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Keeping the ''R'' in CRM
Keeping the "R" in CRM
Posted Jul 1, 2002
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People who sell for a living know the importance of relationships. Marketing, cold calling, prospecting - none of these deliver the consistent sales results equal to building a trusting relationship over time with a customer. Yet Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are often deployed to a sales force as a way to better focus tactical activities - recording sales calls, entering orders, and updating address information. Companies that get the most out of their CRM investments have deployed tools to help the savvy sales rep nurture the "R." How can a CRM system help to nurture a relationship? Here are some simple ways based on the constant fundamentals of giving customers what they want. Be able to answer basic questions quickly and accurately. A CRM system should be able to provide basic information "at a glance" about promise dates, shipments, prices, and terms. When you tell a customer, "I'll get back to you," you are really telling them that you are either not prepared or they are not a priority. Either way, you just lost an opportunity to impress them. Be up-to-date on your customers' business and competition. Take advantage of Internet and wireless technologies to funnel you the latest information on your customers' markets, competition, and other aspects of their business that keep them up at night. Sound futuristic? Not really. Many CRM systems can now profile and deliver information from various sources. One company I know provides a market and competitive update on their customers' business with every invoice and order status request. Move from status giver to value giver. Today's CRM vendors provide "hub" technologies to allow customers to access information about order status and history without having to pick up the phone. This type of hub technology enables companies to become value givers. Some value givers have integrated a hub with the ability to notify customers about new promotions or price breaks. Hub technology also "pushes" information instead of requiring customers to "pull" it out. As a result sales reps can contact customers about ways your company, product, and solutions add value rather than focusing primarily on status.
Go beyond when you respond. The method chosen to deliver a CRM system to your sales force is just as important as having a CRM system in the first place. Consider a CFO who got wireless email and used to send suppliers messages at all hours of the day and night just to see who would respond first. Today, speed of response has moved from a competitive weapon to a competitive necessity. If you want to stay on your customers' minds, let them know that they are on yours. So, to put the "R" back into CRM, you must transform your system into a tool that gives your customers value as well as a tool that gives your company value. This will help nurture relationships and differentiate you from your competition.
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