by Dan Vuksanovich

The keys to a successful customer relationship management implementation are simple, yet those implementations can be difficult, as recent reports on the topic say that well in excess of half of all CRM installation projects fail.

In theory, the key elements of a CRM implementation are:

  • Effective marketing, sales and support processes;
  • The right people with the right skills in the right jobs;
  • Trustworthy data;
  • Insightful data analysis;
  • The right CRM software suite; and,
  • Employees who are properly trained to take advantage of the CRM software suite.

However, these areas are so interwoven that a weakness in any single area can cause a complete CRM failure. If you don’t agree, ask yourself the following questions.1. What’s the point of having great sales strategies if your sales force is too weak to carry them out?
2. How successful will a marketing campaign be if its launch is based on an analysis of bad data?

3. Will your all-star sales force be able to sell anything if they spend all their time struggling with the wrong CRM software?

4. Why invest in a CRM software suite to help automate ineffective sales processes?

Few CRM software resellers, however, offer a complete solution that effectively addresses all the interdependencies that these questions highlight.

Average resellers will sell a CRM suite, do the installation and offer continuing technical support. Great resellers, though, will set goals with the marketing, sales and support departments to map out the implementation, customize the implementation to meet those goals and, then, maintain a consultative relationship with the customer to make sure that those goals continue to be met.

But even great resellers usually do not offer services outside of the realm of information technology. Most resellers assume, in error, that their customers can hone their sales processes to perfection, hire all the right people for key marketing and sales positions, and analyze their customer data in a way that produces more profits. This false assumption leads to CRM failures.

How then, can a CRM reseller help its prospective customers realize that CRM is more than just software? By offering more than just software. By offering a complete solution centered on CRM as a philosophy.

However, for most CRM resellers, offering comprehensive sales and data consulting services is not feasible. My firm has learned the importance of partnering with experts in these fields to provide the whole solution.

As a result, we have entered into a partnership agreement with two other Chicago area firms:

Growth Resources Inc. specializes in business process and sales force consulting, providing the tools to create sound sales/marketing processes and choose the right salespeople. In the partnership, it is the sales strategy team.

Analytic Innovations LLC specializes in data cleansing, analytic and predictive modeling. Analytic Innovations prepares data for the implementation of a CRM strategy, assists in customization of the CRM software suite to transform data into insight and analyzes results once CRM is implemented. In the partnership, it’s the data strategy team.

My firm, IS Consulting, specializes in the implementation, customization and support of CRM software and hardware. We custom-tailor CRM software solutions to put business concepts into practice. In the partnership, we are the technology team.

While each partner is an expert in its own particular aspects of CRM planning and implementation, each also understands, on a conceptual level, what the others are doing, creating a cohesive unit.

Because the partners’ CRM planning addresses all the key business areas that are necessary for effective CRM, customers can expect better results than if they had elected to view CRM as an installation of software and nothing more.

Once a company decides that it wants a CRM solution from the partners, each partner performs a preliminary analysis in its areas of expertise, detailing problems, solutions and goals. This preliminary consultation leads to a proposal for a CRM implementation that takes into account all the key areas from sales process to data hygiene to software implementation and training.

Upon acceptance of the proposal, each partner meets with relevant sections of the customer’s organization. After the teams have gained the necessary information about the customer’s business, they go to work together to plan and implement a holistic, end-to-end CRM solution that will meet the customer’s needs.

Each partner also maintains a separate business practice, allowing a customer to scale a solution to its individual situation. Thus, if a customer believes that its data is clean and that it has productive business processes, and only wants a CRM software installation, my firm can do that.

However, each partner believes that the discipline of achieving the whole solution will lead our customers to a more successful CRM implementation. Furthermore, each partner believes that the more successful we can make our customers, the more successful each of us will be in the end.

Thus, it makes sense for us to do business as partners as often as possible. Our customers are more satisfied and our businesses thrive as a result.

Other technology consultants that are considering handling CRM would be wise to also take a partnership approach.

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