For many accounting firms today, it’s about survival of the fittest as they are forced to find new ways to build business and grow revenue or face the uncertainty of a merger. To that end, I believe a well-implemented customer relationship management (CRM) system can help pump up those sales and maximize revenue while improving employee productivity
The adoption of CRM in accounting firms is a growing trend that is not to be ignored. A 2010 study by Harris & Associates showed that client retention and cross-selling of services are vital to staying competitive and bringing in new business. And in 2011, Forrester surveyed 556 North American and European companies and found that 50 percent had a CRM solution in place, while another 23 percent had plans to implement one within the next year. This is not to mention that these companies saw results like a 50 percent increase in sales cycle conversions.
Firms are often already juggling multiple software systems for practice management. This use of multiple systems can lead to a lack of visibility that is frustrating and time consuming and often hinders a firm’s ability to develop strong relationships with their clients.
A CRM system, though, allows for a 360-degree view of customers in real time. This holistic view of accounts, leads and opportunities in the pipeline provides all customer-facing employees in your firm with the tools to improve sales by capitalizing on the current client base and effectively managing multi-channel marketing campaigns.
Capitalizing on Cross-Selling
For sales teams, a CRM system can identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling among current clients. Many executives feel that their firms aren’t dedicating enough time to cross-selling in their current client base. A CRM system tracks all business conducted with each account, showing, for example, whether it was audit, tax or consulting services. This can improve cross-selling strategy by helping to identify those clients that are most likely to spend more money with your firm either by increasing services or utilizing your firm for different services. CRM can also assist in crafting the types of offers that clients are most likely to respond to and delivering those messages at a time when your clients are likely to reply.
Improving Sales Team Performance
A CRM system is also an effective tool for improving sales team performance. Measurable improvement can only come from measured results. CRM keeps a record of important sales metrics. This data is available both at high-level percentages as well as at more detailed levels of specific opportunities and leads. The high-level data can help to identify performance areas that need improvement among your sales team, and the more specific data can help you dial in on which regions or representatives might be struggling.
Managing Marketing Campaigns Effectively
CRM is also an effective tool for marketing teams to manage their multi-channel campaigns.
Social media: With a CRM system’s social media monitoring capabilities, employees can listen to customers and prospects in real time via the social network of their choice. By monitoring this behavior, the sales team can be ready to respond when these accounts show buying signals.
Email: CRM makes it easy to segment your audience and send them timely emails that are tailored to their specific needs, and it provides the ability to track it all one place.
Call outreach: CRM keeps everyone on the same page. It keeps all team members informed about who has been called and what exactly they were offered.
Newsletter: Keep all of your clients up to date with new service offerings and company and even industry news updates. CRM provides the tools to track interactions from tradeshows, identify prospects and deliver them to the right partner for follow-up.
Justifying the Investment
Implementing a CRM system is a serious undertaking, but it should be thought of as an investment. A recent Forrester study on the economic impact of CRM found a 243 percent three-year risk-adjusted ROI from implementing a CRM system, and the average payback period for the investment was just over four months.
Overall, a CRM system can be an effective tool to synchronize sales and marketing efforts, boosting cross-selling opportunities and managing all channels of the campaign to successfully build business for accounting firms.
Mike Snyder, cofounder and principal of Sonoma Partners, a firm focused on Microsoft Dynamics CRM sales and implementation and a member of the Microsoft Dynamics Partner Advisory Council.