As I work with various clients across Asia Pacific to progress their CRM strategies, I find myself asking a fundamental question. Why are some firms successful at implementing CRM, while others really struggle?
It isn’t a question of whether or not firms have bought into the idea of CRM. Business Development Directors know that the market is changing. Winning business depends on adopting client relationship management tactics, highly focused targeting and pipeline management. It is a question of whether a firm’s leadership, Business Development Directors included, is prepared to put their money where their mouth is.
In my experience, firms that invest resource in implementing CRM and the ongoing management of their initiative are most successful. And I am not just talking about money, although this does play a part of it. I am also talking about people, time and ‘hearts and minds’.
It goes without saying that purchasing CRM software is going to require continual financial investment – just like any core business software. And it is no secret that software continually develops to meet the needs of the changing market, so it is important for firms to ensure there is budget to upgrade and enhance software to meet this need.
The firms that are most successful in implementing CRM resource it with dedicated people. Not only to manage the software on a day-to-day basis, but also to ensure that it develops in line with the needs of the business. As the business strategy of a firm evolves to accommodate market changes, the CRM strategy should evolve too. That requires dedicated people resources that provide focus and priority for the ongoing engagement with the software.
In an environment where each minute counts towards revenue, time is always a contentious issue. However, fee earners are essential to the success of a CRM implementation. Ultimately, they are the relationship owners. Time invested when the software is initially implemented will pay off handsomely later in terms of minimising their effort while maximising the benefits the firm obtains from the system.
Hearts and Minds
This is probably the most important area where firms fall down. CRM is a fundamental component of a successful business development strategy. It’s why the software is purchased. So it is imperative that Business Development Directors embrace the technology, make it compulsory for their teams to use it and sell the solution to the rest of the organisation. If they don’t, their CRM initiative will wither on the vine.
In my experience, where CRM is driven by the IT function it is less successful. It is the job of the IT function to technically support the software, not to decide how the software supports the business and how much money should be dedicated to it. Strategic decisions about CRM Software must be made by Business Development Directors, in conjunction with operations and their CRM Database Managers, and then discussed with IT to resource it. IT departments don’t understand business development, nor is it their job to do so.
The bottom line is that Business Development Directors need to step up and own CRM, take the time to understand how it can support the business development strategies of the firm and convince the business to commit resources to evolving the software in line with the firm’s objectives and goals. They also need to deliver a strong message to the fee earners about its importance, so it receives the priority and resource it deserves.
If you’re a Business Development Director make sure you are driving the CRM train. Because if you are only a passenger, you may just miss it leaving the station.