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Are You a Bystander in Your Company’s Quest for Revenue?

Take Control: Evolve from basic to Intelligent CRM

Sponsored by Trabon Strategic Technology Group
November 2014

A well-conceived and executed Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy can deliver significant competitive advantage and bottom line results. However, most organizations lack the strong foundation of an integrated CRM strategy and typically fall into using CRM technology as a sales management tool only. Thus, the gap between the promise and the behavior-driven reality of CRM systems and processes have left many organizations frustrated and discouraged. This needn’t be the case as most CRM failures are self-inflicted.

It’s still common for midsize organizations to deploy CRM technology almost exclusively as a sales management tool for monitoring sales activities and reporting results. While this information is useful, it barely scratches the surface as to what’s possible in comparison to a well thought out and executed CRM strategy.

The ultimate goal of CRM is to develop some form of Intelligent CRM—a system that actually delivers many of the working benefits typically attributed to high-caliber business intelligence solutions. This is accomplished by creating a 360o view of your customers, aggregating all customer interactions such as order, service and proposal history etc. into a single location and then providing frontline sellers and systems with educated suggestive selling ideas via simple comparative and eventually more sophisticated predictive analysis. The good news is that this isn’t a zero sum game as there are significant direct and indirect ROI opportunities to be had along the way.

This paper highlights proven practices and benefits for evolving CRM beyond basic sales management to Intelligent CRM, providing an enterprise platform for maximizing revenues, reducing costs and enhancing your customer’s experience.

Think Beyond Sales Management

In its purest form, CRM is about driving revenue and profitability by leveraging data, information and actionable insights (information + experience = insight) to provide customers what they need, when/where they need it and in a way that delivers the best customer experience possible. At a minimum, this requires a vision for sharing customer information across sales, marketing and operations and making it easily accessible in a single location. This allows frontline sellers and marketers the opportunity to develop this information into actionable insight to help:

    • Identify new sales opportunities and reduce the costs of sales
    • Increase individual average transaction and share of spend
    • Increase margins and reduce operational costs
    • Improve customer loyalty and adoption

The ultimate goal is to create an Intelligent CRM platform that automates the aggregation of customer information, the trending analysis of this information and the routing of actionable insights to sales, marketing, e-commerce and customer portal platforms.

It’s hard to imagine a wider swing in ROI than that between implementing sales management-focused CRM and revenue generation-focused Intelligent CRM.

Arm Frontline Sellers with Intelligent CRM

Providing your frontline sellers with insights gleaned from years of serving customers will empower them to grow wallet share in existing accounts, increase margins and open up new business.

For example, many distribution and manufacturing salespeople are challenged with knowing the basic specifications and application for hundreds, if not thousands of SKUs and aligning this information with the purchasing behaviors of dozens of accounts and prospects. This is an extreme challenge for an individual to accomplish with any degree of accuracy. Top performers do it best through either long-standing market knowledge or uncommon analytical prowess, but they nearly always fall into self-limiting ruts due to time, resources and competing priorities. Junior to average performers almost always struggle to connect these dots in a productive way that drives revenue.

Intelligent CRM mitigates this weakness by identifying and providing sellers with specific cross sell/up sell opportunities by SKU and application based on similar company profiles and or account-specific buying behavior analysis. For instance, during pre-call planning a salesperson could consult their Intelligent CRM to see how the customer’s buying profile matches up with other like accounts in the system. If they found that their customer buys 20 percent less than average, they could dig deeper to identify top performing SKUs and product groupings across these like accounts. This alone would significantly elevate productivity, but if the system also provided visibility to overstocked and high margin SKUs and groupings, they would have the ability to increase margins as well.


Case Study

COMPANY: Midsize Manufacturer and Distributor
PROBLEM: Lack of revenue growth within existing accounts.
SOLUTION: Aggregate all account interactions, purchases and competitive information into CRM. Develop and provide sales force with a standard report that identifies new sales opportunities in existing accounts by conducting simple comparative analysis of like company/account buying behaviors.
RESULT: As a result of this new insight, the sales force experienced over a 100% increase in new qualified leads, producing significant incremental revenue in the process.

Work team discussing options

Maximize E-commerce Performance with 360o Customer Insights

Most companies think of CRM solely as a tool to manage and or to support their sales force. By doing this they fail to appreciate the power and bottom line fiscal impact of extending the customers’ voice across the entire enterprise. Nowhere is this more evident than the difference between high performance and average performing B2B e-commerce systems, which there are five basic levels illustrated on the timeline below:

The first three levels offer very little opportunity for market place differentiation, often causing customers to default to the lowest common denominator, “price” as their defining criterion for making a purchase. The fourth and fifth levels depend heavily on a customer-centric value added philosophy. The strategy stands on the principle that if you make your customers’ lives easier, they will buy more from you than your competition. The success of this approach is largely predicated on a deeper understanding of customer and segment-specific buying behaviors and needs, including needs they may have never associated with your organization. To accomplish this requires a comprehensive 360o view of your customers’ behavior and a willingness to make that information readily available via Intelligent CRM to systems and people alike.

