment of terminology, we have put together some simple graphics you can download from our ebook if you want to illustrate these concepts better. The download includes additional references.

Download the 'CRM in Practice' eBook

by Gary Perkins

3rd February 2016

Using Account Classification is as simple as ABC

This is an occasional series of "CRM In Practice " blogs where we explore not which is the best CRM , but some of the best practice ideas found in CRM which can help you get the most out of your CRM software.

When you implement a system, clients find there is a host of functionality that is pre- built in, but which they may not fully understood the use of. My best example is in MS Dynamics CRM which has a ‘ticket’ field...

We often have to explain this is a field in which 95% of the time we remove. It is used to identify a Stock Market ticker symbol (Microsoft is MSFT) on say the NASDAQ Stock Exchange which unlikely to be used by UK SME’s.

Classifying your Customers

As a first CRM good practice, we will start with Customer Classification.

A Customer in our parlance is someone who has purchased from us and with whom we have an Active relationship, be this on a weekly, monthly or annually transaction basis we treat them as a Customer. In most CRM systems the field is likely to be called Account Typeor Account Status and have a dropdown selection for Customer, Prospect, Competitor, Supplier etc.

However, we know that Not All Customers are the same.

Whilst this simple label can be useful it can be helpful to differentiate between Customers. Understanding and profiling your customers we discuss in details during our CRM Optimisation Workshops. It is important that sales and marketing teams are aware of the differences between Customers.

A useful profiling exercise is the simple ABCD classification which is both easy to understand and which some applications such as Pipeliner CRM include as standard. Using or adding this as an extra field gives an instant view of the Perceived value of a Customer quickly.

We use the "ABCD" classification to focus on potential and call this the Account Class. The selection options are just “ABCD”. Here, we are rating our view of the customers underlying potential. You can compare this approach to using the Harvard Boston Consulting Matrixwhich is a similar concept.

In our own system, we use “ABCD” definitions as follows:-

• A Customers are the best, they are your “A” Class or A Grade clients and are great customers to work with and importantly keep. They should be profitable and you should have a good fit to their needs. In US parlance, they are “Awesome!”

• B Customers have “Big potential “and you will want to develop these into becoming your next generation ‘A’ class Customers.

• C Customers are those who for whatever business reasons you ‘Can’t deal with’. The relationship is not going anywhere, but simply up sucking time and resource. These can hang around so you need to Move them up or Move them out.

• D Customers are either “Dead” or “Divorced” from you and you should recognise this fact. You may want to have one last try to re-engage, or just accept your relationship is finished, you are now Divorced. It’s over, so deal with it and move on! Following on this analogy, you may still want to re-connect at a later stage, things may change.

Pipeliner CRM has an extra selection ‘0’ for ‘unclassified’ or ‘pending classification’. Importantly this is an audited field so you can view the changes in the ‘Audit’ tab. We encourage this with other systems to be a trackable field. It can be useful to see these changes over time, so ensure your sales team add a note with their reason for any change.

Conclusion

By having a better understanding of your customer profile using the simple ABCD classification can help to identify those clients needing more support and who your team should be cultivating and keeping.

We all know of the 80/20 rule and this classification often reinforces this concept, but for your sales and marketing team, it shows instantly in one simple field who to focus on and why with the A for Awesome customer and B for Big potential it is clear. For SME’s moving from start-up ‘finding customers’ phase to growth phase this is a useful exercise in understanding which customers you want to keep and which you need to spend time on developing or dropping.

Introducing some sort of Customer’s Account Classification can be extremely useful, but does need to be monitored and reviewed at least annually. It is a useful field for planning and budgeting to highlight where to invest marketing funds and support.

We talked earlier about the “CRM Optimisation Audit” and this is one example where we review your existing system and processes. Interested in finding out more? Go to the CRM Optimisation Audit where you can download our 2016 checklist, a useful starting point in reviewing your own CRM system.

