Get smart – CRM

Most businesses are wired with back-end software — the guts of the
operation. Designed to manage accounting, operations and other administrative functions, these systems don’t
address the most vital part of any business:

“The front end is a whole different
dynamic,” says Sassan S. Hejazi, director of
technology solutions for Kreischer Miller
in Philadelphia.

Customers demand information on products and services. Sales and marketing
teams need a way to track progress with
prospects. And all businesses benefit from
truly knowing their customers. The solution is CRM (customer relationship management) systems.

“The basis of CRM is to capture information about our customers and their
inquiries, and the process starts before a
person is even a customer,” Hejazi says.
“CRM systems can help businesses make
better decisions and become more competitive and efficient.”

Smart Business asked Hejazi to discuss
CRM basics and critical success factors for
implementing a system.

When did companies begin to adopt CRM

The evolution of CRM began with call
centers. Then we developed catalogs, so
customers could fill out paper forms and
mail in orders. Next we started faxing
forms. After that, businesses put their catalogs online. Now, companies want to get to
know customers beyond the transaction.
They are interested in what Web pages customers search before they make a purchase and their buying history.

CRM makes us more educated about
what our customers want and need, and it
connects sales and marketing teams to
customer activity. Right now, CRM is one
of the fastest-growing software sectors in
the business application market.

How does information from CRM systems
feed a sales and marketing team?

CRM starts before someone is a customer.

When a lead shows interest, it becomes a
prospect. With the right selling strategy, this
prospect will turn into a customer.

As sales personnel go through different
stages to convert new customers, they want
to engage prospects with promotions,
coupons or enticements to move them up
the sales funnel. CRM systems help sales
teams keep track of prospects and their
responses to marketing promotions and
campaigns. Once a prospect is a customer,
CRM software captures information to help
sales teams with suggestive selling.

Is CRM like having inside information on all
your customers?

When customers buy products and services off the Web, companies can collect information about who purchases their products.
If you go to a department store, the retailer
wouldn’t know you were there unless you
bought something. The retailer will get your
information if you use one of its credit cards,
but otherwise, the salesperson will not have
details about past purchases.

With Web commerce, we know how long
customers look at each Web page and who
they are. We can capture this for market
research so we can launch a targeted sales
and marketing campaign.

How do CRM systems benefit customers?

We try to help the customers help themselves. With CRM systems, they have capabilities to review products and services.
They also have social networking capabilities, which allows customers to find out
what other people say through blogs or
MySpace. We, as customers, want self-service capabilities. We want to take a look
at our accounts, download information
about products and services, and even
order these online.

How do business owners find the right fit?

Ask yourself some questions about your
sales and marketing process. What is your
sales setup? Do you have inside and outside reps? How is your marketing team
structured? What processes do you have in
place now, and how do you manage them?

Also, take into consideration your industry. What trends do you notice in regard to
sales and marketing technology? Finally,
what do you think your customers want —
what would make purchasing your product or service more convenient?

What are critical success factors for any CRM

Strong top-management support. They
must be involved in the process and champion the project. Research shows that,
when there is a lack of top-management
support, failure risks are much higher.

Next, you need buy-in from the sales
team. Also, you should seek feedback from
key customers early on. Don’t assume
what they want.

You always want your sales team to connect with customers. CRM systems provide companies with the capability to
anticipate customers’ needs and deliver
them in the most efficient way possible.

SASSAN S. HEJAZI is director of technology solutions for
Kreischer Miller. Reach him at (215) 441-4600 or
[email protected].