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Blogs in 2016

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What work needs to be done on your CRM system over the Christmas period?

Well, with Santa probably just already about ready to start loading his sleigh, what work do we need to do on our CRM system before the year end and indeed what should we do if we are having to work over the festive period?

Here are my top ten tips for making the most of the next two weeks:-

• Ensure you have Backups of all your files. Now is the time to check this with your IT, especially if you have any planned maintenance work and indeed have an on-premise CRM installation. For cloud CRM users, this should not be a concern.

• Don’t do any major data imports or data deletions. Whilst this appears to be a good time to ‘tidy up’ the system, now is not the time to do major changes to the database. Key people are often pre-occupied or off on holiday and others many not give you the time you need as the minds may be understandably sometimes not fully focussed this week.

• Don’t go messing around and improving or changing workflows or automations as our experience shows that your Users want to come back to the system pretty much as they left it. They won’t thank you for improvements made as they will have their own ideas on what they want to focus on in that first week.

So, that’s really a few Don’ts’ …and now the Do’s

• Do some investigative work on your database, but please no changes. For example, identify all those key contacts with no email address or incorrect emails or where your Christmas Newsletter has a bounce. Start to look at and possibly flag these records for when the Users come back.

• Consider running some duplicate testing. This will be welcome as long as you don’t actually merge anything, it is always the wrong parent-child that is merged! But consider flagging these records ready for User investigation and approval in those first days back.

• Review which custom fields are filled in and frequency. For example, is the “number of employees” field always completed. Is it needed still or are there other fields more important that perhaps should be moved around the screen? Remember, screen design is a key ingredient in User adoption.

• Look at your existing Reports and also your key Metrics. Which Reports are used and do these need updating? What are the key metrics from the year, how do they compare to last year. Are these being accurately measured?

• Review your Active and Lapsed customers. Again, don’t make any actual changes, but create a List or Group for your Users to review when they return. You should have clear written guidelines on what a “Lapsed Customer” is based on your industry.

That first week back after New Year can appear to be slow as customers and suppliers pick up where they left off and many sales people are reluctant to make calls on the first day so this is a good time to possibly ‘ask’ if they can review work like this that you have done over the holidays.

All of which leads me to my last few recommendations…

• Update your User Manuals, Playbooks and SOPs. Probably the best time to do this as you can run through these and add-in or tweak the manual ready for either new training in the New Year or for training new recruits. Having up-to-date manuals and doing this work now when there is less interference and interruption can be a great use of your time. It is certainly something we do. Update any SOP (Standard Operating Processes) documents ready for a review in the first week you are back. This may just be a case of simply adding in new screenshots to show a process better or more relevant screenshots.


• Make a list of possible improvements you may want to make to your CRM in the New Year, ready for the first Sales or Marketing Meeting. This should include ideas for reducing clutter on the screen, replacing/relabelling or simply adding or taking away custom fields not readily used. Your case here will be helped by any previous analysis as suggested above. The simpler the screen here, the better. In addition, look at ideas for workflow or automation with the objective of making the sales team and your work easier. A good example for a support desk is the automatic case creation email to the client giving details of their case and a chance to respond/question the case that has been raised. Another element could be creating self-service facilities for clients to request items or raise a support case.

Hopefully, this list of questions will give you some ideas on how to maximise your time if you are having to work over the Christmas period and more importantly this will help to prepare your CRM system ready for the challenges of 2017.

As they say, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas….

28th December 2016

The Big Five in CRM:  Big Changes in 2016


As we draw to the close of the year, it is time to reflect One of my most popular and commented posts was my interpretation of the Big Five in CRM, both for on-premise and for cloud based CRM.

2016 has proved to have been an interesting year and there have been big changes amongst the Big Five with one major brand exiting the cloud altogether in 2016.

My Big Five CRM Cloud - Changes in 2016


Continue to extend their new Lightning interface, although the big news was that the UK had a 33% increase in price for the Professional product to £60 per user per month for over 5 users (this rise was slightly less for the IQ product, a cut-down version for under 5 users rising from £17 to £20 per user per month, an 18% increase). With the various modules now needed to create a strong CRM eco-system, then this can become a major annual investment for a typical 10/15 user Sales and Marketing team. This is the size of team which we consider a good benchmark for most CRM usage amongst SME’s.

