Understanding Your CRM Needs

Startups, Entrepreneurs, and Freelancers may launch with a few clients without a sales strategy or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) process and/or software. Once an idea is validated and the market need is circumscribed, it is not uncommon to jump a few steps. In fact, more than 60% begin with simple email management tools on freelance or crowdsourcing platforms before even considering a CRM strategy. With the increased availability of free CRM’s, it is better to use a CRM as early as possible to improve customer retention proactively.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software seamlessly connects the entire business development process of an organization from prospect to close. Depending on the nature of the sales process, it may serve as a tool for customer success relationship management for freelancers and small startups. Many freelancers utilize outsourcing websites to manage the entire process, but as a freelancer ventures outside of a freelancing platform and increases the number of clients from various marketing channels, it is critical for them to maintain a centralized distribution system for managing customers and clients.

Even if using a website like Fiverr, Upwork or Freelancer, it may be beneficial to the freelancer to get one sooner than later. This CRM will allow for the freelancer to schedule next actions, continue to build relationships and record activities assessing the effectiveness of a campaign. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a business philosophy, not just a technology — understanding your customers’ needs enables you to build better relationships and increase sales and reduce churn rates.

HOW DOES A CRM HELP?

  • Operational Efficacy: Improve the utilization of existing resources, quality and service. An Indeed.com once suggested that as little as 10% of most sales professional’s time involved selling due to the backend administrative responsibilities. Knowing this is true amongst those focused on sales, emphasizes the time wasted by non-sales professionals inundated with organizational priorities when it comes to managing a professional pipeline of potential customers/clients/deals.
  • Responsiveness: For almost two decades, instant gratification through online interactions has spotlighted the way systems and processes are designed to meet the demands of customers. With immediate responses and a saturated market of similar products and services, there is a greater sense of choice for customers and the ability to obtain the same product or service smarter, better or faster. Responsiveness is everything in today’s market.
  • Cost Containment: Although the concept of lean systems is decades old, it is reiterated with considerable emphasis in today’s virtual world. With over 40% of new ventures operating virtually, a CRM will allow for startups, freelancers, entrepreneurs to maximize their ROI spending less time and money on sales management, automation and engagement.

HOW TO CHOOSE A CRM?

Identify your requirements based on your organization

Fully implement a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to:

  • Optimize your engagement process
  •  Automate workflow
  • Systematize processes

It is essential to choose a CRM which fully aligns with internal functions and methodologies. Based on a recent CRM Implementation Project, I have provided sample acceptance criteria and integration requirements as a recommended approach for selecting the right CRM.

SAMPLE ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA

  1. Improved Client Response Time: Using a proper CRM, the time of reply for the customers will decrease with different workflow capabilities that allow for activity downtime to be reduced or completely automated.
  2. Ease of Use: The newly implemented system should be intuitive in its use and require minimal training to sales teams that have utilized CRM systems in the past. Furthermore, the system should be easily trainable to new employees not as well-versed in the world of sales.
  3. Sustainable and Scalable: It is important there is a system which is sustainable in growth and won’t require replacement as the clients and employees increase.
  4. Customization Options: Even with out-of-box solutions, freelancers and entrepreneurs may require a system with a few customization options that make it easy to manipulate the system to current business practices, procedures, and needs.
  5. Security Integration: The CRM should integrate seamlessly into the organization’s internal technology processes without affecting any current firewalls or organizational security parameters.
  6. Data Migration: Data integration and migration processes will have a precise definition with all information tested and measured against the current customer contact management system utilized by the team. The integration and data migration testing will yield no errors after three tests and be fully ready for use.
  7. User Experience Testing: All software users will be able to perform a series of tasks, projects, and processes within the CRM to complete daily sales and project related tasks effectively. The testing scenarios will be manipulated for different situations as defined by your process to ensure the system is ready for various organizational sales scenarios.