Find out more about the 'CRM Optimisation Workshop'

by Gary Perkins

26th January 2016

Preparing your CRM for 2016

As 2015 is drawing to a close, we often get asked ‘what we do with our CRM system?’ and if there are any best practices we can share. And yes, there are a number of things you can do and a few things we think you should avoid over the festive period…

My Top Five Things to do…

1. Tidy up your data. The success of a CRM can be measured by the quality of the data that is stored within it. Cleaning up your data should be an ongoing task but with every well laid idea, it doesn’t always go to plan. Ideally, do not delete data unless you have a back-up organised. The number one helpdesk call in the New Year we get is for missing data. Records have been deleted or you can’t access the system as something has been moved/attempted over the break. Use the time to set a “deletion flag” on records you want to delete for some reason, then….

2. Hold an “End of Year CRM” Meeting to decide what to do in the coming year. The key here is CRM planning, let people know what is being planned for the New Year, so you can look at:-

1. Reviewing the needs for changes to the CRM System. E.g. Add a workflow, screen designs.

2. Ensuring your have documented SOP’s on key processes such as Lead Engagement, Opportunity creation.

3. Review Your Licence and Training needs for the New Year.

4. Look at possible integrations, for example. Is there a need for Email Marketing?

5. Engage with the users and emphasise the importance of accountability. They are the individuals who will be in control of the data, its maintenance and quality. They need to take responsibility for owning the data and ensuring that everything is kept up to date.

3. Look at Key client contacts. As previously mentioned good quality data can be key for a successful CRM system. One way to ensure the aata is accurate, relevant and of high quality is to allocate your Sales team a number of accounts to review. Allocate each member of your Sales team say 20 Key Accounts to ensure contacts are up to date with correct Job Titles, Salutations etc. LinkedIn is a great tool to help with this.

4. Update your ‘Open’ Opportunities. Now is the time to be realistic about which Opportunities are just hanging around and which can be successfully closed. A good tip is to look at your “average days to close” and measure which ones have been open too long. This all impacts on your Sales Velocity. So review these older opportunities and be realistic, If they are Lost update them with reasons as you have the time to fill in why they were lost and review. When you come back on 4th January you will have an accurate pipeline without too much baggage from 2015. And yes, if this means you have a smaller pipeline, then you know you need to generate some more!

5. Have a Back-Up organised. Once you have cleansed, maintained and ensured your data is of the highest quality, the last thing you want to do is to lose it all! Ensuring you have a back-up organised before you go away for Christmas and making sure this is taken off-site is critical. Recent events in Cumbria just show the need for off-site backups to be stored, at least weekly. This is not an expensive thing to do but losing business critical data is!

And, my Top Three Things not to do...

1. Don’t Upgrade in Festive Period. However tempting it may be, really from around the 18th December until the end of first week in January, try not to do any major or minor system upgrades unless you have notified your CRM support and planned this together in advance. As time is hanging between Xmas and New Year, many will be tempted to ‘just apply’ this upgrade patch, but remember, most Helpdesks are often reduced as people use up thier holidays.

2. If you are an On-Premise system,don’t move to a new server. This seems simple, but agree with your CRM consultancy first. Whilst invariably this may be a good idea, this still needs careful planning and more importantly your IT supplier and CRM consultancy are likely to be working on skeleton staff over the Christmas break.

3. Don’t apply MS Office/Outlook Upgrades. Again, tempting, but most systems have plug-ins to work with MS Office/Outlook and these are often locally installed. You need also first check compatibility with your Customer Relationship Management software edition and your Helpdesk since this may affect all your users and they will be frustrated if this is not working from the off.

We have complied an eBook “Preparing your CRM for 2016” with an expanded checklist of 9 things to do and 5 things not to do for you to download!

So, if you are tempted, our advice is to be indulge in the mince pies instead and leave your CRM to have its own well earned festive break!

Free Preparing your CRM for 2016 eBook

by Charlie Barrett

8th December 2015

The Big 5 Cloud Based CRM 'Challengers.  Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at two dominating Big Beasts, whilst in this blog we focus on the Market Challengers. These are systems targeting the 5 to 50 User market but which have sufficient depth of functionality and mobile access to support sales and marketing teams and are able to provide the necessary business reporting analytics needed for a mid-sized corporate running sales and marketing teams of typically 5-25 users.

