CRM Programs: Overcoming Common Obstacles
In organizations with traditional sales forces, CRM tools can be a powerful way to share information across a company to develop institutional relationships with clients. But in professional services companies, the model is different: rather than having an entire team dedicated to generating leads and closing business, the players have a dual function as doers (maintaining a practice) and sellers (engaged in business development in a limited way).
For marketing and business development professionals who want to gather data so they can reach specific segments in thought leadership, events, and other news about their firms, this model can present some specific challenges.
Partners see CRM as busy work. Because partners aren’t focused full-time on business development (and indeed may see it as an unpleasant burden) they can view follow up, data entry and maintenance of lists as a waste of time. A potential fix for this is to limit the amount of data the partners see and only focus on what is important to them. This means simplifying what’s put in front of them for upkeep, potentially limiting what they routinely view to company name, contact person, and annual revenues. They may see more in the course of annual or quarterly strategic planning.
They are territorial about their client relationships. Most partners really want to take care of their clients and make sure they are happy. This is a good thing. Help them understand that having CRM information is a great way to maintain this high level of support across the firm, because it will keep everyone informed about specific connections. Also remind them it will save the time it takes to send emails around to see who has what relationships throughout the company.
Sales is a dirty word. Very few of the firms we work with have any type of sales process and really don’t want to use the word at all. Nor do they truly understand how a pipeline should work and how to manage sales through that process. Yet when you couch such a process in terms of the difference between a new client and a retention opportunity, it turns out professional services firms have great processes for bringing new clients on board. It can be a matter of using the right language to convey how CRM information can be captured at this point and used to continually enhance the connection.
Partners think it’s all on them. When faced with input of information they have gathered through events or feedback on newsletters, follow up typically goes to the backburner and is gone forever. The fix: utilize modern apps that can take a picture of a business card and have it sent to an administrative assistant. With the right template, the marketing function can then later glean important information from this. Large players in the CRM market are also working to aggregate public data with firm-specific information, and business development should stay aware. For example, Dun & Bradstreet can integrate with a CRM to go to a company record and look for contacts within the context of the CRM and synchronize that data over to the platform.
Younger professionals see a lack of dedication to CRM as a negative in their careers. Anyone under 40 has grown up personally and professionally with clean, easy to use interfaces, and they are accustomed to timely collaboration. The roadblocks that traditional partners put up against it can seem archaic and counterproductive, and ultimately be a real stumbling block that drives young talent elsewhere. A CRM system can serve as a powerful way to create a culture of collaboration, talk about best practices, and teach new hires about how we do business at our firms.