How CRM adoption gives SMEs a competitive advantage

CRM has become a prominent tool in bringing the marketing and sales strategies of SMEs to life. While some businesses are still working with Excel spreadsheets, most understand the value of having a proper CRM solution in place.

In an increasingly competitive landscape, and with customer expectations changing rapidly, CRM solutions give forward thinking SMBs a significant edge. In particular, built-in analytics and AI capabilities – which are becoming more accessible for businesses with limited budgets – enable marketers and sales teams to better understand customers’ needs, and identify new revenue opportunities.

But with many solutions on the market and limited technical knowledge, it can be quite challenging for business leaders to get internal teams on board with new systems.

So, what are the motivators that make CRM a success with users and how can SME leaders implement successful CRM projects?

  1. Rethinking the software selection process

Improving salesperson adoption of a CRM system starts with the software selection process. A representative group of stakeholders should have the chance to weigh in on the features and capabilities they need from CRM, as ultimately, they’ll be the ones using the solution on a daily basis.

For start-ups and very small businesses, involving everyone in the team is highly recommended. Primary decision makers should look to include the following “personas” in the selection process:

  • The early adopter – This is the person who always looks for the latest and greatest. They can help a team think outside the box and look for an innovative, future-oriented solution that breaks new ground—and does more than just meeting current needs.
  • The complainer – This person may be hard to like, but you want them in the room during the evaluation process.
  • The strategist – This is your big-picture thinker. They can synthesise the pros and cons and make sure the project stays focused on business goals, and not simply the needs of the loudest voice in the room.
  1. Flipping the script on the purpose of CRM

To get the frontline salesperson to enter data into the CRM system, companies need to change preconceptions around CRMs, which are often driven by the idea that CRM solutions are complex, time-consuming, and in some instances at the root of a “Big Brother” fear.

To show the benefits of how each piece of data entered can outweigh the time and effort of entering it, it is important to highlight the following:

  • I can access the data I need, when I need it.
  • I can keep management informed, and spend less time doing it.
  • I can help out marketing, so marketing can help me.
  • I can see what others have done.

The reality is, logging data into CRM isn’t a distraction from the salesperson’s core responsibilities. It frees them to spend more time engaging customers and means less time filling out spreadsheets and reports. It pays off in the form of easier access to data that helps generate business and provides insights that they would otherwise miss.

  1. Build buzz and celebrate success

Companies that encourage adoption of the CRM system need to minimise the fear of change and tap into the desire for something new and innovative. They should take a cue from the marketing department and hold pre-launch demos, publicise executive endorsement, and send the message that the new system is a step forward—not a disruption.

  1. Capitalise on sales’ competitive instincts

Individuals want to be recognised and rewarded for success—and companies can use that competitive advantage to encourage CRM adoption. Hold contests to see who logs the most calls into the system each week and buy lunch each month for the rep who closes the most service tickets. Whether you call it by its 21st century name of “gamification” or think of it as old-school competition, it’s an approach that works.

CRM is not just for sales and marketing—ultimately, the data in a CRM system acts as the collective corporate memory that enables a company to deliver a more compelling customer experience. It provides the context and insight that deliver richer cross-channel interaction, greater personalisation and clear differentiation.

Helen Masters, Senior Vice President and General Manager – Asia Pacific, Infor Systems

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