What can CRM do for SMB? (Part 2, Leads)

In my first post in this series I tried to show how spreadsheets and email clients really don’t cut it for meaningful client relationship management. I wrote about how some of the “CRM Lite” applications are a step up, but really only scratch the surface of true client relationship management. With enterprise grade CRM solutions available via the cloud, at a subscription cost that is well within the reach of SMB, there really is no reason anymore that you cannot utilize everything that they can offer.

One of the things that I will discuss in more detail in future posts is this idea of extensibility, but I want to touch on it here. You may have heard the term XRM floating around and that is what this is about. I know, another acronym. Acronyms abound in technology, don’t worry, I can’t remember what a lot of them are either. In a nutshell, email clients and CRM Lite software is “purpose-built”. As a rule they are generally not very open to customization or extending their core capabilities. Enterprise CRM systems like Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce.com are actually “frameworks”. CRM LiteIt’s kind of like a travel trailer vs. a house, hang with me, it will make sense. If you have ever looked at a travel trailer, they are pretty efficient little marvels. Everything is in its place, no more and no less than you need for camping. The kitchen is tucked in there, the bathroom is over in the only place it will go, the beds are all built-in… a nice tight little package. Provided you are satisfied with the arrangement the engineers created, fine, if you are not, there is not much you can do about it. If it gets to feeling too small, you are stuck, because this is a “purpose-built” environment. A house on the other hand is much more like a “framework”. You can convert that fourth bedroom into an office if you want. You can add a pool out back. You can blow out a wall and add a whole other room, in fact you could add so much to it, that the original house is now the smallest part. You may have even turned it into a hotel! You can do that with a “framework”. So what are the limits of a “framework”? Not many, on the right framework, you can build almost anything you can think of, in future posts I will show you some examples.

Let’s get back to the out-of-the-box functionality offered by these CRM frameworks, because even without extending or modifying, these are pretty powerful tools. I mean we have lead management, contact management, case management, opportunity management, campaign management… oops, I’m doing it again. We learned early on that CRM can be somewhat overwhelming to the uninitiated. The first few times we lit it up in front of a new prospect, I watched their head pull back into their neck like a turtle. We learned. Nowadays we turn off 8 of the 12 cylinders beforehand, so the first thing a new client sees is a nice tidy little 4 cylinder… not scary at all (they don’t know it yet, but eventually we will add 50 cylinders to this engine at their request). Out-of-the-box CRM is really just a “gateway drug” that leads to full-on addiction.

Try as we might, we still can’t dumb it down to the CRM Lite level, but our goal is to move your current sales process from an engine that is running at maximum rpm, over to an enterprise CRM that handles that existing process while idling. So let’s go to where we usually start, with the 4-banger.  Leads, Opportunities, Contacts and Accounts make up the basic four cylinders of CRM. Briefly, Accounts are the companies you deal with, Contacts are the people in those companies, Opportunities are the things you are trying to get the Contacts at those Accounts to buy from you, and Leads are just a bunch of people in a bucket that you don’t know enough about yet. This is stuff you already manage somehow today, some in your email client, some on a spreadsheet and some in your head, along with everyone else at your company, and their spreadsheets, email clients and heads. How about getting all that “stuff” from everywhere and everybody in your organization into one place as a start? I could probably stop right there, “Sign us up Steve”, but let’s break this down some more.

smarmyWhat the heck is a Lead? Let’s say you go to your annual trade show in Las Vegas, or setup a table at the local chamber event. As you know, you don’t usually close big deals here, probably not any deals, instead you collect business cards. You come back to the office with a fistful of business cards, but who are all these people? Who knows, but for now, we will call them Leads. So you will enter them all into the CRM system as “Leads”, (or if you are cool like me, you scan them all in in five minutes). We’ll also create a list called “Las Vegas”, or “Chamber” and associate them all with that list. One of my biggest fears in my business career was losing track of people I met, who may actually be important to me. But I just collected 500 cards! I definitely don’t want to add them all to my Outlook, and have to wade through them everyday to get to my real contacts. Leads is a great big bucket I can put them into. I can get to them whenever I want, but they are not in my face everyday. They are also not on some spreadsheet I saved who knows where, they are one click away. So now what do I do with them? Well, I can start be easily assigning these leads to my sales team for follow-up. I can assign by zipcode, industry, size or whatever I want; I can slice and dice these leads in way whatever makes sense and distribute them to my team to chase down. I assigned all my big leads to Horatio, because he’s a fireball closer.  Horatio logs into CRM and sees a whole list of tasks… “Call all of these big leads by Friday”. So Horatio gets to calling. He clicks on the first one on the list, Pete at Acme Corporation. Horatio calls Pete and gets his voicemail. He adds to the Lead record that he called and got voicemail and creates a task for himself to call back tomorrow. Before he even gets to the next name on his list, Pete calls back. Pete actually turns out to be a competitor, so Horatio blows some smoke up his ass about some phony client he is going after, hangs up, and marks Pete’s lead record as a competitor. He does not delete Pete, and in the future if Pete somehow gets back into some other reps sights, the rep will see that Pete is a competitor and ignore him. Horatio goes on to the next one in his list, Becky with Andiron Co. Turns out that Becky is actually a prospect, she’s heard of Horatio’s company and has been thinking about buying some of his Widget #47’s. Horatio probes to find out how many she might be needing and she says 50 or so. Becky says she will run it up the flagpole and get back to him, so Horatio hangs up and goes to Becky’s lead record and clicks the button to “Qualify” Becky. CRM does a few things for Horatio now automatically; it creates an Account record for Becky’s Company, and a Contact record for Becky, it marks her lead record as “no longer a lead” and creates an Opportunity record. Horatio adds to the opportunity record that Becky is interested in 50+ Widget 47’s, and adds a task to call her back in a day or so.

So that is “leads” , circa 1960. This is actually only one of many ways that leads can be cultivated in CRM. First of all, getting them in there.  Business cards are so 90’s. Leads can be imported from a list you bought, or a list your new salesman took from his last employer. Better yet, leads can be pumped in directly from your website, or a channel partner portal, or a third-party outbound calling campaign, or links from advertisements, or from replies to email blasts, or… well you get the idea. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of ways to get leads into your CRM. Secondly, how about we update that age-old cold call process? What if when a lead got into your system, from say an advertisement in a trade journal,  CRM automatically recognized where this lead came from, and automatically emailed that lead your latest brochure and price list, and then automatically sent Horatio a task to call a few days later? And, if a few days went by and Horatio did not call, what if CRM automatically sent to Horatio’s boss an email saying, “Hey, Horatio has not followed up on this lead yet, I think he’s slacking”? CRM is now “causing” things to happen, all by itself. Automation is the real power of CRM and what I just described is Automation 101. Put together properly, automated processes can significantly reduce your  staff’s effort, and prevent opportunities from getting “lost in the system”.

In the next post I will dig into what Opportunities are and how all that works.

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