Use your CRM for Operations – or Watch it Die

If your business is using a CRM software package simply to replace an email client such as Microsoft Outlook, the reality is: it will die a slow death. This is true no matter which CRM system you choose, even if it has the most powerful-sounding name (Salesforce or MS Dynamics).

In order for Customer Relationship Management software to become fully embedded in the way your business is run, it must have an ‘operational component’. This is absolutely critical for it to become a natural part of the way people work day to day.

The ‘operational component’ is easy enough to find, but it differs in each and every business. CRM systems tend to fail more often than any other software because most companies still do not view Sales as operational – and as I said above, “Use your CRM for operations…or watch it die!”

If you see business from a simple perspective of front, back and middle, then every business would use an Accounting or ERP system to manage the “back” end – (Accounting software systems have it so easy because all accounting processes are operational).

The “middle” of every business can be seen as operations with Sales as the “front.”

Why this often gets so complicated is that the middle can be blurred with the back. For example, a manufacturing company might use an ERP system to manage both the back and middle – leaving only the front-end (Sales) to a third-party CRM solution that is dealt an overwhelming challenge to succeed right from the start.

There are many operationally-based software products for specific industries such as legal, insurance, hair salons, etc., but typically these systems don’t come from a sales-oriented perspective. Thus, the company is left seeking yet another solution for managing leads, opportunities and marketing. This is a recipe for failure, because the Sales system cannot become entrenched into operations when an operational system is already in place. Of course most ERP system developers saw an opportunity to tack on a front-end CRM component, enhancing their overall revenue streams. But let’s stick with the theory that only the front (Sales) is given a third party CRM software to plug. In this case, most of the sales people have been accustomed to using Outlook and Excel to manage sales. Inserting a CRM system into this environment – without that operational mindset – is tantamount to a CRM death wish!

To succeed in any business a CRM solution must become the operational component, or alternatively serve as a bridge to and from the operational system.

Once a CRM system becomes operational in nature, people become dependent on it to do their jobs. It doesn’t become the software that you do after you did your job – which if this is the case, it is viewed by most as “just more work.” Slowly but surely, people become tired of duplicating their efforts and the CRM’s death watch commences.

Moral of the story: Find a way to bring operations into your CRM system. There are many ways to achieve this by including service, projects, contracts and opportunity management reports or simply by creating a Weekly Activity Report that is provided to the CEO of all activities of all Sales staff.

If your CRM system is dying a slow death, bring it back to life by getting operations into the mix.