The Key to Successful Client Relationships
Companies today are doing a good job of getting clients excited about their products and services, and motivating them to buy. But once the sales process is over and the project has begun, many organizations are finding that despite hard work and a great product, they cannot satisfy the client, deepen the client relationship, or worse, they are losing the client. Why? In too many companies, there is a huge gap between the initial information gathering and the project execution, and it is that gap where client relationships fall and, all too often, languish.
During the sales cycle a sales and business development team is acquiring extensive client knowledge including the scope of the project, for example, cost estimates and a work plan. These frequently reside within a CRM database, and more often than not once a project is awarded this knowledge is not passed along to the team that implements and manages the actual project and that must complete the work. A company should not detach its CRM and project management processes: Critical information must flow from the sales phase into the implementation phase and vice versa.
CRM as project management tool
The sales team may win the contract, but it is the project management team that solidifies the customer relationship. The processes of selling and implementing a project are separate efforts and this becomes apparent to clients, who can become extremely unhappy. Companies that leverage the knowledge in their CRM database(s) for sales, as well as project management, foster better client relationships. BT solutions exist today that can enable project-based businesses to integrate CRM and project management.
The CRM function should be part of a larger enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that links core management functions like planning, monitoring, accounting, and reporting to maximize business performance. Once these components are integrated, all critical client information is housed together in one centralized system, allowing a company to streamline its business processes.
This kind of integrated system architecture allows for several critical organizational benefits:
The project manager can view reports showing every client-related business area, from planning to accounting to project details.
The CEO can view a top-line report of all client activities.
Project managers can quickly change the scope of a project, delivering improved solutions to meet the project's goals.
The sales team can use existing clients as references for new business development.
Companies can expand their postproject analysis and determine whether projects were over budget or over timeline.
Companies can better focus on managing their sales goals and can track and ensure they are meeting broader company goals.
Companies can determine which clients are profitable for their businesses and make decisions about prioritizing what type(s) of clients to pursue.
The final analysis
When the sales and project management functions within a company are not integrated they become separate efforts, which ultimately is apparent to the client during the project phase. By coordinating these areas in a single, combined ERP solution, companies can specifically align their business strategies with their daily operations, unifying the entire company under commonly shared goals. Just as important, a unified solution directly addresses project-based companies by serving as a single source for project-related data, which can be used to track performance, make strategic business decisions, and measure individual project performance.
Companies that learn to bridge the gap between the sales cycle--where a company's sales team garners extensive client knowledge--and the actual project implementation team by sharing all phases of customer information are those that will not only successfully complete an initial project, but will also extend the client relationship, leading to ongoing and future work.
About the Author
Scott DeFusco is vice president of design and product management, professional services automation, Deltek Systems Inc. With more than 8,000 customers, Deltek, founded in 1983, is a leading provider of enterprise resource-planning solutions for project-based businesses and professional services firms. www.deltek.com