CRM Projects Done Right Mean Business Process Changes

Like most enterprise applications, CRM systems mean tighter business processes. Unlike most enterprise apps, however, CRM users typically aren't ready this for this. Here's a look at what needs to be fixed before you should really start a CRM project.

By David Taber
Thu, September 13, 2012

CIO — Think about an accounting, ERP or even HR application. Making them work means some using pretty tight business rules and user practices. Most of the time, users have been fully indoctrinated by their professions and have no problem adopting generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) or the more flexible ERP II.

Now think about the typical outbound marketing person or sales rep. There's professionalism, yes, but there's also a deeply held belief that what they do is a sort of artistry based on unique personal skills. The amount of CRM-oriented processes baked into most sales and marketing departments could fit in a couple of tea cups.

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I'm not just being snarky here. That's coming from a 20-year veteran of the revenue generation business process. The shallowness and incoherence of marketing and sales processes is a major impediment to the effectiveness of CRM efforts and the adoption of the systems by users.

The bottom line is this: Successful CRM projects depend on the refinement and deepening of the relevant business processes. That can make CRM projects a taller order.

5 Business Process Issues Associated With CRM Projects

In the early stages of any significant CRM effort, you need to look for symptoms of business process disconnects and incentive misalignments across various parts of sales and marketing. Unifying and automating non-integrated business processes will only expose or exaggerate contradictions.

The place to look for these disconnects is in job descriptions, territory maps, sales channel rules of engagement, marketing programs, lead nurturing campaigns and other PowerPoint, Visio and Word documents. Here are five major problem areas.

Unclear or undifferentiated processes. Do the job descriptions in marketing (particularly the outbound side) and sales (particularly field marketing and pre-sales) reflect highly differentiated process roles, or are the responsibilities only vaguely stated? You want to see unique ownership of goals that can be independently achieved. You're looking for specific descriptions of cogs in a machine, not vague statements about teamwork.

Pay close attention to service level agreements, especially those that involve the following parties:

  • Lead generation and lead cultivation
  • Lead cultivation and inside sales
  • Inside sales and the field
  • Channel managers and sales partners

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Make sure each SLA includes explicit quality criteria, deadlines and rejection rules. Here's a good example: "If Sales does not explicitly act on a new Opportunity within four business days, the Opportunity is reassigned." In addition, develop a waterfall model that indicates each major phases of lead and deal maturation, with approximate times and conversion ratios for each major step.

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