Process or activities? American or Indian?

The two approaches to CRM and why the Indian approach works better for small businesses

If you follow the CRM products and solutions out in the marketplace, you will know the “flavour of the season” is “Social”.

All CRMs are now focusing on managing contacts- the interactions, tracking their social media presence and activities and making it easier for engage their contacts on social media.

This is all very well and there are several folks who do this very well; taking contact management to a different plane altogether. You can now “engage” your prospective client like never before; congratulate him on a job-change, perhaps “like” his photos from his family holiday and follow his wisdom on Twitter.

All very well; but come to the point. Cut to the chase, if you will.

My experience of talking to customers over the last many months is telling me that customers (in India, at least) today are not seeing contact management as their big challenge and social media as the answer. They are looking to manage the sales process- from the enquiry (inquiry, if you are American) to close. They are looking at a B2B sales process in terms of “Account Management“- where multiple contacts take a “committee decision, past experience matters and sales follows a path of Awareness to Interest generation to Evaluation to Proposal to Close.

Has B2B sales become possible to be done on FB in US? Is it okay to Tweet a quote?  Ever posted your 20 page sales proposal on your prospect’s “wall”? You tell me.

The amount of time that you need to engage your clients on social media, the amount of compelling content that you need to constantly supply- and make it individually relevant- just providing the tool is not going to work.

How many social media savvy sales guys do you know?

How many customers are on FB with you?

This long, virtually never ending courtship that the “new-age” CRMs promise, will not likely lead to consummation.

The other observation I have, and this is a more generic comment about the CRM softwares: when they do go beyond contact management, they are more into process tracking and milestones. Let me explain why I think an Indian customer is looking for more than that.

B2B Sales, in India and I suspect in many parts of the world, is a formal process.

There is a long sales cycle and your software is probably doing a great job capturing the milestones. But, the customers are looking to send a quote, a formal proposal with terms and conditions, acknowledge the PO when it comes in and point out the deviations. Perhaps even invoice at shipment.

The advantages: The “Indian approach” has one huge advantage over the CRM softwares made in the west. It is that, you do not need to do these activities (quote/ proposal/ literature mailing/ event invitation) outside, using some other software and come back to CRM only to log these activities. So, the CRM gets elevated to a level of “part of work- a tool I use to do my daily customer facing activities”. The disadvantage is of course, that this makes the software itself “heavier-more laden with functionalites”.

The balance: I do think a CRM needs to do more than Contact Management. It also needs to go beyond process milestones logging.

Remember, one of the biggest problems the sales people have against CRM adoption was having to duplicate work done elsewhere. While the new CRM softwares in the market manage the task of profile management very well, managing to keep the contact profiles updated and rich in interaction history, I am not sure if the need of a small business is really served by having a long “courtship period”/ sales cycle. When they want to “pop the question”/ send a proposal or a quote or sales literature, they want to do it from the CRM itself.

I am not a great fan of the very transactional view of the business. But, the end goal of a CRM is business generation. Click here if you want a demo or a guided tour of Saleswah CRM.

Is this your first CRM? 5 common mistakes to avoid

Common mistakes in implementing CRM that lower adoption rate

CRM applications have a low adoption rate; and that is a global fact. I will share the user perspective of why this is the case; from my days using large CRM applications in a marketing and then in a sales management role.

Frontline sales people hate CRMs- actually, they hate any system which forces them to log, record their activities and pins them to a number. It is also a fact that without the sales team adoption of the CRM, it will fall flat. What can you do, to make it better for your team?

So, here are the 5 mistakes to avoid in CRM implementation

1. Sales people do not like adding to their work by recording their activities, meeting notes etc. To elaborate, they do not like to record that today they called A, B and C; sent quotes to B, E and G; mailed product brochures to F,K,M and given product demos to P,Q,R.
They expect their sales numbers to speak for them at the end of the month/ quarter/ year. But, for the manager, who wants to establish a link between activity and result, this is a nighmare.

How are you doing it today? Let’s face it- you need this; one of the reasons you want to select a CRM system. But, will your sales team play ball? By agreeing to painstakingly record each activity of the day?

2. Sales people absolutely hate updating customer contact details. 
See it from their point of view. They have their mobile phone – which stores the contacts’ mobile numbers. And, they probably have the email addresses in the office email system (Outlook??). And, now- you want them to separately feed the CRM system?
Your marketing team can’t do without this information, however. Updated contact details are a must if they want to create leads and deals. How else will they send newsletters? Where else will they send invitations to seminars? And, without proper profile information (not knowing the level- designation/ department, not knowing the past contact history, not knowing their industry segment – how will their message be relevant and elicit a response?

3. Too many problems- let’s solve them all.
This is what the expectation is. From having no software today, the expectation is to leapfrog into a “solve everything” software which will do contact management, marketing management, sales management, order administration including factory linkages and inventory too. Oh, by the way, can you link to my accounting software too. please?
Our advice? Desist. Resist the temptation for a cure-all. Why? Because, the most important part of the software is adoption- and any adoption will go well, if done slowly and at a comfortable pace.

4. Flexibility equals ease of use
No, it does not. In fact, we even say, ignorance is bliss!
If you do not have a formal CRM system/ software, yet; then it is best that you stay as uncomplicated as possible when you first start.

Where is the highest impact likely to be? It is in the sales area. So, stay with a CRM that does a good job with automating the tasks your sales people do on a daily basis- like mailing literature, sending quotes or sales proposals and scheduling tasks/ activities. Keep it simple; do not, repeat do not ask for customizable workflows and screens and so on.

5. My existing process, my letter head, my way of making a proposal, order ack- I want a custom CRM software that does what I already do

Not all your processes, activities and documents need be logged and used by the CRM software. When in doubt, plump for simplicity and ease of use. The role of the CRM software is to ensure that your salesmen spend time selling rather than sitting in front of it filling up information.

To sum it all,

go for simplicity and ease of use. Ensure that all the essential sales activities are done on the platform itself to save time from being wasted in separately logging them. Make the task of customer profiling simple even minimal. Ensure simplicity and believe it or not, flexibility and custimizability is NOT what you really need if you are a first time CRM user.

For how Saleswah can help, please check out How Saleswah Works and Why Saleswah.