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Beyond CRM: Supercharging Adoption and Transforming the Sales Function

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We all understand the importance of CRM, but few of us exploit its power. Used innovatively, CRM can be a springboard to business transformation. It can become a platform that helps you uncover new markets, guides how you engage with customers based on real-time data, and shapes how you organize operations to be more collaborative and productive.

We call this trend “going beyond CRM,” and leading-edge companies are already taking the journey. With CRM as the backbone, these organizations are creating an integrated platform that pulls together their key systems, including financial planning and marketing automation, along with ERP functions such as supply chain and project management.

Data and analytics are at the heart of this approach. By weaving these systems together, companies gain a constantly updated view of how their sales and service process are performing from beginning to end. That way they can instantly analyze each step of the sales process, such as which e-mail blast customers opened or how customers responded to pricing options, so they can make adjustments to improve sales, customer loyalty and margins.

Going beyond CRM can change more than just how companies act in the moment. Used strategically, these integrated platforms can provide companies with a foundation they can use to set up collaborative tools and communities that spurs idea sharing and communication. The insights they dish up can be used to align teams and functions in new ways to improve productivity and interaction internally. And they can lead to implementation of new processes for proactive decision-making.

Assembling the right teams and technology are just part of the puzzle of pursing an integration strategy. Equally critical, from the experience of our clients, is laying out a ground plan from the get go. Here’s how:

1. Walk, don’t run. Nothing can undercut an attempt to change operations than trying to do too much at the beginning of the project and stumbling in the process. Our most successful clients take a crawl/walk/run approach. They build the platform first, get targeted functions involved, and then expand use throughout the organization.

Being methodical requires careful planning and research. Project team leaders need to step back and identify their organization’s most urgent pain points or revenue opportunities. Pinpointing the low-hanging fruit so that the project can demonstrate high-value, quick wins not only provides success to build upon, it helps win backing from the C-suite and interest from other groups.

2. Appoint a leader with a vision. Going beyond CRM has the potential to transform business processes and practices, which is why it’s important from the very beginning of this integration project to appoint someone or a group that has a vision or a desire to ensure its success. Practically, this person or group will drive the alignment of functions and set the agenda across the organization for collaborating on the integrated platform. More broadly, they will need the right corporate standing, ambition or global network to be able to make trade-offs and maintain executive buy-in as the project expands and runs into challenges. Bottom line: This leader needs to be able to translate the overall vision into execution over the long term and explain the implications that this project will have for how departments operate and people work.

3. Implement change management. Your new integrated platform will only have an impact if your employees are able and willing to make the most of it. That’s why it’s important to establish programs that communicate the benefits of the new system, train employees in how to use these tools, and monitor the platform to adapt it to the realities of daily demands. Small steps, such as setting up specific projects that encourage employees to use social networks on the platform, can demonstrate how it can improve collaboration and provide faster access to the information.

The beauty of integrated platforms is the innovation—the continuous improvement and strategic initiatives—they unleash. Our clients find that once they have these platforms in place, requests start pouring in for new features and access to more data. By putting analytics and data into the hands of more people inside and outside the company, you open up new avenues for giving customers what they want.

Elisabeth Bykoff is a director in the San Francisco office of New York-based professional services consultancy PwC.

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