Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies and technologies play a key role in helping organizations grow from small, entrepreneurial companies into multi-million dollar powerhouses. Studies have shown that organizations in the growth stage of their lifecycle typically need to formalize their information technology systems.

How do you grow, while providing a continued excellent customer experience? The next stage requires a new set of rules, processes and information systems. The good news is that CRM can add tremendous value in conquering new challenges and establishing a platform for sustained growth. Organizations that are able to create an environment, with proper levels of structure, information systems, communication protocol and reporting capabilities are the ones that are able to make the leap into continued growth.

Motivation: Help your teams see the benefits in the transition to enterprise CRM:

Putting data into the system will help your teams get more out of it. Having accessible, accurate information is critical to the success of the company. When a customer calls, more than one person needs to be able to help the customer. For a support issue, the sales/account and even marketing teams to be aware of the event.

Lead nurturing will bring more qualified leads, and is a team effort.

Success breeds success; happy customers are vocal and powerful and a valuable asset. As the organization grows, companies sometimes take their eye off the ball. The executive team must prevent this from happening. There will come a time when each sales team member will need a reference from “someone else’s” customer in order to close a deal.

Increased Information Value: to a salesperson when a support-case is visible before making a call, or to marketing when sales hears of a successful use of the product. The benefits to management are obvious: visibility into processes and ability to forecast future success with more accuracy. Your company can be more responsive to prospects and customers, and your customer acquisition and retention rates will grow.

Depending upon your approach, you may automate information sharing processes by using CRM technology. Teams will then have the increased ability to collaborate within and across departments.

Corporate Barriers: Functional Silos and Informational Silos. In growing companies, departmental rivalries can develop. Often this develops as people focus on their duties, tuning out what others are doing and keeping communications “vertically” focused within their department (instead of sharing information “horizontally” throughout the company). Functional and informational silos stymie coordination among departments.

Functional Silos Job functions once performed by one or two people are now done by multiple groups with several people in each group. Each individual performs his or her own part of the operational pie. The problem with growing companies is that the potential for decisions to be made in a vacuum by each functional area has now increased. Accountability can be lost. Fingers can start to point. Marketing, sales and customer service aren’t on the same page, and ultimately the customer suffers. In order to truly realize the potential of your CRM initiative, you must unify the functional silos that have developed throughout your entire organization.

Encourage each department to understand the roles they play in your overall operation. Develop a program that educates employees about mission, vision and the importance that all roles play.

Information Silos As roles are distributed across functions and individuals, information becomes separated and decentralized. What was once in the minds and systems of one or two people may now be distributed across many customer-facing individuals, and their respective “systems.” If you’re like most companies in your growth stage, customer information is fragmented across spreadsheets, word processing documents in multiple folders on laptops, network drives, and workstations. Emails, notepads, multiple databases such as ACT!, Outlook and Goldmine, and your accounting system contain data about prospects and customers. These disparate data sets, combined with insights in the talented minds of your employees contain the institutional knowledge that you need access to. Your customers expect everyone they interact with to be able to reference information about them in real time.

Bringing People and the Right Information Together If you are able to create alignment between people across roles and departments, they must collaborate around a central customer information repository that contains customer information from throughout your organization. This may require new integrated information systems, standardizing naming conventions and data maintenance guidelines. This alignment of your information is critical to gaining efficiencies now, and also providing the platform and framework for continued growth. When everyone who interacts with your customers and prospects has access to a holistic view of customer information, this has the potential to create a superior customer experience, and restore that small and intimate culture that originally propelled your historical growth.

Considerations for Unifying Data Identify all the places where customer information is stored today. Understand how each department manages and interacts with that customer information and how stakeholders create, consume and distribute information. Lay the groundwork for a unified data model that works for all constituents who will be using the CRM system. Create a unified procedures agreed upon by all stakeholders.

Define a clear road map for change. This will potentially include data cleanup, new guidelines, ongoing data cleansing activities, and a formalization of how data is allowed to be input into the system.

The biggest difference is that you need to move everyone to a centralized platform, maybe for the first time ever. The corporate system has to serve more constituents with more disparate roles. Systems initially serving an individual or small workgroups may have stretched their reach to the departmental level. Now it is critical that everyone collaborates and works from an integrated system to enable “oneness” as if you were still a small business. Many salespeople are not so willing to give that data up to “corporate Big Brother.” The cultural issue around technology will be their willingness to change from a contact-manager that was designed for their individual productivity to a CRM sales application that may enhance their individual productivity, but will designed for corporate productivity.

It is time for the company, not the individual salesperson, to own the customer data.

The account or opportunity is the core focus of the sales management, rather than managing a contact. That means you know more than one person at the company and you have multiple opportunities to juggle.

Metrics are needed to measure the success of sales opportunities, salespersons, marketing campaigns and customer satisfaction with support and the company as a whole.

Scalability: Multiply the number of salespeople by the number of contacts and the transaction records and attachments, and you will see that a database with a 100,000-record limitation is no longer enough. Relational databases with millions of records as a limit are now the needed norm. If you plan to grow, scalability is not an option, it is a requirement.

Mobile salespeople want to use their own devices for business purposes. Accessing and synchronizing data via tablet and smartphone devices is increasingly mission critical.

Pipeline management and Sales forecasting: pipeline management – seeing how each salesperson is doing, what they are doing and how they expect to do in the future. Forecasting: analytic tools for forecasting (and/or collaboration tools) that improve the chances of success in closing opportu­nities.

Marketing Automation / Revenue Performance Management is the latest growth engine for sales and marketing professionals. The ability to understand and respond at more granular levels of the sales process opens up new opportunities and challenges for marketers.

The goal of CRM is the single repository with a consistent view of the customer across stakeholder channels providing collaboration, synergy, superior customer service, marketing and forecasting capabilities for your company’s continued growth.

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