Let’s start with…

SAGE CRM

Available as a Cloud model ever since CRMC became an accredited Partner in 2004, Sage is available as an on-premise solution or via the cloud as SAGECRM.com. There are two editions-Standard and Advanced but in the Cloud, these editions are known as Essentials andProfessional.

Entry pricing ranges from £20 for Essentials to £50 for Professional Edition per named User per month. These can be purchased on a monthly basis. Another differentiator is the ability to have Concurrent licencing and this makes Sage an attractive and easy to deploy system as both a Cloud based CRM and on-premise.

My belief is that this application offers one of the best value propositions for a full blown system which won’t break the bank and is an easy to use system.

As with the Lion, it is well known, but can be easily overlooked by the other Two Big Beasts,but still has a big bite out of this market. With over 15,000 deployments worldwide, Sage is definitely worth considering and in our experience where it is a good fit it will stay the course.

Next, we have a sales focussed application which is gaining market share rapidly and in our view becoming a serious rival to the Big Beasts in the mid-market for sales and marketing teams.

Pipeliner CRM

We have chosen the Leopard to reflect Pipeliner CRM, since it is an agile application and with a number of major releases in 2015 and an impressive road map is rapidly now gaining ground amongst sales teams.

An easy to use tool with an innovative highly visual approach, enabling easy adoption by sales teams and as you would expect, focussing on achieving and managing your Sales Pipeline. This is still one of the to 10 main factors in choosing a Customer RelationshipManagement system. There are a host of add-on integrations which can expand core functionality.

As a Market Challenger, it works with both Google e-mail and MS Outlook, nowadays a key consideration in the SME market. In my opinion, definitely one to watch and we became an accredited partner earlier this year.

As a pure Cloud application with mobile access and with offline access, include in your list especially if you sales team is needing to focus on sales pipeline. There is one edition for the £25 per user per month, billed annually fee. New “Insights” functionality gives senior management strong visual analytics to salesman and cross-team performance….one to consider.

This brings us to our final Big 5 Cloud application...

Zoho

I have compared Zoho to the Cape Buffalo as it is a large animal and like some of the other applications has a whole range of extra editions and add-on modules which whilst impressive, need to be managed. Zoho has been in the UK a few years and we come across it quite often, although whilst it has an attractive price point and indeed a free edition, this is also symptomatic of its target market and in our experience, tends to be used by smaller teams of less than 15 users.

However, it is an attractive offering and the popular Professional Edition is around £15 per user per month. Nowadays, we don’t see this as a fast moving or evolving application. Zoho adopts a modular approach, but currently for small SME’s it is worth considering and there is a free edition available with limited funtionality..

Whilst we don’t resell , we have worked with a Strategic Partner and have a good working knowledge of where Zoho will fits well and indeed, have recommended this to clients.

Conclusion

We firmly believe that the key to matching any of these applications to your business is by first holding a Workshop where your key stakeholders, mentored and coached by an CRMC  consultant can identify and document your requirements prior to any final decision taking place.

These then are our Big Five Beasts and whilst space precludes going into too much detail on“What we Like” and “What we don’t Like” about each application, we have an ebookdownload on “The Big Five" which delves deeper into these applications together with giving you more insight into likely deployment costs and allowances for professional services. This ebook should enable you to estimate your own Cost of Ownership comparisons.

Download The Big Five Cloud Based CRM eBook

by Gary Perkins

25th November 2015

The Big Five Cloud Based CRM.  The 'Big Beasts' Part 1

Introduction

Having visited South Africa recently, this started me thinking about the Big Five beasts of the CRM Cloud world and with a host of CRM applications out there in the cloud and seemingly an endless choice, these are my top five ‘best of breed’ applications you should be considering and unless there are special circumstances, you need to review these systems first.

