Every day, small and medium-sized business owners are looking for ways to improve and grow their business. Many hours are invested in brainstorming, talking to customers and analysing competitive offerings. It is not uncommon that at some point in the process, technology will dangle that carrot in front of you: “Pick me – I can solve all your problems!” This can be a comforting thought, however it is unrealistic. We all know technology is a tool, not an end-solution in itself. However used in the right way, it can deliver tremendous value.

To understand how technology can play a role in your business, it makes sense to begin a conversation with the vendor, either directly or through our network of business partners (our local “trusted advisors”). However this can be intimidating to buyers. Many are afraid of being bamboozled by technical jargon or oversold things they don’t need.

This two-part blog series offers a quick and easy set of “5 Conversational Tips” for potential buyers of Sage CRM, to better understand what the product can do for you, and help you communicate your needs to sales people.

Tip 1: The first rule around CRM, is don’t talk CRM!

“CRM” is no longer a new product category with generic features. It has ballooned to include a whole host of technologies and applications, usually (but not always) built around the pillars of sales, marketing and customer service.

The wide range of packages, features, add-ons and deployment options can be quite overwhelming for a buyer or business owner. So if you are not comfortable using the term “CRM”, then don’t be limited by it. Take control of the conversation by talking more generally about the challenges and opportunities facing your business, what processes are currently in place and what most impacts your customers. The best Sage CRM business partners will immediately understand how these key “needs” can translate into value in a CRM project, and replay it back to you in a future conversation. This will then form the basis of a demonstration.

Tip 2: Think IRACIS

The first thing a buyer should think about when considering any technology is “What is my core business objective? What am I trying to achieve?” This is a business question, not a technology question, and will help translate thoughts into measureable outcomes you want to realise. Do I want to increase revenue by acquiring new customers? Or perhaps retain and upsell existing customers? Do I want to avoid cost by automating a key process? Or do I want to improve service by centralising customer history in one location?

We here at Sage use a six-letter reminder – IRACIS – that helps us keep business objectives foremost in our mind when talking to customers. You should do the same.

“As a business owner, I want to (IRACIS):”

  • Increase Revenue
  • Avoid (reduce) Cost
  • Improve Service

Tip 3: Problems, Solutions, Benefits

We should now focus on specifics. What are the business problems we’re trying to solve, what are the business solutions available (and do we think the technology can support them), and what ultimately will the business benefits be?

Let’s take a short example of a business problem: A sales rep visits a customer and is unable to apply a one-off discount to an order straight away. Why? The current process doesn’t allow it. The rep must firstly call the Head of Sales to approve the discount, she must contact the Credit Controller to ensure the customer is financially sound, a special PO must then be created and signed by both Credit Controller and Head of Sales, and finally the PO is faxed to the rep to be handed to the customer, to get the order. But the rep is nowhere near a fax machine!

The business solution should first describe the ideal process, before we think about how the technology can support (or replace) parts of that process. This is because technology almost always provides multiple options - should we automate the approval process to get the document back to the rep faster? Or do we need the PO document to begin with? We need to get the process right first.

Finally, we should consider the business benefits. What is the value to me and my business of using this system to improve order entry? We should see specific, measurable benefits (e.g. X% increase in orders, Y% increase in cashflow, a Z% Return on Investment).

In the next blog we will cover two short tips on the product – what to think about when you start working with it for the first time, and what you should consider further down the line.

Good luck!

David