Recently, the head of CRM at a major strategic consulting firm was speaking with her BoardEx account lead about how her firm could get more value from its CRM system. During the conversation, she made a very telling comment. “I want to get our people to stay within the CRM system as much as possible,” she said. “To maximize the investment we’re making in the CRM, we need to make sure people are using the CRM regularly – which means increasing adoption and usage while also enhancing the user experience.”
This may sound all too familiar if you are responsible for the CRM business case at your enterprise. Meanwhile, the CRM system has become the cornerstone of customer-focused strategies in virtually every business. Why? Because, if used correctly across the organization and populated constantly with up-to-the-minute data, the CRM can provide an accurate and timely view of clients across verticals, products and services. This view then informs the sales and marketing strategy, by capturing customer intelligence and insights to drive business value across the B2B customer lifecycle. The result? The business can meet the needs of both existing and potential customers more fully and effectively.
Hurdles to overcome
That is what every CRM system should be delivering – in theory. But experience tells us that the reality is often quite different. In most firms, the value of the CRM is plagued by poor data quality, lack of data maintenance and fragmented usage, with internal customers split between light and heavy users. Some salespeople may use it occasionally, while others don’t use it at all. Intermittent or no use results in potentially valuable data on customers and key buyers and influencers being old, inaccurate, or even missing entirely. The outcome is that the CRM system falls well short of being the “single source of truth” that it should really represent.
How do all these challenges arise? Any CRM system relies on data being constantly updated. So, what is the problem? Sales professionals often feel they work from too many systems. They may regard updating the activities and information in the CRM as an admin task that is cumbersome, tedious and laborious. Time spent on data management is time taken away from speaking to prospects. They may even have had an interaction with a prospect but do not enter information on how it is progressing, because they don’t want to be held accountable for that lead in the sales pipeline for next month.
This not only creates critical information gaps such as on the context behind a potential sale, but also cripples the enterprise from catching potential bottlenecks in what might be a complex sale. From a sales management perspective, the impact is an ability to catch bottlenecks in a complex sale and address them systematically – something that requires knowledge transfer and learning, with lessons from one sale passed on to colleagues for use on others. At the same time, salespeople will be researching actual and potential customers individually, including monitoring their career moves and appointments. For this, they will more than likely turn to data sources or platforms outside the CRM system.
The result of all this is that the quality of data held on the CRM system deteriorates. The potential outcome? A vicious circle – one where outdated and incomplete information and duplicate contacts in the CRM erode trust in using that data for research, outreach and decision-making. This in turn impacts pipeline management and forecasting. A complaint that’s commonly raised by marketers is poor visibility into the success of acquisition and retention campaigns, with the sub-standard data in the CRM system making it very hard to measure returns on investment and justify requests for new spending.
Boosting CRM value and user experience through integration
When the consulting firm executive we mentioned earlier highlighted the need to get people to stay within the CRM system, these were the kinds of problems she was thinking about. But the great news is that a solution is to hand. High-performance applications that plug into CRM systems can convert contact and account data into actionable intelligence on relationships – thereby increasing sales and marketing effectiveness by helping the CRM to become the single source of truth across the enterprise.
Why are these plug-ins required? The reality is that the core technology alone will not stand the test of time. Additional solutions are imperative in order to augment the technology with external data on key buyers and influencers that include trigger events such as role changes. Such data is needed to build a strong sales pipeline, win more qualified opportunities and retain clients via executive engagement.
Liam Walsh, KPMG Principal in Charge of Front Office Transformation, comments: “KPMG has helped companies across the globe implement customer relationship management platforms and knows first-hand the benefits of integrating accurate, holistic and timely data on key buyers and senior decision-makers. This insight can greatly help sales teams identify business needs, offer the best service, and close deals more quickly.”
BoardEx’s experience with our own clients shows consistently that integrating applications that provide access to external data on board members, C-suite executives and influencers into the CRM produces three key benefits:
- First, it centralizes CRM workflows by ensuring access to data in one location – your CRM – so marketing and sales are no longer using multiple systems and are empowered to be more productive. With the BoardEx application, CRM users get seamless access to accurate, complete, timely and relevant data on key buyers and senior decision-makers from across the BoardEx network. Marketing can qualify and nurture prospects. Equipped with a quality sales pipeline, sales can focus on winning the opportunities. Account managers can serve clients better and be on-point during renewal negotiations. And all are empowered with the right data that keeps them in the CRM system.
- Second, it provides deep, real-time insight on-demand on people and relationships from within the CRM system. This reduces the time taken to perform research with reliable and objective data. It also enables users to harness and convert people intelligence that’s updated daily on ways to connect to decision-makers, including those with whom they are not already engaging but should be. Or map relationships with the people and companies they want to reach through connectivity to the BoardEx platform.
- Third, it creates higher value from investments in CRM, since the availability of timely, complete and contextual people data within the CRM helps teams to create winning sales and marketing strategies, by driving higher-quality interactions with accounts, clients and prospects. Examples include a much greater ability to transform knowledge of changes in lapsed clients to opportunities to generate new value.
Our suite of data services includes seamless integrations that embed into workflows and technology stacks including CRM, talent management and alumni systems to power connected employee experiences and create value from your relationship capital strategy. Our CRM applications enhance convenience and user experience while encouraging people to spend more time in the corporate CRM system. The in-house CRM data is enriched with the experience, interests and committee memberships of key buyers or decision-makers, enabling interactions with them to be personalized. Importantly, no BoardEx data is stored in the CRM: it remains with BoardEx, ensuring it is always accurate, impartial and up-to-date.
One truth across the enterprise
The message is clear. In many firms – maybe yours – the CRM system is not the single source of truth that it should be. This needs to change. BoardEx is helping clients across many industries create higher value from relationship capital management through seamless integration with their internal CRM systems. We have developed high-performance applications for a wide array of CRMs such as Salesforce and MS Dynamics 365, delivering actionable people intelligence on decision-makers and buyers for a range of business scenarios.