Success with Benefits - taking the long view of CRM

5 minute read time.

I have, over the years, spoken about the importance of building a strong business case for CRM in the *first* instance - engaging with all stakeholders in a company, uncovering their business needs, speaking about ROI and shaping the story around those dimensions. What is often lost after the initial flush of success is the conversation on "what's next in the CRM journey" for a customer. No matter how successful the initial phase, implementing a CRM strategy in a company is a "job for life" (in a good way). It should involve a recurring cycle of measuring success in one phase, then working to build on the implementation for other departments, solve other business needs and generally uncovering new ways of having the tool deliver more value for a company.

On this subject, I spoke to a member of our North American CRM Professional Services Group (PSG) a while back. Their Sage CRM specialists work to help Sage staff & resellers across North America understand, scope & delivery the product for customers. A recent story of an engagement with a customer I found interesting in illustrating the value of "CRM for life" and I'd like to share it with you.

Why is the story important?

Paul, one of the Sage CRM specialists was contacted by a Sage partner who - not being certified for, or skilled with, the Sage CRM modules - wanted help with a customer of theirs. Fortunately for the customer in this story, their partner knew the customer's business would benefit from implementing the Sage CRM modules but needed external expertise to achieve their desired outcomes. Enter Paul who was able to outline a 'packaged" delivery proposition to help the customer to start their program of work in installing the modules.

How does the packaged proposition come to life?

Paul conducted what is known as a "discovery call", inviting both the customer & the partner to attend. This call is the first step to determine "who is the customer, what is their business all about" and more. It is a critically important step for both parties to understand what the implementation project "looks like", as well as to set expectations of possibilities, priorities and investments in time & money. Similar to engaging a builder or architect in designing a home, the creation of this blueprint is critical to shared understanding & work plans. In conjunction with the partner, Paul turned his notes into descriptions of the customer's needs & business problems, in turn generating a document that is known as a "statement of work" (SoW). The SoW outlines recommendations for a first tranche of work that would implement CRM modules for the customer, describe the features to be implemented, the people involved and the outcomes expected. In our example of home design, it's a description of the foundation to be laid, the rooms to be created & the services the first phase of the structure would offer.

Paul noted to me that while their partner helped "paint a picture of potential", it's important that the delivery team are involved as soon as possible (ideally as part of the initial CRM story telling, or "a mock-up of the house", meeting) so the customer can move to the SoW phase. The aim is to have a clear transition from vision creation to defining + delivering the modules in support of the business' needs. Further, Paul offers a powerful message for all partners & their customers - never underestimate the importance of PSG experts to add gravitas to the story-telling phase. "I want partners to clearly see how PSG skills both adds value & de-risks their own proposition and - most importantly - makes the customer feels comfortable that their business goals can be met by the combined team." Paul also noted to me that with PSG as a partner's "trusted advisor", as well as potentially gaining additional revenue, successful delivery means the "customer for life" story is deepened, helping to strengthen a partner's installed base & revenue growth in the long term.

Where to next?

Having completed the first phase of the implementation, Paul set an agenda for "where to next", inviting key stakeholders from the customer & partner to attend a meeting. The customer, now some months into using their modules, realised the modules could do so much more & was willing the PSG team to help them build the "next room" in the house. Interestingly, even though the customer had a failed implementation previously, the success this time with phase 1 (the problems it fixed, the efficiency they achieved and more) had the stakeholders applying their own "discovery approach", previously employed by Paul, to think "where else could we use these modules in the business?"

As I see time & time again around the world, the more the product is used, the more the considerations of how else it could be used. By having a knowledgable CRM professional helping customers "dig into the detail" of initial issues ( & illustrating how product features can solve business problems), the customer's confidence grows, as does their own understanding of using Sage CRM modules right across their business. It means a customer can go further on their own, working out potential uses for Sage CRM and calling upon PSG to help validate & deliver the next outcomes.

Why working this way is key to success

Paul, when asked why was this particular project was successful noted: "It was, from the outset, a project lead by the sales & marketing function within the customer, NOT by the accounting function. With the President of company being very "sales minded", he lead a group of "strong & focused department leaders", ensuring they participated in everything from design to user testing, even doing their own internal training for the company.

Paul concluded by noting that working transparently with partners & their customers helps get the thinking about "the top 3 goals" right from day 1. That statement of mission helps focus everyone's mind, stating very clearly " what measures will tell us we have been successful in X days from now". We can help customers determine that clear vision of their goals + align the project delivery to ensure a strong buy-in from users.

My thanks to Paul for sharing the story with me and, thus, to you.

David Beard

CRM Principal
Sage CRM