Customer Relationship Management has been around in one form or another for nearly 20 years. But in the last five years it’s become far more sophisticated, more of a sales necessity, and a lot more competitive.
Since I am often asked which one I recommend, I think it’s best to develop criteria for what I feel needs to be included (you should do the same), and go from there.
Logging on to your CRM application gets you to your opening desktop screen. At a minimum there has to be an eyeful of "now." Salespeople want to see hot prospects, top proposals, a forecast, their report card, today’s appointments — a quick path to contacts and calendar — and maybe a motivational quote.
From there, it should only be one click to new leads, current accounts, opportunity accounts, activity lists, phone book, Outlook e-mail, Outlook contacts, Outlook tasks, a pipeline report, a won-loss report, a lead analysis report. And just a double click away from account detail, and a sales plan to close each deal.
New to CRM is sales coaching. Coaching helps the salesperson make the sale, either internally with product knowledge, or externally with sales answers by means of online coaching when you demand it.
If I’m a salesperson using CRM, I want to have access to better questions, a way to follow up, pathways to decision makers, and strategies to close my sales as I progress through each sales cycle.
Monitoring a sales cycle is one thing — that’s what databases are designed to do — but assisting salespeople with each step in the sales cycle is the future of CRM.
Salesforce.com was the first to offer sales materials with their program. To date they have been the most innovative. They were also the first to offer a lower cost online solution for the small- to medium-sized business. The larger players, saleslogix and Siebel, offer robust software for large installations but are slower to update and innovate.
I will not draw conclusions. Based on the features you need and the costs attached, you can draw your own conclusions. Me? I look for what I need and the user-friendliness of the application. Me? I look for what I use every day and how efficient it is.
You? Do the same as I do. Figure out what’s best for you and do that.
But do something. If you don’t have a CRM application in your life, get one. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself at a technological and informational disadvantage.