Required Reading

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It's a mantra we're reminded of more and more: CRM is not about the technology, but about the business strategy, which is why author Russ Lombardo, president of Peak Sales Consulting, focused CRM for the Common Man almost exclusively on developing a CRM strategy and ensuring its success. Lombardo offers practical advice on such topics as gathering the right information to design and plan the right CRM strategy, getting buy in, and planning for ROI. CRM magazine asked Lombardo about CRM planning strategy. CRM
: Why is preplanning vital to CRM success? Lombardo: To measure their success, businesses need to know where they are currently versus where they need to go. This includes knowing what metrics they need to measure regarding their customer retention strategies. It is imperative to plan this strategy up front, or else the business may not be solving problems that address their customers' needs. CRM: What are the most important things to plan for? Lombardo: It's most important to plan the flow in which a client passes through your organization, from marketing to sales to support to every department that interfaces with the customer. This is your sales process. Additionally, customer intelligence is a key element for planning, which includes what information you need to obtain and retain about customers and how that information is to be shared among employees. Planning should include how to address team members, training, usage, adoption, technology, costs, and more. CRM: What are the three most important things companies must understand about their business or about implementing CRM before they start a project? Lombardo: First, they should understand that it is more important to address external, customer-focused problems, such as making sure the customer's relationship and purchase experience is positive, rather than internally focused problems like cutting costs. Second, they should understand how they currently interact with their clients and compare that to what their customers really need. Third, CRM is a corporate culture and not technology, thus technology helps to deploy the CRM strategy, not drive it. OTHER PAGE TURNERS It's true that technology should support CRM, not drive it. But it is also true that executives overseeing CRM initiatives should understand that technology. Customer Relationship Management Systems Handbook (Auerbach Publications), by Duane Sharp, offers background information on the technology aspects of CRM, including an in-depth look at data management. The book also explores such topics as the stages of a CRM strategy, testing and evaluating CRM solutions, and managing the CRM program. It includes a checklist for vendor selection and almost 40 case studies that include the project objectives, solutions, and benefits. www.auerbach-publications.com Like former New York City mayor Ed Koch, CRM project leaders should always be concerned with "How'm I doin'?" Author and CRM consultant Glen Peterson has created the guide book CRM Best Practices: Self Assessment to help executives who oversee CRM projects to analyze how well those initiatives are progressing and where they may need improvement. Users are asked to rate their projects in detail and on a point system in such areas as results orientation, customer focus, leadership, program and change management, and partner development. Peterson also gives advice on how to put the results to good use. www.competitiveperformance.com Two new books on selling aim to help sales professionals close big deals in tough times. Winning in the Invisible Market: A Guide to Selling Professional Services in Turbulent Times (Llumina Press), by Robert Potter, zeros in on the professional services market, while Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes Are High (John Wiley & Sons), by Jeff Thull, focuses on selling at the C level. In Winning in the Invisible Market, Potter offers a sales process devised from the best practices of top service professionals designed to improve finding, winning, and retaining customers. Mastering the Complex Sale also offers a systematic sales process, but in this case it is designed to help sales professional tackle high-stakes selling. Thull also offers advice that is a mix of age-old wisdom (every sale is not a good sale) and counterintuitive strategies (never ask for the order--it will come as the logical next step in a well-executed decision process).
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