CRM Blueprint 2013

A deep look at how to handle the day-to-day of these vital systems

Customer relationship management (CRM) software and systems are now very common within the digital enterprise. Often however, the full capabilities of these powerful tools aren't utilized. With a few tips and resources though, you'll be surprised at how useful they could become in deepening engagement and improving the bottom line of your 'Net business.

Integrate with Other Systems
One of the most common failures in poor CRM rollouts is that the systems deployed don't integrate (or at least not well) with other systems much less address how employees work with it.

While integrations should certainly be a consideration during the CRM selection phase, it's not rare that organizations drag their virtual feet actually connecting different systems together. Be it as simple as connecting to Outlook or as advanced as a marketing automation solution, your users (employees) will more readily adopt and use systems that they are familiar with and work on every day and do so efficiently and to your company's benefit.

Below you'll find a few ideas to get you started:

Compensation Management: Businesses with sales teams that work on commission should consider compensation management tools such as xactly to help their people visualize exactly what they may earn.

Contract Management: Once a user has signed a contract, it's very useful to ensure that those contacts are a click away. Contract management solutions such as DocuSign are terrific apps for just that purpose.

Geolocation: Those with a geographically diverse audience should consider integrations with vendors such as Geopointe, which works with systems including Salesforce to map data.

Sales intelligence: Easily one of the most important integrations you can make relates to those that provide data about prospects and customers. Fliptop, for example, enables CRM users to view Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin profiles of their leads.

Custom Proposals: Developing sales proposals can be cumbersome, but integrations abound to simply the process. Apps like Conga Composer are powerful tools that help sales teams create and distribute documents faster and more effectively.

Marketing: Numerous marketing-focused applications are available for integration with CRM systems, including email, advertising and even event management. These apps are becoming a core component of CRM usage and the savviest enterprises make good use of them.

Collaboration: Increasingly, CRM systems aren't just being used to help build rich user profiles, but encourage employees to collaborate with one another as well as their prospects. Apps including BoldChat and LivePerson prove quite useful in this regard.

There are, of course, many other actual practices your enterprise should consider to make its CRM effective and useful for every employee.

Engage in Ongoing Training
Most CRM systems today are offered as SaaS (software as a service) so there are continual upgrades and enhancements made that those working in or around the CRM need to know about. Engage in ongoing training (not just when the system is put in place initially) and you'll find that your investment in these solutions will reap rewards far faster.

Provide Mobile Access Sales teams are those that will likely use your CRM with the greatest regularity and they've been proven repeatedly to be a welcome addition to the enterprise in this regard. Sales teams however are often very mobile, so providing mobile access should no longer be optional, but mandatory.

Reward Users and Superusers Some of your staff will be naturally drawn toward using these systems while others might hesitate. When you build in rewards (through gamification and elements including badges, leaderboards or more public recognition) the rate of quality use soars.