I have assumed you are looking for between 5 to 25 or more sales and marketing users whilst for under 5 users there are even more applications out there, but be careful.

This blog will consist of two parts, with the first focussing on the two biggest vendorsSalesforce.com and MS Dynamics CRM.

These offer everything from a single user deployment up to thousands of users and are the dominant beasts of this cloud marketplace. But like every big beast, you need to be wary and hence our choice of animal:-

MS Dynamics CRM

An easy choice since Dynamics is very much an all-in-one package and I frequently refer to Dynamics as the Big Beast.

This application has now been around for a number of years and MS CRM 2015 is the current UK cloud option and I think this is the best version yet, although I do find it still a bit clunky. But this version resolves some of the previous issues with features such as auto-saving and a better designed and easier to understand layout which is less busy and complex than previous versions such as MS CRM 2011.

Just taking it off-the-shelf is a risk since with over 200 entities, it is inherently flexible, but for smaller SME ‘s we find that unless it is deployed as a ‘vanilla’ installation, then much time and effort can be spent on customising and in reducing functionality for the user. At some point, we find that you will need some specialist consultancy to help since the product is so vast and your IT team can easily become lost and not understand the complex interdependencies and the Dynamics ‘way of thinking’.

That said, a truly powerful application and now with extensive additional capabilities available including Social Listening, Marketing Automation and Email Marketing modules.MS Outlook integration is often the key factor in choosing Dynamics and the version includes full Cases and Contracts functionality.

Pricing

This will depend on if you are using MS Office 365. If you are, it is around £31.20 per user per month on an annual subscription per named User. If not, MS Dynamics CRM Online Professional edition price is £40.50 per user per month annual subscription or from a Hosting Partner such as ourselves, we offer a monthly payment option from £41.50 per month.

Deployment

You definitely need to consider a CRM Migration Workshop first in order to understand how much you need to customise the application to suit and to estimate the time and effort involved, whosoever does this. Our ebook gives some useful guidelines on allowances for deployment, see below.

Dynamics have a huge channel of Partners from which to obtain help from.

Salesforce.com

Salesforce has probably the biggest cloud reputation and user base and has been around since 2007: we have likened this to the Rhino. Salesforce can be assertive since they have a direct sales model primarily and we understand can be quite thick skinned, hence the choice of animal. They tend to be very focussed and single minded on Licences revenue, hence again the Rhino analogy.

My view is this is an easier product to use than MS CRM and with a clean ‘look and feel’ for users, it appears to be pretty well liked when customised to fit.

Pricing

Usually one of the first applications to be looked at and you can start with a pilot of under 5 users from £17 per month, for more than 5 users in our example, you will be looking at theSales Cloud edition for sales and marketing teams at £45 per month per user per month with an annual subscription in advance.

Salesforce.com offer an extensive range of modular add-ons and anecdotal evidence from clients often mention keenness to upsell towards the Enterprise edition at £85 per user per month. There are a wide range of other third party add-on applications in the Apps Marketplace to keep you in their eco-system.

Deployment

Salesforce can implement direct, but will often use or recommend their Implementation Partners although it is easier for an administrator to customise at a lower level, but you must still be clear from your Workshop of the modules you will require both now and in the future in order to budget accordingly.

Salesforce.com consultants tend to average around £850 to £1000 per day although this is similar to MS CRM consultancy rates. More on this in our ebook download.

The Big 2 Conclusion!

Whilst these applications are targeted at SME’s the reason these are Big Beasts is that they really come into their own with their depth of functionality when being deployed across larger enterprises. For the target market mentioned earlier, they are eminently suitable, but you do need to allow in my view for external consultancy and certainly it is good to budget for as mentioned in a previous blog.

With these applications, not allowing for external consultancy and training is in my view creating a false expectation and relying too much on vendor marketing messages. Having committed to an amount of £400-600 annually per licence in theory for the next four or more years, any consultancy and training investment is small in comparison to the overallTotal Cost of Ownership and your need for successful adoption.