MS Dynamics CRM

The new Dynamics 365 was launched and we are expecting a price increase from January due to £ vs $ decline. Microsoft Dynamics CRM continues to expand its functionality and focus on social engagement. This was highlighted in the Summer by the acquisition for $26Bn of LinkedIn, the most powerful B2B social media tool and upon which many CRM applications focus their social media integration. This could be a game changer for social media engagement in CRM systems and is still under some dispute with rival companies claiming this is anti-competitive in US and within the EU where Microsoft have offered concessions in the last few weeks.

Now, this month, Microsoft announced the launch of Customer Manager , a basic in-built CRM system to their Office 365 offering for small businesses. This will have an impact in the lower end of the market, although how the take-up will be is too early to say. What we can infer is that this is clearly intended to act as a feed towards MS Dynamics CRM and probably reflects the knowledge gained from MS Dynamics CRM Online where the minimum licence count is now 5 users.


Another somewhat unexpected surprise was that SAGE CRM withdrew its application in October apart from existing clients after having a cloud based alternative to the on-premise application for at least 13 years since we are aware. This product was also attractively priced. My understanding from industry sources is that the focus is now going to be on more integration with the SAGE financial on-premise applications especially SAGE 200.

Other Players

ACT! moved seriously into the CRM Cloud Market in the UK and also moved to the subscription model pricing in July 2016 after earlier trials with clients and partners.

There have numerous other changes in the market and currently we are reviewing these with regard to a new updated list of the cloud CRM Big Five to reflect this years changes.

Some initial thoughts on 2017

So, what do we see happening  now in 2017?

For the first time, this years’ experience has shown and reinforced just from my meetings that as Gartner predicted a few years ago, the march of cloud CRM continues apace and this is especially true within the SME sector.

With all these changes together with more entrants into a crowded market, we will need to harness our thoughts for the next blog…

21st November 2016

Why you need a CRM Change Log

 Now you’ve implemented your new system, why do you need to have a central CRM Change Log.

Building on our CRM documentation theme from last month’s blog, for most implementations, we recommend that customisations are kept to a minimal during the important initial rollout period but there are always likely to be requests for additional ad hoc customisations as your team start to use the system in earnest.

This should be encouraged since it is a great indicator of User Adoption enthusiasm.

They will also start to provide you with new suggestions on how CRM can be improved or developed. One good example of this is the use of workflow automation, for example, the automated email to a client who has just logged a support call giving the details logged and their Case reference number.

All these enhancement suggestions need to be fed through to the Administrators and the original Project team or Steering Group, together with your consultants for their own advice and input. Not all suggestions are feasible or right at a particular moment in time.

Now, often during a project, your Lead consultant will track Change Requests in a log and after implementation this CRM Change Log needs to be continued and maintained by the Project team and Administrators.

One of the big issues we find, especially during migration or taking on a new client, is there being no real documentation on any of the changes that have been made to the original system. In many instances, the Administrators after their own training, are itching to create and add new fields or customise screens, but this needs to be controlled and managed.

Our advice is to create a centralised CRM Change Log document, listing the reasons and the rationale for these changes. This can be a simple MS Word or MS Excel covering the key elements of why the changes need to be made. This document may be stored centrally, often within the global documents section of many CRM systems.

This change log needs in my view should include most of the following:-

• Suggestions source, after all you want to credit those people giving suggestions.

• Nature and rationale for the change.

• Authority

• What was done and by Whom and When

• Notification method to inform the user, for instance, email or ad hoc training which then relates to...

• Amendments made to documentation, e.g. CRM playbook updates

These changes should always be authorised which is why we always suggest where possible a minimum of two Administrators, with one being part of IT to consider the system implications of any changes. For example, the adding of a new field. Does this impact on any other processes or more often on any Reports/Dashboards which may also need to be updated to show the extra field.

After Go-Live the CRM Change Log should be kept centrally and easily accessible and the Project team should really meet once a month, possibly every two or three weeks in the all-important first 90 days. These Change Requests all need to be approved and if required, budget approved if you need your external consultant is needed to implement these changes.

