Monday, 30 December 2013

10 ideas to strengthen your strategic account management (SAM) approach using CRM

Is your business driven by repeat orders? If so, is your sales team managing account relationship strategically / proactively to drive business efficiently? 

Is CRM helping you drive account plans or just record opportunities?

Today most of the technology businesses are focused on repeat orders as a key drivers of revenue. To sustain repeat orders, organizations are working on approaches which are strategic, proactive and Customer relationship driven. This blog shares some thoughts on how to structure and streamline strategic account management (SAM) strategy using CRM.

If your technology business model is centered on customer relationship then is your CRM designed to just record and manage your opportunity? 

Should your CRM be designed to strengthen and manage Customer relationship to generate opportunities and go much beyond recording the events?

I have been associated with the technology industry for over 15 years. Technology industry has evolved a lot from the Y2K era. Technology industry has seen a paradigm shift in the approach to Customer engagement. The proposition has transformed from pure manpower / cost centric T&M (staffing) model to a complete solution based model with considerable discussion on value to Customers’ business and revenue impact from technology. In this situation why is CRM still considered as an opportunity management / pipeline and forecasting tool? Is CRM a tool to drive strategy or just visibility / reporting?

In my view CRM should help companies generate opportunity and help in strengthening customer engagement and go much beyond just opportunity / transactional management system. 

Typical technology services firms’ business philosophy:
- Fewer customer deeper engagement
- Senior management connects
- Multiple team engagement
- Strategic account management strategies
- Global customers, global spread of the team

Majority of technology firms use CRM for:
- Opportunity recording  for reporting and MIS
- Tracking quota and forecasting
- Driving reviews
- Basic collaboration with backend solution and business units to respond to RFPs effectively

Users’ challenges:
- User are forced to use it and enter transactions
- Users find it as a tool for reporting and approvals
- Most CRMs are built around task automation, sales executive productivity but lacks customer relationship, customer knowledge and priorities

There is a wide gap between the business philosophy and the way CRM is designed and used

In our view CRM should help organizations and sales team in facilitating and generating opportunities. 

CRM should be more social, open and designed to aggregate / gather customer information from internet and social media to make intelligent, accurate and quicker decision making. 

10 ideas and functionalities which can help your CRM drive an effective account management strategy:

1. Account planning in CRM: 

Few of our customer’s is using CRM for defining their account plans. These account plans is entered in the CRM system which is helping our customer's account managers to be proactive in generating opportunity and analyzing the impact of the account strategy.

2. Account engagement plan: 

Majority of our customer use CRM to drive effective relationships by setting up customer interaction (account contact plan) targets in the system and setting up work flow / triggers as reminders along with minutes of meeting all within the system for improving relationship discussions and collaboration across all key stakeholders. Based on various interactions, they are able to generate interesting customer communication documents for improving customer experience.

3. Account based marketing campaigns: 

Our customers' today are using CRM to define, initiate and drive account based marketing plan. Such account based marketing plans within CRM helps them drive effective marketing campaigns within account which helps them gain better mind share across subsidiaries / divisions within larger accounts. The account based marketing is helping them improve cross and up-selling and also track efforts and improve collaboration between marketing, account managers and business units.

4. Account based competition mapping:

Working on fewer accounts means stiffer competition. Tracking competition details and, analyzing success and failure using data through CRM can add significant value to the SAM driven strategy.

5. Account issues and concerns: 

Success of account-based strategy lies in the ability to carefully listening to customers. There will be multiple stakeholders interacting with customer. A central repository of all issues and concerns can provide better response to customer and helps strengthen relationship significantly.

6. New Account Fitment Analysis: 

CRM should have the right structure to analyze a new account. One of the key pillar of any SAM strategy is to focus on the right accounts. CRM should act as a check point to assess and analyze accounts based on pre-defined logic.

7. Account risk analysis: 

Some of our customers are centralizing all customer strategic and transactional information into one single platform. This helps them get a complete 360 degree view of customers. This is not for status reporting but using such data our customers analyze the associated risks in the account

8. Centralize all customer strategic information on one platform:  

Integrate all customer information into one platform for effective review, provide clear visibility and manage relationship better. Share relevant information and report to customer as well as to improve customer confidence and transparency. Such initiatives can significantly differentiate yourself from competition.

9. Customer communication and reporting:

Transparent, frequent and adequate Communication is very vital for a successful Customer relationship. To sustain, standardize and keep the quality of communication is a challenge. Using CRM, we can centralize all customer communication using automated documents that are triggered to customer on pre-defined frequency. This will bring uniformity and continuity in communication efforts.

10. Customer portal for key accounts:  

Providing self service portal for key accounts (customer) to access into your CRM can be a killer market differentiator. This will allow customer to understand progress on projects, log cases, issues, access to knowledge bank and important documents,  information on team etc. Portals can immensely help customers in interacting with you and your firm more smartly and reduce dependency on fewer individuals.