These then are my two Big Beasts and as with the Elephant and the Rhino my conclusion is that you do need to be wary of the implications and danger of underestimating the amount of time and effort involved in matching these applications to fit your needs and processes.

Next week, I will look at some of the “Market Challengers” and we will be publishing our ebook on this market place with a more detailed view and some key deployment guidelines on each of the applications.

Download The Big Five Cloud Based CRM eBook

by Gary Perkins

18th November 2015

Do you need consultants for cloud based CRM?

In the past with On-premise software installations, there was an absolute need for expert consultants who were able to install and configure the software and ensure other applications, such as Word and Outlook all worked together, liaising with IT over the upgrades and enhancements.

But in today’s world of Cloud Based CRM systems, which are always available and ready to go, the question is “do you still really need CRM Consultants”?

Well, my view of course is Yes!

Let’s add a caveat here; “Nearly always it is yes”. However, this depends on the system, your functional requirements and integrations, plus the number of users and past CRM experience.

But as a general rule, the more complex the projects, the newer to CRM your users are and the more functionality required, you should be using CRM consultants.

A consultant can help with a successful adoption in a number of ways:-

Business Process Understanding

The reasons for introducing a system may be clear and whilst you may have internal IT itching to do some customisations and some low level changes. What they are unlikely to be is experts in Sales and Marketing Alignment and Processes as well as how these are implemented into your system.

CRM consultants understand the business processes involved and that cloud based systems are not just adding a few custom fields here and there. A good consultant helps you to understand the overall process and the business requirements and objectives behind any deployment.

This is why a CRM Cloud Migration Workshop can be so useful. There is sometimes a tendency for internal IT to focus on field customisations and they are not usually able to appreciate the various interactions and processes between sales, marketing and customer service departments.

That said, for some deployments using internal IT may be adequate, but for larger projects you need to consider using external consultancy. My best analogy here is that just because you are technically minded, you may not be able to fully service your car and you may not have the technical skillsets, toolkit and importantly the time to learn this in the timescale required.

Where IT have been initially involved in an evaluation or software trial we frequently find a tendency to add fields to ‘customise’ the system, but that much time may be etter spent on learning and asking questions. For many clients the key is in the User experience and how to do their job better, quicker and more effectively…

User Adoption

When researching successful CRM deployments, User Adoption and Ownership of data is stressed. Customer Relationship Management is not just about a choice of software but also about adopting a culture and which most Sales and Marketing teams nowadays fully embrace.

The biggest reasons for failure are the lack of enthusiasm and understanding from Users. High quality training delivered by experienced expert trainers can reap dividends in engendering understanding and enthusiasm in your Users. Our Trainers can help in channelling ideas to improve the system and recognising good ideas for future development.

Integration

This element can range from simply integrating with applications such as Word and Outlook through to feeds coming in from your ERP system. This area includes working with other applications such as email marketing applications like Constant Contact email marketing all the way through to high end marketing automation integration with systems such as HubSpot. This knowledge is unlikely to be found within your internal IT department.

Helpdesk and Support

IT will have other important mission critical services to support and may have only limited time available to provide in-depth, ongoing application support since they may be limited in their experience and understanding of the system.

Best Practice

Since many of us involved in the industry now have almost 20 years’ experience and in-depth knowledge across multiple systems, we can help in advising and ensuring that your system is properly implemented with realistic objectives. In addition, we apply hard won best practice in your adoption which will reflect your business requirements.

Review and Evolution Champion

A final word on using consultants. We have a long term interest and stake in the successful adoption of your system and will invest time and effort in ensuring the system is successfully implemented as well as in supporting your deployment over many years. We are there to support your evolvement of the system and advise on any add-ons that can be utilised based on recommending what works with your system.

Next Steps

The first step towards looking at migrating to a new or your first CRM deployment is to use our Cloud CRM Scorecard. This will help you to judge yourselves the importance and need for using an external partner like CRMC.

Download 'CRM Cloud Migration ScoreCard'

by Gary Perkins

28th October 2015