From CRM to Reality: Turning Data Into Action

When CRM first came into being — before it was even an acronym — it was intended as a way to streamline and organize some very basic and essential processes and data. Those underlying features are still there today, and we take them for granted.

Once things like contact information, sales histories and call logging were arranged so that they made some sense, sales people and marketers could start doing interesting things. As time has progressed and as new features have taken the spotlight, some very basic uses of customer data to build loyalty and increase sales have slipped from our attention.

It’s a very natural thing to see happening — the new, shiny idea displaces the older one in business all the time. However, when that older idea is a proven revenue generator — and when it’s dead simple to implement — maybe those new ideas should wait their turns.

Give Attention, Get Attention

Here’s one: the significant date. That could be the anniversary of someone becoming a customer, or of the completion of a major project your company worked on, or (for a nonprofit) the date of a memorable donation, or of some other event that signified a milestone. Enter that date in your CRM system and use it as a reminder to send the customer an email — and make it personal.

Not only can you give a warm feeling to your customer by recalling a good time for both your companies, you can remind the customer that it’s important to you and perhaps set your firm up for follow-on sales.

Here’s another ridiculously simple idea: Customers love to be consulted — especially by the people they buy things from. You can use your CRM data to segment customers and create virtual focus groups; ask these customers if they wouldn’t mind being appointed to an advisory panel on a topic, and then periodically send them a brief survey about something you’re really trying to learn about customer preferences and desires.

You not only gain valuable insight that can help fine-tune the products and services you’re selling, but also let these customers know that what they’re thinking matters. People are much more likely to purchase things they feel they’ve had a hand in creating. That’s a nice side effect.

Think Like a Newbie

Here’s one for the sales managers: sales reps’ vertical momentum. Your sales staff may be bringing in good numbers, but are there areas where specific sales people could be focused to make those numbers better? Examining the velocity that types of leads move through the funnel when attended to by specific sales people can help you understand the patterns in your sales and can help you steer the right kinds of leads to the right sales people.

What you want is to establish a means to see any link in quickly closed sales between your reps and certain types of leads. If you can get them more of those types of leads, you’re likely to help increase their productivity.

These are some simple and basic capabilities of CRM, and they may be so basic that companies fail to realize their value amid the hype around social CRM, new product features, and the other noise that can impede your CRM thinking. If you’re not getting the results you want, go back to basics and think about CRM as a new user — it may help you take the data you’re collecting and turn it into action.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at Forecasting Clouds. He has been a technology journalist for 15 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he’s not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he’s wearing his airplane geek hat; he’s written two books on World War II aviation, and his next two are slated for publication in 2010.

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