OUTLINING YOUR EXPECTED BENEFITS

In addition to the acceptance criteria, it is important to note the expected benefits of implementing the CRM to ensure full alignment. Your acceptance criteria will focus on what is required to begin full use while your expected benefits will focus on measurable KPIs (key performance indicators) within a given period of time post-implementation.

The successful completion of this project will allow you to streamline current sales operations and activities. With the solution fully implemented, you would expect the following improvements made to the overall sales organizational structure:

  1. Shorter Sales Cycle: With the use of a newly implemented CRM, sales activities will be less manual and far more automated. This will result in more time selling to clients and less time worrying about the backend operations.
  2. Increased Profits: With the ability to increase productivity and require less human capital. As a result, the profit margins will improve naturally. Also, more time in front of external clients will allow for more closed sales.
  3. Better Data Visualization: Reporting on KPIs and tracking the number of customers/clients and leads in the pipeline will help produce metrics dashboards which display the current position of the organization according to its goals.
  4. Information Management and Data Integrity: Reducing the number of manual activities reduces human error and allows for more accurate information to be presented to leadership when reporting on sales performance.

Now that you understand what you want out of your CRM, how about mapping your overall buyer’s journey with your actual expected stages, sales phases and other details. This may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but if you know who your buyer is, what their journey is like, you will be able to choose your software and allow for it to align with your overall process. Once you get the technical details down mentioned above, it is time to consider which system has an out of the box deployment or can be customized to achieve all of your requirements.

If you are looking to optimize your performance and understand the returns your CRM can generate, check out Customer Relationship Management: Concepts and Technologies  by Francis Buttle

Building Customer Relationships with Customer Data

Effective communication with recurring customers presents several opportunities for evolving a business model thanks to the current advancements in technology. From Social Media platforms to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, data accessibility has become incredibly easy for organizations reviewing past performance to improve interactions and reduce churn within current customer lists. As technology improves market accessibility, organizations continue to adapt their model to stay ahead of competitors while considering how they can further improve the lives of customers through product and/or service offerings. Customer data creates synergy between a brand and the target user when a company can interpret the data and develop algorithmic models for testing and improving relationships.

When a potential buyer contacts an organization by subscribing to a newsletter, filling out a contact form or through other various actions, the interest generated in the product or service has already been established.  Understanding each activity as raw data will allow for the organization in question to create a meaningful experience for a new buyer. As processes are refined, stakeholders can present solutions based on similar actions, personas, and other information customers presented before making a purchasing decision.  Collecting data from pre-established customers allows for marketers and sales professionals to optimize their funnels as new users intercept a brand’s messaging.  Segmenting the data from lost-closed deals and won-closed deals will ensure the most effective content, communication channels and strategies are continuously adapted and implemented.

Surveying new users against recurring customers

Further analyzing previous strategies creates a basic guideline for content refinement and development. As new users become engaged, more data is collected. Collect all customer data in order to identify new trends, areas of improvement or growth.  If your organization has multiple revenue streams, it is important to assess what is most profitable and what is producing waste to eliminate or improve upon areas of the existing infrastructure.  Go beyond the data that is automatically collected and create variables in the way you survey customers – understand what they want, need, and how to expand the relationship.  Creating associative data and translating this into a conversation will ultimately improve customer engagement and streamline internal operations.

Building personalization into your business model

Personalization is the new black in today’s marketing and business development processes.  If users feel that an organization took the time out to differentiate them from a number within a CRM system, they are more than likely to continue engagement.  Personalization does not have to be a manual process, advanced tagging, field customization, artificial intelligence tools like Chatbots and other machine learning make it possible to have advanced computer-generated interactions with users while building the system for the buyer – no matter how much technology is integrated into the process.  A buyer is not just building rapport with a singular individual, they are building rapport with an entire culture.  The right tools and technologies will prepare any executive, marketer or sales personnel for interactions with quick access to historical data on a specific customer.