CRM, from Process to People: 4 Methods to Right Your Mindset

By Lauren Zak – Director of Account Development, Concept Ltd.

All organizations inevitably encounter internal pains and challenges relating to their business. A service department may be faced with meeting unrealistic customer expectations. Two locations tasked with connecting their operations may function in separate systems that don’t connect. Even inside of a singular department, a sales manager may feel like they’re speaking a different language to their own sales team. When one takes the time to evaluate these challenges, they most often boil down to the following: a lack of process, inadequate visibility, disjointed communication, and inconsistent accountability.

Although organizations of any kind experience these pains, those functioning in a B2B space find themselves a bit behind the times. The need for innovation from a process and technology perspective was driven forcefully by the B2C consumer. All the while B2B businesses heard the cries for improvement but focused their development to consumer products & services – not necessarily the experience of doing business with their customers, the efficiencies of their internal processes, or the effectiveness of their teams. Even more unfortunate than the B2B component, is industry. It’s no secret to those who work in industrial equipment & material handling, that these industries have seen advances in process, technology, and culture crawl by the inch, while watching organizations outside of the industry leap by the foot.

While behind, material handling organizations over the course of the last decade have steadily worked to improve through building more robust teams and upgrading systems to match. CRM (customer relationship management) tools have evolved from a technological advantage to a tool every organization, even those in material handling know they must implement. Failure to put a CRM into place most commonly represents a company who will allow for the “old way” to dictate their future, even when there is no fruit left to bear. But sadly, even if a company has committed to advance into the next generation, they’ll quickly learn purchasing & implementing CRM won’t change anything. The system doesn’t provide a magic fix for the internal challenges an organization faces, in fact for many CRM will create more problems if not for the added cost alone.

So why go through the trouble and ultimately disrupt business? Why cause more pain to an organization already struggling to keep up? Whether in the tedious process of implementing a CRM for the first time or struggling to drive user adoption with a system highly customized to your business, it’s important to remember the key challenges those day to day problems boil down to. Let’s review the challenges again – a lack of process, inadequate visibility, disjointed communication, and inconsistent accountability. These issues are the very issues CRM can aid in solving yet are somehow disguised as the unwanted biproduct of CRM. It’s time to see through the pain and focus on seeing the intention through. What is your organization’s objective? Is your CRM setup to meet this objective? Utilize the following methods and ideas to start gaining a return on investment from your CRM culturally and financially.

While deviations and anomalies will always exist, it’s important to get down to the basics when designing process in CRM. Define, redefine, and simplify your processes. Take the time to review scenarios and layout process flows, step by step. Before you ever consider enabling the process in CRM ask yourself, is this course of action logical and efficient? If you find yourself reading between the lines, take a step back and reconsider the procedure. Yes, the connections CRM can create between departments and roles are tremendous, but when visibility and involvement occur just because they’re available for the first time your organization will find itself riddled with bottlenecks. What process involves the least amount of people and still gets the job done right? Eliminate the barriers from the start or bring relief to your organization by streamlining altogether. Remember when a user is road blocked, they perceive the CRM to be broken or worse, a nuisance.

The leadership team has spent countless hours ensuring CRM is setup to fit the organization. IT, Finance, and Marketing have entered and cleansed countless data sets to populate CRM with quality customer and prospect information, yet your team can’t seem to find what they need. Create visibility where it counts. We cannot continue to rely on our teams to find their way inside of CRM and see it as a tool all in one foul swoop. Establish reporting and dashboards unique to individual roles or departments to expedite navigation and utilization of CRM. If territory coverage is the goal, organize an account activity report to ensure consistent and even distribution of customer visits. If you plan to hold your sales team accountable to lead qualification and active deals, construct a dashboard that plots their progress to goal. CRM is a tool to improve efficiency and forecast results, yet so many businesses utilize as a rear-view mirror. At the end of the day, what is reporting for if it’s not actionable?

Between e-mail, systems, work and personal phones, communication shouldn’t be difficult, but it is. Even the simplest of questions or needs when one is overwhelmed with information can be challenging to digest or act upon. Many managers find themselves ignoring tasks to focus on more complex issues which require actual brainpower. Those tasks many times while meaningless in comparison to the day’s fires add up, and typically are detrimental to the business when ignored at length. Tasks likes reviewing quote requests and assigning leads were not established due to a lack of need, but rather a lack of control. Utilize CRM to automate communication when possible. Strip away tasks by defining criteria sets, workflows and automation. Achieving success in management isn’t any easier with CRM, but it can certainly be less complicated.

With return on investment in mind, the concept of CRM demanding behavioral and cultural change is no longer a revolutionary thought. Those who have tried to inspire real change inside of an organization understand the constant attention required to break old habits, incorporate new ways, and reach higher goals. Not one person can move the needle. It is imperative that every level of management not only taste the Kool aid but drink it regularly. Utilize CRM as often, if not more than, you ask of your team. Raise and set standards, but most importantly commit to manage to them. Commitment to accountability is work in itself. Holding yourself and others accountable is redundant and can be frustrating at times. While CRM will unfortunately not completely eliminate this pain, it will support revenue & cultural growth which was your intention in the first place.

As individuals and teams, it is easy to find isolation and become caught up in a specific problem inside of your business. Placing blame on departments, equipment, or systems feels valid and therapeutic but provides no solution. Many times, the root causes of organizational challenges are disguised beyond recognition. While arduous to take a step backwards towards reflection, the benefit typically outweighs the perceived loss of time. Next time you find yourself burdened by your CRM, try to remember your intention and take strides towards meeting it.