When a business first starts up it has only one thing to do – please the first few customers. At that stage it’s quite easy to know every prospect and every customer by name, to remember what they’ve bought from you or what they want to buy, remember every promise you’ve made and be able to offer them a friendly and reliable service.
But, as the business grows, relating personally to each and every prospect and customer becomes a real challenge. There are many more people to keep track of and just dealing with the day-to-day issues of running a busy company or the demands of managing a team of employees steals time away from what you should be doing – talking to your customers and trying to understand how you can best meet their needs.
Over time, the business develops mechanisms to cope with these problems – new staff members are often taken on to help, but they will need direction and management. A plethora of spreadsheets then get created, often designed to help one person achieve one specific task. But these grow in complexity and keeping the information up-to-date across numerous spreadsheets takes time. Different versions are stored in different departments and on different PCs. The result, mistakes happen because the information is out of date, because person A doesn’t know that person B is giving the customer a different story, and because hand-over from one person’s area of responsibility to another’s can easily break down. In short, there is no single source of the truth. Customer information starts to feel “locked up” in the email inbox and resolving questions often means trawling through mountains of email history.
Being out of the office means that you’re out-of-touch with what’s going on “back at the ranch”. Keeping on top of anything means holding more and more meetings – and in order to make the meetings themselves productive, people are spending long periods “pulling together” information from various sources so that you can discuss what should be fundamental basic needs like “how much business will we do this quarter?”
The biggest problem with all of this is that all of the “work” above is just work for work’s sake. It’s not selling, it’s not resolving customer problems, it’s not developing your product, identifying new markets or finding new customers. And it is most definitely not making the customer feel special and valued. It’s just sapping energy away from growing your business. Believe me; it does not have to be this way!
It’s no surprise businesses run into the challenges outlined above. Indeed I hear a similar tale from a lot of business owners and team managers when they first approach my company. So, why is it that businesses that start off with great intentions to put the customer first soon run into these problems?
The answer is simply that we’re all human beings. We’re fallible and we have cognitive limits to our capacity. One such limit is known as Dunbar’s number. It defines the maximum number of meaningful relationships a person can maintain. That limit varies from person to person but is generally around 150 people. Once we factor in friends, family and colleagues, that leaves a relatively small amount of spare capacity for maintaining any kind of relationship with prospects and clients. The result? The attention gets spread so thin that the customer ends up being neglected – or at least feeling that way.
People also have another important cognitive limit – we can usually only handle between four and eight simultaneous tasks. So, the busy sales man balancing a number of leads and jumping from call to call will have his work cut out trying to keep focused on all of them.
All of this means that it is perfectly normal that, as your business grows, your team’s capacity to manage the number of clients and the number of conflicting tasks will begin to break down. Hiring more people or just better people and then sending them on time management and sales effectiveness training will have limited impact unless you also give them tools and processes which are designed to scale to this kind of volume.
A Better Way
Taking a formal approach to CRM can help you to get your business focus back on to the customer. It does this in many ways:
1) It stores everything related to your customers in one central, well organised, place. Now that there is just one common copy of the customer’s name, address, contact details, marketing preferences, marketing history, enquiry, purchase and customer issue history you stand a much better chance of it being accurate and up to date. And it’s suddenly so much easier just to find information.
2) It facilitates collaboration. Different members of your team can share and assign information. You can opt to “follow” key accounts or deals and stay up to date with what is happening on them. You can share key documents – such as the proposal or contract.
3) It enables end-to-end processes to be implemented and followed, aligning marketing, sales and customer service. The results of that marketing drive are fed to the sales team, who can maximise each and every opportunity, coordinating and collaborating on the best approach to each and every deal. Once the deal is done, you can prioritise and track fulfilment and service needs. Regular tasks can be automated, scheduled and assigned. Customer communication can be automated.
4) It allows you to report, measure, track and forecast. You gain visibility into your customer base and valuable insight. You can identify customer traits, trends and cross-sell opportunity. Measure the value of the clients by sector or by product, see which marketing streams provide the greatest return, compare performance of different team members. Dashboard metrics pull the information together for you. Meetings are shorter, take less preparation and are more productive.
5) And finally, it allows you to do all of the above, wherever you are – in the office, on the road, or even when working from home.
Find Out More
To find out more about how your business can benefit from CRM, download our free white paper now: