Continuing on a theme of what makes a successful CRM implementation, I spoke recently with Sage UK & Ireland's (UKI) Principal CRM Consultant, Jonathan Jack, about how he works with customers.

[David Beard, CRM Principal, Sage CRM] Talk to me about when you first meet a customer & how you build the relationship?

[Jonathan Jack, Principal CRM Consultant, Sage UK & Ireland] In an ideal world I’m introduced to the customer as part of the buying process (i.e. as early as possible).  Before I walk into that meeting, I try to gather as much information as I can - looking at the customer's web site, researching their industry, reviewing what I we done for customers in similar industries, and more. It's important I gain an understanding of what "sort of CRM thinking" might be of use to them - now & in the future. I also look into what other systems may be involved e.g. finance, shipping, lead management, etc. and consider how we might look to include them into the project.  And, if available, I also read previous documentation like Requests for Information (RFI or RFP) documents though, to be honest unless they’ve been written by someone who understands the business potential of CRM, they tend to be quite narrow in their thinking. 


[David Beard] What matters most to you in a first meeting?

[Jonathan Jack] It's important to me, even as someone charged with technical delivery of the Sage CRM product, that I understand the business case - benefits, measures, budget, timescale, etc.  I also like to know about the people involved - who are the ones that see the bigger picture, as well as those who perhaps are "unwilling participants" in the project or perhaps don't full appreciate the benefits it could bring to them. And, as more & more projects cover multiple geographies, it is critical to understand the cultures you’re dealing with - different conversational styles, different approaches to meetings, etc.


[David Beard] Who do you have these "opening conversations" with?

[Jonathan Jack] My initial conversation is usually focused around the overall business case / strategic drivers (versus features & functionality). So, I typically start talking with "Heads of" people - either business owners or departmental leaders.  I speak about how we deliver in line with their strategic needs & that we’re looking to build confidence & trust. It's critical our customers know that we have the "know how" to deliver the system they are signed up for and that we’re flexible in how we do this. This "conversation leveling" helps understand what’s important & how the system is viewed in helping them meet their strategic aims.  Importantly, too, we are looking for disconnects between our understanding based on what’s been written & what they’re telling us when we are in front of the company's people. We make sure that we "play back" answers to the questions we pose about the business so we understand what’s important & where we think there may be challenges.


[David Beard] How do you talk about the value of CRM (& integrating it to accounts)?

[Jonathan Jack] It varies with every customer, of course, but I'd say it's one of two approaches: 

  • You meet a new customer & understand more of what they want - I pitch delivery ideas & approaches to them based on their own business case, perhaps highlighting some extra things as we go through "their story" together. 
  • You’re pitching new ideas to an existing customer with whom you’ve built a relationship BUT you need to expand their knowledge about what the system can do and where it might benefit the business.  This is usually part of, and driven by, good account management.


[David Beard] Do you approach the idea of having return on investment (ROI) discussions with customers? 

[Jonathan Jack] Yes and No. I expect the sales process to have flushed out any relevant ROI figures with the customer as part of any business case development. As a ‘consultant’, I can talk to the business from the end user’s perspective to build trust. An example conversation could be "talk me through your current renewals process"  & showing them how Sage CRM could help that process. I like to let the customer draw their own conclusions on that ROI story - I simply guide that process as a "trusted advisor."


[David Beard] What advice would you give to Sage partners who want to do more with CRM? 

[Jonathan Jack] Start with a good account management process, one that focuses on benefits & long term evolution of their Business Management System.  Start that thinking with the customers you know well & that trust you to help them.  Aim to have frank & open conversations about business issues that are causing them problems & look to quantify those issues to start a discussion about potential solutions.

My thanks to Jonathan & his team for sharing his worldview with me and, thus, to you.

David Beard

CRM Principal 

Sage CRM