On this topic, in the first six months after Go Live you still need to maintain a close contact with any external consultants as they can advise on best practice and call upon previous experience. The first three months are the most critical in any CRM project and when need to ensure your on-boarding User Adoption process works.

If you are interested in our CRM Log book and Change Request template, then please feel free to email

Gary Perkins

23rd September 2016

8 Benefits of a CRM Scoping Workshop


Typically, when discussing CRM requirements with our clients, we sit down during a Discovery session to get a better grasp and overview of their sales and marketing processes as well as delving deeper into their actual CRM customisation requirements. From this meeting and a software overview, in many instances, clients may know what they want or may still be undecided between a final two applications.

In either case, the next recommended step is to hold a CRM Scoping Workshop.

CRM Scoping Workshop

A Scoping Workshop typically involves a key members of the team, so for a full CRM project, you would involve key or Senior Management, a Project Sponsor (who is senior and who will be responsible internally for the project’s success and may also be the Client Project Manager) as well as members of the Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and IT and sometimes Finance teams.

Prior to the meeting, we would be asking for key documents such as business process flow diagrams and any key reports to be made available. Oftentimes, to kick-start the project, the Sponsor will indicate why the team is meeting and why the business is investing time and money in an implementation. We recommend at least a full day is needed to understand and document the key processes and how these can be applied in CRM.

Wherever possible, some items may be discussed offline as the Scoping meeting is not a talk shop, for example defining internal differences between a Lead or a Prospect or a Suspect should be clear before the meeting as well as any detail on field drop-down selections such as Industries classification.

The objective for the CRM Consultants is we have a clearer understanding of how and where the new system can help to streamline the entire sales process from Lead through to Client Retention as well as establishing what key Metrics and Reports are needed by Management. The CRM system should ideally reduce duplication of effort and reduce any existing ‘silos’ of information since all customer facing contact and day to day activities are now being centralised in CRM.

Other aspects dealt with in the meeting will be IT issues such as compatibility, importing of data (again, sample data should be available before) as well as the need for integrations with other applications.

The Outcome

From the Workshop, where we have both our technical and sales personnel involved to ensure continuity of our own process, the objective is to produce a first draft Functional System Design (FSD) document which can then be circulated for comment and feedback amongst the project team.

A follow-up meeting is usually required to delve into areas that are not clear or need further refinement.

The FSD is probably the most significant document in any CRM project, since it will outline what needs to be done to create a smooth implementation or migration to your new CRM system.

Experience shows that on bigger projects, not having a single FSD document can lead to confusion and wasted time and effort on the consultant’s side awaiting answers. A strong, robust and signed-off FSD document will actually save time and act as an additional internal CRM justification document internally.

8 key benefits of a Workshop?

Just identifying these 8 we have expanded this list ow to 16, but here are eight benefits divided into two broad areas - internal and external:-


1. Clear understanding of the Project Objectives and development and sharing of ideas to improve the business.

2. Internal communication and open discussion leads to better understanding and buy-in from key stakeholders.

3. Early Involvement of stakeholders will help create enthusiasm and momentum for new CRM (if we’ve done our job right!).

4. A strong FSD document acts as supporting ROI justification and can be used as a milestone document for further sign-off.


1. Clear understanding of client key business processes highlighting where CRM can resolve issues and reduce duplication of effort.

2. Understanding of core reporting metrics for CRM system leading to often, a clearer and simpler system design.

3. Ability to highlight phases as clients move to new system with milestones and breaks for feedback.

4. Overall saving in Consultancy and Project Management time up-front from robust FSD sign-off.

But the best example is a quote from a client who undertook this process a year ago

“The scoping workshop not only helped form the CRM detailed requirements, but importantly brought the team together to help to share and enthuse my vision of how we needed to improve and streamline our processes together. More importantly, a number of good ideas were brought forward from the team being involved early in the process with encouragement from CRMC.”

Next Steps

If you are interested in more information on what a Scoping Workshop should cover, then please download our ebook on a CRM Scoping Workshop which includes an outline of topics plus an expanded list of 16 key benefits here.

17th August 2016

Creating a CRM Playbook


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.


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.


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.


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.


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...


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.


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.


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