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CRM – A philosophy or a solution working in real life?

Have you ever had a dream about CRM?
Sometimes people ask me about my job. It’s hard to explain (I guess one reason is because my wife never asks things like this …). I can’t repeat all details how I’ve tried to explain what CRM really is about, but later on I thought this was rather the description of “the perfect Word of CRM”.
Now people ask me about my role in CRM and I have to explain what Account and Contact Management is about. Here I’ve tried to illustrate this a bit more …Lead- & Opportunity-Management is somehow the Heard-Beat of CRM, Activity-Management is its Breath and Account & Contact Management is the Skeleton of CRM.
For two day’s I was happy with this comparison.

Than I got the CRM Insider Newsletter … Here one question was somehow funny.
“When a company is in trouble – which one will loose his job earlier? The guy working in the Sales- or the guy working in the Marketing-Department?”
Well, I don’t have an idea, but I’m sure the guy in Sales hopes that it will be the colleague in the Marketing-Department. Typically they don’t know each other very good. That’s one reason why CRM is often only a philosophy where all employees, all processes in Marketing, Sales and Service are connected and this helps to completely know and understand your customers.
Does this work in practice?

Later on I went through the new “Star-Building” in Walldorf. There is a real cool installation in the foyer. Whenever a deal gets won, an artificial creature scurries over the ground. It looks very similar to an octopus and my next thought was “They don’t need a Skeleton!” That’s really the case. If you work in Sales you are focused to win deals. It’s not important to maintain all data related to the Account. If you have identified your potential deal, you do not need a “Skeleton” for this Account, only the “soft tissue” is sufficient.
In Marketing this is again different. Here the “Skeleton” is needed to put flesh on the bones. In other words, good account data is required to do good Market-Segmentation, to have successful campaigns and to get the right findings out of your analytics. However, in CRM all involved parties rather wants to get data out of the system and they hesitate to put data in the system.
Especially the Account Executive doesn’t want to share his information as this is somehow his equity.

Therefore it is very important to involve the real users already in the early implementation-process as this helps to have a higher acceptance for the CRM System. If a Sales Rep. doesn’t like such a solution he will find hundreds of reasons why he can’t work with this tool.
It’s also a good idea to introduce some incentives to improve Data Quality and the usage of CRM. This can’t be done just by forcing the Sales Rep. to enter complete Address- and Communication Data and to maintain Marketing Attributes in order to make Segmentation for Marketing easier.
Therefore it is also very important to eliminate (as much as possible) all hurdles for users working with CRM.
Otherwise the discrepancy between expectation and reality will be too big.

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  • coming from a sales background even i used to feel there is a disconnect between marketing and sales. They(Mktg) was most of times theoritical in plans which used to look good only on paper collecting plenty of data. The sales guy needs to work hard in the field and has very less time or inspiration to fill the data what marketing requires.
  • I really liked this article.  I am in IT and this really helped me understand a little more about the differences between Sales and Marketing.  But I did not grasp the answer to the question in the headline (maybe I am too thick). 


    What information should ALREADY be in the CRM tool that will help Sales stay focused on the win?  Is this information available somewhere besides what the Sales person enters into the system? Can it be imported into the CRM tool from those sources?

    What information should ALREADY be in the CRM tool that will help Marketing target the message and entice the cusomter base to use this company’s products and/or services?  Is this information available somewhere besides whtat the Sales person or Marketing person enters into the system?  Can it be imported from those sources?

    Just looking to understand even more.  These are our business front line folks and if we don’t take care of both those departments, there will be no need for the IT department I work for.

    • Hello Scott!
      Let me say it this way. CRM is really important, useful and there is high potential to improve the efficiency of an organization, but sometimes people think “implementing CRM = living CRM”. That’s not automatically the case. You can only get useful information out of the system, if someone feeds it. For sure external sources can get used to enrich own account data or to validate address- and communication data and for sure there is already a lot of data in the system. Here CRM can help a lot, but this is only one part of the story. The other piece is how people really work with CRM.
      It’s somehow the philosophy of CRM to really know and understand the customer and to manage this relationship. It’s important also to take into account how the different users will work with the system. Sometimes if you want to get more out of the System you will get less.
      It might be interesting to know this and that about a customer in order to use this information, but you will not get this information only because there is a field in the Overview Page of this Customer. People in Sales, Service and Marketing are willing to help each other, but it’s dangerous to overestimate this.

      The other part of the question is also interesting. There is always a lot of information available outside the world of CRM. Sometimes this can get imported and used. But here as well also “potential Customers” are getting more and more sensitive that information can get (mis)used. In Germany we have this discussion about “Scoring” as Insurances; Banks, etc. uses information like “quality of residential area” to determine the conditions for a credit. I think this is again a different story how useful and reliable it could be to collect and use data from the different sources.
      Best regards

  • Most sales guys I know of hate data entry on systems – they live off their rolodex and a bunch of spreadsheets. Most guys “outsource” their data entry to some admin person.

    The people who like the data entered by the sales guy are the managers above him; since get a lot of information on leads, opportunities, recievables, ageing etc. But sales guy’s first loyalty typically is to earn his commission – not to get more info for his managers. There are also cases where they definitely don’t want their managers to know certain “sales tricks”, typically done at the end of a month/quarter/year.

    So my theory on sales apps is – make all applications for sales guys really simple – bare minimum fields, with plenty of dropdowns and plenty of defaulting and personalization options.
    This is just the IT side of the story – on the business side, you have to give something that helps the sales guy tangibly, that he cannot get elsewhere easily. It will also help if earning the commission is somehow tied to entering good data.

    • Hello Vijay!
      Thank you for your comment. I totally agree. Of course it’s not my intention to blame the Sales People in general that they hide information. It’s a general issue that everybody first takes care to do the tasks he is accountable for.
      People working in Service will also not inform directly the Sales Force, that they have seen a machine from a competitor installed on customer side which might be replaced in a couple of months. Usually they will do their service-job and that’s it.
      CRM as a software application can’t change this, but the application can enable people to do this with processes which are quickly and intuitive to use.
      The other part is rather a question of how to define incentives for collaboration and to establish a collaborative culture.
      Enjoy the weekend!