For example, by integrating Intelligent CRM into your e-commerce platform, a customer can be greeted at the beginning of their shopping experience with multiple shopping lists that have been self-developed based on internal need by function, budget, seasonality, etc. Each shopping list can be infused with daily and even dynamic promotions based on the customer’s buying profile, special terms, current site visit behavior and shopping chart analysis. This not only creates significant convenience for the customer, it enables your marketing team to create cross sell/up sell scenarios that increase margins and suggest out of stock alternatives and shipping options that improve customer experience and thus loyalty.


Case Study

COMPANY: Midsize National Distributor
ISSUE: Offline sales were growing but online sales were flat. Leadership could either hire additional customer service reps to handle the increased volume or partially redirect it through their e-commerce system which was in dire need of improvement.
SOLUTION: Provide the company’s e-commerce system with a major face lift. Key to which was leveraging customer behavior and purchasing insights to vastly improve SEO and fuel the new dynamic promotional up sell/cross sell functionality.
RESULT: As a result of these improvements, the company witnessed online revenues jump by nearly 1,200 percent and customer service costs decrease by over $2M inside of 18 months.

Improve Lead Generation and Marketing ROI

Marketing departments often lack the critical customer insights necessary to effectively cut through the noise of the marketplace and grab the attention of prospects and customers in a compelling enough way to create qualified leads. Because of this, they’re forced to rely heavily on general messaging and branding activities that can be expensive, difficult to measure and of questionable return on investment. This in turn results in a lack of confidence by leadership in marketing’s ability to cost effectively create a predictable stream of qualified leads.

If this example hits home, your organization has yet another reason to invest in developing an Intelligent CRM capability. The insights derived by doing so will enable your marketing group to develop direct marketing campaigns that are tailored to specific customer segments as to how, when and what they buy. Thus, allowing them the ability to influence customer behavior and develop leads in a highly measurable manner. The lessons learned from this process can then be leveraged back across sales and e-commerce to maximize sales and improve close rates.

By leveraging Intelligent CRM insights, marketing can design product offerings that target specific needs such as planned vs. unplanned purchases which represent opportunities for increased margins and account wallet share. For instance, products that are not normally held in inventory by manufacturers but are critical to maintaining the production line can offer significant opportunities for proactive marketers to create promotions that incent advanced purchasing. Marketing would also have the insight necessary to arm sales with the business case to present their accounts for having critical parts on hand to prevent gaps in production and line stoppage. Essentially, creating a new strategy and tool for enabling sales to further penetrate their accounts.

Since successful product marketing often relies on timing, the more an Intelligent CRM can provide leading indicators, the more marketing will emerge one step ahead of competitors still reliant on lagging indicators or simple intuition.


Case Study

COMPANY: Equipment Manufacturer and Distributor
PROBLEM: Standard strategy of blind product giveaways at trade shows was not producing enough leads to justify ROI for events.
SOLUTION: Leverage customer behavior data from CRM to identify best trade periodicals to reach targeted customer segments for new advanced registration offer for giveaways. It was determined that placing offer in 5 out of the top 20 periodicals would reach over 90% of targets.
RESULT: By creating advanced registration via highly targeted media channels, the company was able to increase leads for the next trade show from an average of 90 to 543, an increase of over 500%.

Getting Started and Sustaining Momentum

The key to developing an effective, sustainable Intelligent CRM capability is to create a pragmatic strategy and phased implementation approach that will produce significant ROI along the way. Change of any kind is difficult. Instead of being paralyzed by the standard excuses for inaction, consider that every day your sales and customer service people make a series of choices. To deliver the maximum ROI for their efforts requires going beyond the basic notions of CRM inputs and outputs.


THREE KEY AREAS – For guiding your journey towards Intelligent CRM


Change Management
        • It’s critical that leadership believes that Intelligent CRM is more than sales management alone—that it’s a proven, tangible way the company can support employees in their effort to grow revenue, reduce costs and improve customer loyalty.
        • Your executive team must also agree on which quantifiable goals to pursue and the strategy to achieve them.
Strategy Confirmation
        • Get input from a third party expert(s) to determine the feasibility of your goals and approach, and adjust accordingly.
Project Planning
        • Develop a project road map to align technology and process changes with strategy.
        • Identify short- and long-term budgetary needs.
        • Identify operational impacts to the business.
Building an Intelligent CRM capability is rarely a sprint. It typically requires a long-term commitment and investment. Fortunately, there are numerous and significant ROI opportunities to be had along the way to the end goal. As with so many other things, the most daunting obstacle to getting started, is taking the first step.