“I don’t know how many leads my sales team called last week.” “I don’t have accurate revenue forecasts because I have no visibility into the sales pipeline.” “I don’t have a way to record which clients have what services.” “I need to track who referred this client somehow.” Any of these sound familiar?

Running a business without a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool can be challenging and frustrating. Without a central place for staff to view company information and track activity, customer service reps can have a difficult time connecting with clients. CRM in the B2B market has become a necessity since modern technology requires businesses to interact with each other via the web.

Well-designed CRM systems should provide the following: integration capabilities (ex: Outlook and other applications already in place), sales force automation, opportunity management, relationship management, and data warehouse technology. Each CRM system has its differences, and should be evaluated based on the company’s needs.

Implementing a CRM can require heavy resources and deep pockets. Small businesses may turn to “lighter” CRMs that simply consist of contact management features, while large businesses can require elaborate workflows to streamline internal processes. Either way, a well-thought-out plan and project team should be assembled to put a CRM in place.

Once you’ve crossed the resource and cost hurdles, some of the next challenges that can be faced include: gathering an accurate client list, ensuring company and contact demographic information are up to date, customizing the “out of the box” system to match your company’s needs, and others. One of the biggest challenges a project team may face during implementation is a lack of internal process and documentation within the organization that is needed to guide the build of the CRM.

If you research CRM implementation, you’ll find the most common issue mentioned is adoption. Without the “buy-in” from management and staff, a CRM implementation can certainly fail. Studies show that billions of dollars are spent on software that has never been used and many corporations are only taking advantage of half the functionality of their existing system. With that said, a well-built system that creates operational efficiencies WILL be adopted (with ongoing support and persistence).

After implementing a CRM myself, I do not believe that adoption is the most challenging aspect. The planning and preparation for the build of the CRM is the first factor in determining its success. I strongly recommend a team that understands the entire client life cycle within your organization. Here are some examples of questions that need to be answered in the planning phase:

Lead Management

  • “What are our lead sources?” I’d recommend a Lead Source field that is a drop-down, allowing your sales team to choose from a select group of options. A small list of options will help you track and analyze your best lead source.

Opportunity Management

  • “What are our opportunity stages?” Your sales team needs clear opportunity stages to help define the pipeline for themselves and sales management. Examples: Prospecting, Initial Communication, Needs Analysis, Value Proposition, Negotiation/Review, Closed Won, Closed Lost.
  • “What are our opportunity types?” Make sure to account for each product or service your sales team may be pitching.

Account Management

  • “What are our account types?” Tracking what type of account the client is and what services they utilize is one of the most important pieces to building a successful CRM.

Case Management

  • “What are our case topics?” What do clients contact you about? A concise list of popular topics is imperative if you wish to drill-down and address training needs and process improvements.

Needless to say, selecting, implementing, and adopting a CRM system can be challenging, yet rewarding. A well-executed CRM can offer invaluable insight to staff and improve the customer service experience. Many CRM providers offer training or consultants that can help businesses get started on the right foot.

At MPAY, we’ve seen the advantages of putting a CRM in place and are extending those benefits to members of the MPAY Network. We’ve built a CRM FOR our licensees to help gain client insight, better cross-sell services, manage client cases, track cases with MPAY, and more. Check out the video below to learn more about MPAY’s Partner Portal through salesforce.com.

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Amy Robertson

From her office in Roanoke, VA, Amy manages “all things marketing” for MPAY. Despite her childhood dream of becoming a teacher, she found herself in payroll software after college. Over 10 years later, she still enjoys the challenge of ever-changing technology and the occasional opportunity to draw on the whiteboard.