In a nut-shell: 

- CRM is just a framework, it all depends on how customer and implementation partner eventually design and create a structure that is best aligned with the overall goals of the organization.

- If strategic account management (SAM) is your business driver then the CRM should go much beyond opportunity management, forecasting and reporting. CRM should be more strategic and aligned to your core business process and integrate social intelligence to improve quality of research and support account managers to strengthen their relationship. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Are you using CRM or CTM? (Customer Relationship Management or Customer Transaction Management System)

Is your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) helping you manage and grow Customer Relationship or is the system supporting you to drive Customer Transaction only?

The more we work with customers on CRM initiatives,  I feel, we are engaging at a CTM (Customer Transaction Management) level. Though I completely agree and propose to our customers that CTM is the first step to improve sales productivity and sales efficiency, but the larger vision should be around CRM.

I thought of sharing my views and differences between CTM and CRM as many of our Customers are shifting from CTM to CRM. 

We engage with our customer on larger CRM vision starting initially with CTM roll-out but quickly focus on building CRM fundamentals which brings higher business impact. Most of our customers are benefiting hugely by this shift from CTM to CRM. 

CRM is a strategic way of building a technology which will differentiate businesses in the market place. CTM is very transactional and tactical. CTM provides data but not the leverage for growth. A strong CRM strategy helps companies scale and grow. 

If you have a CTM and want to make a shift to CRM we can work on developing CRM vision and help you with transformation roadmap. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Do you hate your CRM? - 8 steps to make it work and energize your CRM initiative.

“We hate our CRM system. It’s terrible. No one is using it. We need a better one.”  
 “Too much to enter, can you recommend a CRM system that is more user friendly?” 

Sounds familiar... 

Some of the leaders whom I meet who have invested in a CRM always tell me one of the above. To learn more I interviewed a few of our existing customers who have seen huge success from CRM and wanted to share the approach and steps they took to make best use of their CRM investment. 

8 steps to energize CRM initiative and make it work for you:                    

1. Identify CRM advocate or a power user within your CRM user base to lead the energizing program 

The key to regain the energy is to provide users confidence and hope to fix the gaps and toget it right. Identifying a user to lead this change and the one who can provide adequate insight to identify and fix core issues is the first step. 

2. Involvement brings accountability. Connect with the users and understand their perspective. 

Users can make or break a system. No matter what measures the firm adopts, unless users are convinced that a CRM will make a difference to their work they will not use it and even if they do then it is not used in the intent it was designed. Management should take keen interest in listening to the users before defining CRM goal. 

3. Define integrated CRM to improve customer experience. The companies must go much beyond the goal of centralizing data for MIS reports

Integrated CRM means a system which provides complete 360 degree view of a customer. An integrated approach will provide complete data for your team also help improve adoption and quality of data. 

For example: One of our customer defined CRM by keeping the customer in the center and configured CRM to cover all the processes which touches the customer. This approach helped our customer build the CRM as the most important strategic tool to drive business. 

This integrated approach is helping our customer drive higher quality of customer engagement. 


4. Take smaller improvement initiatives but sustain it so that there stronger alignment with the process and also elevates excitement 

Define a CRM goal and document a detailed set of change initiative activities. But quickly prioritise the improvement plan to take smaller and achievable milestones. Identify a partner who can understand your current situation, who is able to add value to your processes, share best practices and also facilitate this change. Go-live with smaller monthly change management goals. Keep listening to the users and keep improving the system.  

5. Go much beyond forms - Focus on UI / UX

There may be a lot of app in any app store but the key difference from one to another is UI. So why not in your enterprise CRM as well? Looking at clicks, navigation flow, easy of useintuitiveness and simplicity which are key for holding users interest. Focusing on UI/ UX will improve adoption rates and helps create the WOW effect.

6. Improve performance review effectiveness using CRM - Detailed training for management and managerial staff not just for field force 

We always recommend and encourage our customer leadership to be trained first, we also participate during their reviews to understand their review structure. Ensuring management reviews team performance from the system is the secret sauce for success. This point is the most important aspect of the CRM success. 

7. Training, re-training and re-training 

Awareness bring confidence and comfort. We should equip the team with the right intent behind the system and also share the value / benefit of using system apart from the functionality. We suggest regular webinar's and awareness programs to improve user confidence. We also suggest internal certification programs and motivation incentives to improve adoption.   


8. Rewards and gamification 

Gamification helps create fun at work while driving change management efficiently. While rewards helps milestone based achievements but gamification helps sustain the initiative and fuels energy to the entire initiative. Mean-while be mindful that any gamification needs to be driven by a strong and well defined policy. Gamification can be double edged sword and can also demotivate if not defined thoughtfully. Also make sure gamification process, policy and points are transparently managed by system to eliminate bias and human error. 

