Following on from on previous session, Basil talks about what CRM does for his business

[Basil] When I first started, I didn’t make the time to do things properly so I didn't gain all the benefits.  But, realising I need to be 'eating my own dog food', I moved on from the basics – items like contact information, details on the products my customers they have installed, etc. Those first small steps in the lifecycle helped me more credible (having information immediately to hand) & also helped me be more organised with blending transactional & customer information such as 'most recent conversation highlights' and similar. I started to do more Sage CRM from a marketing perspective.  Those conversational highlights helped me not only understand more about my customers (what are they considering / what haven’t they considered / keeping an up to date profile, etc.) but lets me be more precise with my programmatic messaging (email & calling) when it comes to promoting new features or companion products & services.

[David] Tell me more about 'not getting all of the benefits' - what was missing?

[Basil] Reconciling and billing was always a challenge, like most small businesses, I think!  When I reached the end of month, it was so painful to go back into history of works and billable time - I was spending at least 8 hours per month in administration on that alone!  So I implemented better tracking & time keeping inside CRM which means I now click one button and the data is available in minutes. Now keeping track of my time has gone down to just 30-45 minutes a month - a 90% reduction! People are all about statistics and if I was able to save myself that time every month with only a few hours of customization within my own Sage CRM system, those type of savings mean big savings for every business

[David] So back to your customers: What is about Sage CRM that works for them:  The features that inspire, the usage they make of it, the journey they go on, and things like that.

[Basil] Building on the earlier point, there was an expectation that having CRM working with accounts delivers quotes & orders and then ‘CRM was being done’.  I explained to customers there is so much more – the basics of customer experience - to deliver against their needs.  I tend to ‘shake them out’ by talking about what THEIR business is about. And, of course, the more I understand about their business (things they need to track, processes they need to complete, etc.) the more focused I can be on what I SHOW within the feature set of the product.  Typically, I then talk and/or show tools like workflow (e.g. presenting next steps in a particular process versus relying on the employee to remember).  This also effects the designs of core areas and their screens – for example, the way a company summary screen looks or how the interactive dashboards show “the detail a user needs as a 'head up display' (e.g. things to do today, customers to call today, offers available, overdue items, etc.) plus links to workflow activities from there, versus going to a customer record, etc.  It's all about making people as efficient as possible.
From an integrated standpoint, one of the things that really gets their attention is the e-marketing aspect. That’s become really powerful in business today & showing how Sage CRM integrates with MailChimp really drives interest. Particularly when I take it one step further & show them how to leverage their accounting data to build out buying profiles – they then have a clear means of target marketing their customers based on buying habits. If you bring all those ideas into the 'design approach', they can see the true synergy of information and features - accounting provides useful additive data for marketing, MailChimp helps deliver compelling reasons to “Click Now”, and the workflow engine allows Sage CRM users to follow up on e-marketing campaigns that are flagged for it using solid metrics (something like “a recipient must not only open the email, but click on a specific link”) that then flow to an interactive dashboard that presents the sales/marketing team with a follow up. In the end it’s not just one single set of features that truly engage the customer’s interests, but rather the entire value proposition.

[David] It is interesting your focus on the integration of features to amplify the Sage CRM proposition. Tell me more about the challenges you see from customers who don't quite get that story first time around?

The biggest problems I see are with a company’s sales workflow – specifically the idea that a company has an official process BUT I uncover multiple variations of it.  So I aim to work with all customer stakeholders in that sales process, looking to uncover commonalities and best practices and deploy that into their system.With accounting systems being prevalent for years – and people kind of ‘get how they work’ - and people view them as very black & white yet within CRM you need to plan for an amount of grey as possible.  For some customers, that is a bit difficult at first but, with customer experience a big deal in their own lives & CRM initiatives for business' much more prevalent, they know it is important to do something about it. So I encourage customers to move from black & white to more grey over time and running a longer program of ROI helps move that thinking along.

[David] Do you find customers worry about 'scope creep' - that things will take longer & maybe cost more?

[Basil] Yes - there is, almost always, some element of scope creep & but I accept this work with the customers to appreciate an amount of flexibility to help both deliver ‘wow benefits’ yet stay within a reasonable range of the agreed estimates.  It can be reduced with as many up front conversations to make sure everyone understands the direction & impact.  Phase 1 of every deployment is deliberately focused around BASE product and configuration (versus big customisations) – I am to start small (maybe one department and maybe 1-2 specific/tedious things they have to do and streamline them within Sage CRM) & build on success from there

[David] What would you say to other Sage partners who are yet to properly engage with modular CRM – advice, what to NOT do, skills required, journey length, etc.

[Basil] For accounting-only partners: If you do not have a good understanding of Sage CRM, partner up with a CRM specialist – at least at the beginning - so you can understand more about what it can do & then take a decision to either skill up themselves or leverage an expert CRM partner in the future. I lean very heavily on accounting specialist partners to understand WHAT transactional data & processes they have designed and WHY so I can learn more about the customer’s business – it makes my job of designing ‘front office’ procedures that work with back office design thoughts. It makes sense that we learn from and help each other versus trying to be all things to all people.
When I work with accounts-only partners, I mitigate any competitive risk they might see by establishing expectations with the partner – lines never to cross, who answers what questions, what level of communications would be right for everyone, etc.  Eventually the partnership foundation is very strong – they trust me and we work well according to their design. And we share that approach with the customers – outlining what is where, who owns what, etc.

My thanks to Basil for his insights & candid thoughts. As ever, any errors are mine in transcription.
David Beard
CRM Principal
Sage CRM