Choosing a CRM solution
so many CRM solutions now available for the SMB segment, Sunil Kumar
lists the factors that companies should scrutinise before making a decision.
Businesses need to stay competitive and examine different processes in order
to optimise resources. Over the last few decades the focus has been on production
and ways to optimise this part of the value chain with ERP. However, lately,
the focus has shifted to other areas, and taking note of this analysts like
AMR Research have introduced their Demand Driven Supply Network (DDSN) model.
CRM applications are being used to optimise the sales process, improve service
and increase knowledge about customers. Now the CRM market has matured, and
companies are considering how it can be used to optimise sales.
|One area where CRM can result in significant benefits
is channel sales. Today, indirect channels account for majority of sales
in most industries. In industries such as high technology, consumer goods
and discrete manufacturing, indirect sales partners represent more than
70 percent of the total revenue, according to Partner Relationship Management:
Optimising the Demand Network, Gartner Group 2003.
In order to retain customers, businesses are pushing to provide better service.
The high cost of acquiring new customers is apparent, at the same time,
businesses put efforts to keep sales costs down. The direct sales force
has a high fixed cost. Using channel partners reduces these costs but given
inadequate control over the sales force can add another level of complexity
in maximising sales. A robust solution to improve channel sales will enable
the indirect sales model by tightly integrating companies with their partnersincreasing
profits, reducing time-to-market, minimising costs, and enabling response
to market dynamics.
Order Management and Partner Relationship Management systems can help companies
improve the effectiveness of their sales process and sales execution via indirect
channels. The penetration of Internet technologies as a business process enabler
has allowed companies to develop efficient, scalable, multi-channel customer
interactive systems that reduce the cost of contact and enhance service.
CRM solutions do help in meeting the challenges that some companies are facing
in retaining customers and keeping sales costs under control, but they address
only a part of the problem.
In the future, companies will be more capable in dealing
with the competition in the global marketplace when
deploying technologies that help:
- Increase organisational effectiveness in aspects such
as quoting, pricing, configuration, and quoting tools.
- Increase collaboration between different departments,
business partners, and customers alike.
- Integrate enterprise solutions such as ERP, CRM, SCM,
and PLM (Project Lifecycle Management).
CRM is now a mature market with enterprise vendors offering
end-to-end integrated solutions. The main focus for a CRM offering is the customer
and how to bring more value to the end-user. CRM comes in all shapes and sizes
from extensions to Microsoft Office over a call centre to high-end opportunity
management and selling tools for increasing effectiveness and efficiency.
|Sales force automation
||‘Failures’ of CRM can often be attributed
to the fact that they were initiated by the management without considering
how they would affect the individual sales person. SFA implementations need
to have benefits for the management and sales people as well. Consider the
effect the economy has on the relation between the sales person and the
company. In a good economy, the company works for the sales person. In a
not-so-good economy, the sales person has to work for the company.
|Sales tools for channels partners
||The first wave of CRM didn’t catch on
with many SMBs and manufacturers for several reasons: focus on Business-to-Consumer
(B2C) rather than Business-to-Business (B2B), focus on market/revenue growth
rather than cost efficiencies, and focus on direct sales models rather than
channel/indirect sales. Statistics say that over 70 percent of manufacturers’
revenue comes through channels and it’s increasing. The challenge for a
manufacturer lies in attracting the attention of the channel. To become
the channel master, you have to be ‘easier to do business with’ than competition.
Is there a silver bullet? Maybe not, but providing the channel with advanced
Web-based tools such as quotation management, order management, catalogues,
configuration, pricing and ERP integration, have proven to become ‘easy
to do business with’.
||Web-based e-Commerce and related sell-side
technologies that enable organisations to manage demand is what the Aberdeen
Group referred to as “e-Commerce that works.” Easy to deploy, cheap and
fast to implement, the fastest RoI is often in various forms of “order management
systems.” Often used as supplements to other processes, order management
applications are used in direct channels, indirect/partner channels, and
in (aftermarket) service business processes. RoI is the result of eliminating
inefficiencies and increasing smaller margins.
||Configurators have direct impact on key
RoI indicators such as order accuracy, up and cross selling, shortening
product introduction, reducing product training, and cost reduction. Examples
are available where order accuracy has gone up from 12 percent to 100 percent.
Configurators are also crucial as a competitive tool, in particular in Make-To-Order
and Engineer-To-Order type of companies. One customer stated it as pre-emptive
strikes: while already being the market leader, implement technologies that
make it even harder to catch up with.
is where companies still can make a difference and ensure a margin. This
category includes order fulfilment, invoice reconciliation, warranty management,
returns management/reverse logistics, field service, and aftermarket selling,
and automated replenishment.
||It’s not just about having ERP integrations.
Companies have often specific requirements. Many a time it may not also
be monetarily justifiable to replace legacy applications. As a result, vendors
should be evaluated on their understanding of the industry as much as on
their capability to integrate with legacy applications and fine-tune standard
integrations to the requirements.
SMBs: where the growth is
Over the last year, the CRM market with regard to SMBs has matured, and smaller
companies can now gain the same advantage as their larger competitors. Vendors
now package and price this functionality for their specific requirements. For
SMBs this means better products at a lower price.
For many verticals such as manufacturing, CRM technologies are no longer a rarity
for SMBs, and these companies now require such investments to stay in competition.
Many SMBs have implemented a CRM solution that reduced sales and service costs,
increased sales productivity and improved levels of customer satisfaction.
Choose solutions with care; they should add value to your company. Go for a
vendor as a business partner for the long run and who can offer the integrated
end-to-end solutions that meet your budget.
To make sure you get the RoI you seek weve found the following four critical
initiatives to be of value:
- Streamlined quote-to-order processCRM has to streamline
the process to create proposals and quotes, order management, special pricing,
and customised product specifications.
- Increased revenues in a competitive marketCRM has
to improve partner productivity, opportunity and funnel management, response
rates, and the ability to realise greater profitability or wallet share
with existing customers.
- Reduced costs and higher customer retention ratesRM
has to lower the costs to acquire customers, equip them with self-service
opportunities, train and manage channel partners, boost the productivity of
field sales and service, and promote cross-selling and up-selling.
- Improved competitive advantageCRM has to make a
difference to your business. It has to drive maximum revenue from your markets,
territories, and partners; control margins; identify your most profitable
customers; and increase brand value.
The author is Principal Business Consultant, SSA Global