While having said the 8 points we also recommend to our Customers that change cannot be an overnight process. Patience and constant monitoring is also important to drive change. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Why is cloud gaining popularity?

Cloud is considered as a game changing technology and regarded as next big thing. Why? 

The key reason for Cloud to gain momentum is because this is a model in which people are interacting with technology in a whole new way. Cloud is helping business to connect and collaborate with customer, product performance data, employee, vendor / supplier community directly. Cloud is democratizing by improving performance, productivity and cost benefits with lot of flexibility.  

But there are still apprehensions, challenges and grey areas. I thought of posting my views and share my learnings after interacting with over 100 customers who have adopted to cloud. 

The key advantage of cloud is much beyond cost. In my view cost is a short term view and should never be the key driver for decisions.

Top 5 reasons our customers look at Cloud:

1.   Focus on the core and eliminate the clutter

Using cloud platform, businesses can focus on the core objective of automation rather than building entire technology stack required to run the application. Some of our customer who have invested on the on-premise technology said they have invested about 60% of their total investment and 75 % of resources and energy in setting the technology infrastructure to run the application. Cloud enables our customer to free-up the investment on infrastructure but more importantly provides better bandwidth and focus to build application that facilitates business growth.

2.    Flexible to evolving business 

Business is dynamic and process needs to be nimble for growing a business. Any technology should emulate the real-time operating processes and hence the need for an elastic technology platform. Cloud provides eco-system of features / functionalities which facilitates scale and flexibility of application development. In comparison with the on-premise technology the entire technology stake needs to be enhanced as the business evolves. 

3. Empower users and not limited to technology constraints

User needs should drive the project and technology should enable users to be more productive and informed. Understanding users requirement and building easy of interface enhances user adoption. 

4.    Cost of experiment

When we interviewed one of our customer he said this very well, that cloud provided them with lower cost of experimenting and they scaled as their business grew. Unlike in an on-premise CAPEX model - the cost of experimenting is so high that exit is a no option.

5.  Security 

As we interact with several leaders in business they evaluate/ quiz us on security and also do a proper due diligence but they no longer consider security as a biggest threat. With extensive digitization like online banking application, social media, online purchases etc. there is a sense of confidence. Majority of our customer also see their industry leaders adopting to it and gain confidence. 

But the key question is the cloud secure? In my own view, cloud is more secure than a server room of a mid-sized business. Cloud application and platform providers consider security as their biggest risk for their entire business. Cloud OEM's layout strong norms around third party validations, protection at application, facility and network level with strong.  

6.    Agile development

Cloud is flexible but the development approach also needs to be equally flexible and agile. A consultative approach helps improve success of cloud initiative. 

In our experience deployment can be either a "Curtain raiser" type project release which is packed with full functionalities and customized to all business requirement or alternatively roll-out in packs of smaller deployable processes. This not only helps business to get to market sooner with rapid deployment but also help users in adopting to the system in a sustained manner.  

Our customer are approaching deployment in both the models but the agile methodology is gaining stronger momentum. 

In nut shell, cloud technology by itself cannot be a game changer, but what we do with it and how users adopt and use it is the key to success. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

My view: Systematic conservatism

Recently I was inspired reading one of our well-wisher, Poonam's Facebook feed on how she is mindful of things around her life. I could relate to her feed and put me thinking about my own self and what inspired me to be conservative.

I feel it is not being conservative but it is about being "systematically being conservative" which makes the big difference. Lot of tall leaders like Narayan Murthy, Azim Premiji, J R D Tata and likes are all known for conservatism but they all made and shared wealth. If they were conservative they would never take risks, never did bold investments, they would always be contented with what they have. But I feel they and many of us are systematically conservative. Which means, we spend on things which matter the most and ensure we respect and make best use of those things which we invest on. Systematically conservative means being thankful and mindful without being arrogant of those little/ big things around us.

I learnt my lesson to be systematically conservatism from my grandfather, Shri. Narasimha Prabhu.
  • He was financially well-off but until age of 65 he was riding to office on his cycle. I think he always treated reaching destination matters the most, while mode of travel is just means to get to the end point. 
  • After a particular age, he had to give-up his cycle, and then always preferred a shared auto to his factory as he said it will take the same time to reach yet cost less 
  • I remember he always had a list of points to discuss before he dialed any call, so that he does not waste air time during the call 
  • He used to re-use envelops he received, by re-pasting new address on the old
For more details, pls refer my bolg - My grandfather my leader 

Being systematically conservative is an approach which is not limited just to personal life, but in true sense extends to every aspect of an individual life including office. So the issue is how much you hate when you see wastage at office. In my experience, many are conservative only at personal things but rip-off when it is somebody else. Isn't this being self centered way of looking at conservatism? 

My big learning from being systematically conservative is that it helps us being humble and helps us realize that we are lucky and respect and be thankful for every thing around us.