The Importance of Interdepartmental Communication in Small Businesses

interdepartmental communication for small businessesIn today’s environment, businesses move faster than ever. This makes aspects such as simple interdepartmental communication within any organization extremely important—but increasingly overlooked. Things that get missed can be simple items such as an interdepartmental understanding of how new customers are interacting with your various teams and solutions. But why does this matter, you ask? Let’s say Sales brings on a new “unique” client. This client has been following your organization for quite some time and realized they can use your solution to solve a “very unique” problem they have. Fast forward a few months, and this client with a “unique” use-case of your solution is producing results that are off the charts, along with seeing exponential gains in revenue. This is great, right? Well, not so much… Here’s the problem: when Sales brought on this new client, no one communicated to the greater organization how they found out about your solutions. This means Marketing has no idea which activities are bringing new successful clients to the table. Furthermore, what if this client’s “unique” use of your solution isn’t so unique? What if their problem is a wide-spread problem for their industry as a whole, and your solution now has a proven record for solving that problem? Well again, because no one communicated or tracked information about your new client, no one would know to keep tabs on their performance, and furthermore, no one would know that that your solution is a silver bullet for an entire industry. This would be a huge missed opportunity for any business, and unfortunately, it happens all too often. Businesses move at the speed of light these days, and as a result, things like customer tracking and internal communication are directly affected. In this article, we’ll cover some tips and tricks for improving customer tracking and internal communication, along with how to take advantage of that information to help almost every department within your business today.

Again, the example shared above is not uncommon, as once a product is officially sent to market and Sales starts selling, there is little to no tracking or communication shared between departments. Typically, if a business conducts any tracking, it is extremely siloed to individual departments. In some cases, Marketing might track how many campaigns are running and the number of leads generated, Sales might track opportunities and closed deals, and Support might track the number of support calls taken. This information is extremely valuable for each department, but when siloed, it hinders an organization from having a true end-to-end visibility of a business. The result is missing critical information that can reveal vital information to the real performance of marketing campaigns, success of sales tactics, deeper understanding of what truly makes a successful customer, or an awareness of new business possibilities. This can all hinder the growth and performance of any business… Below, we’ve shared a few tactics for closing the interdepartmental communication gap and taking advantage of insight gained to help any business grow.

Prospect to customer lifecycle tracking – Again, we see elements such as Marketing tracking campaign efficiency or Sales tracking opportunities to closed deals, and other departmental metrics. All of these elements are a start, but typically limited to their respective departments, however, equally important to find ways to integrate these tracking methods for a full custom lifecycle view. Why is this important? Because no customer is equal. Meaning, there are some customers that will become exceptional role models, utilizing your solution to its greatest potential. As a result, they have a higher likelihood to upgrade, renew, and recommend new customers. On the other hand, you have customers that have the greatest intensions for purchasing your solution, but after buying, have little to no actual use, and as result, are less likely to upgrade, renew, or recommend new customers…. These situations and everything in between play out within every business. However, without proper customer lifecycle tracking, it makes it almost impossible to find out what truly makes exceptional customers and all of the elements that got them to the point they are at today.

Reporting – Along with actual tracking, it is important to build out reports that can begin to quantify specific metrics across the board. Creating a reporting structure with a complete lifecycle view can reveal information that one could not glean from a siloed reporting structure. Say for example, your marketing team is reviewing their campaign metrics and find one campaign that is driving 4x the leads of any other campaign, and those leads convert to sales at a rate of 50%, which is at least double the performance of any other marketing campaign. This is all great, right? Now, let’s say those customers typically spend 25% less than any other customer and churn within 60 days at a rate 75% faster than any other customer. Then, the reality is that campaign may be bringing in customers at a faster clip than any other marketing campaign, but they spend less and leave exponentially faster than any other campaign, and really is a loss leader. At the surface, the campaign is a winner, but pealing back the layers shares a completely different tale.

 

Another element of reporting that we find equally important is how these reports are distributed… Some companies may be tempted to only share with executive leadership or departmental heads. We recommend against this and suggest sharing with the greater team. Not only does it give the greater team an idea of the performance of the organization, but if you hired right, you have smart people on your team. Distributing the report to the greater team gets more eyeballs reviewing the data and the ability to provide more educated insight.

Assumptions and testing – As reporting data comes in, you’ll begin to see trends in the data revealing interesting information. Going back to one of the examples above, what really makes a good customer successful? Well, analyzing the data should reveal some interesting things… Customers might be successful because of the way they were onboarded to your solution, or maybe they are utilizing a tool within your solution that is helping them become successful. Whatever the data shows, it is important to start to make assumptions on what the data is telling you. Example: After reviewing the data, there is an assumption that customers that go through a specific onboarding training process and use a specific element of your solution tend to be 20% more productive… That’s one assumption that can be gleaned from the data, making the next step testing that assumption by developing a plan to send more customers through that specific onboarding process and find ways to get them to leverage that part of the tool… At the end of the day, sometimes bad customers are not really bad customers, they just need proper guidance.

Interdepartmental meetings – Not sure about you, but we are not the biggest fans of sitting through weekly pipeline or operational review meetings. Let’s face it, no one really is. However, people do love to talk about their experiences and successes… This is why we recommend setting up recurring interdepartmental meetings to review the happenings in each department: good, bad, or indifferent. The goal of these meetings is to truly help break down the siloed departmental walls that live in most companies and get information shared. Believe it or not, Marketing does want to know about the success that Sales is having and why. Also, Sales is really interested in finding out how customers have been performing and learning about new product development. Again, the goal of these meetings is to share important information around how each department is functioning so that they know how to adjust their own plans accordingly.

Announcement emails – Sure, no one wants more email to clutter up their inboxes. However, when Sales is announcing a new customer win, people want to know. Not only do people want to know about a win, they want to know the who, what, when, where, and how of the new customer win. This gives different departments a deeper understanding of their function within an organization and the successes they are contributing to. This is also the opportunity to flag things such as unique use-cases or tactics that brought in these new customers… Again, going back to the example at the start of the article, identifying this information via announcement emails gives other departments a heads up that they need to pay special attention to this customer. Then, via tracking and reporting, you can identify how this customer is performing… If interesting data begins to emerge, this can be the opportunity to share it in the interdepartmental meetings for others to be aware.

Battle cards – Finally, as the various teams start connecting the dots, there will be some clear indications to tactics and use-case examples for successful clients. This is great, but let’s not forget that people are bombarded by information on a daily basis and no matter how important the information, it can be forgotten. This is where we recommend creating battle cards…. A battle card is essentially an overview of successful tactics or use-cases that can be referred to on the fly by reps within the various departments. These battle cards are a key element to help various departments not forget what makes customers successful and find ways of replicating that success in their daily activities.

We all move at the speed of light these days, and by simply not finding ways to share information between the various departments, it is leaving significant amounts of opportunity for organization growth on the table! Developing a strategy of any type around these elements is going to take time as you are working towards a fundamental change of how we do business today.

 

 

 

 

How To Make CRM Play A More Important Role In Your Small Business

How To Make CRM Play A More Important Role In Your Small BusinessMost CRM systems these days such as: Salesfore.com, Zoho, SugarCRM, Infusionsoft, and HubSpot are highly customizable, yet, even at their bases, they have enough capability to have significant impact on your business and efficiencies within it. In spite of this, you wouldn’t believe how many small businesses still run their firms with a piece of paper or Excel spreadsheet! What is even more unbelievable is that most small businesses have some type of CRM within their organization, but it sits to the side like some leftover desktop computer from the 90’s collecting dust. When used properly, CRMs can be one of the most useful and time saving tools within your business. In this article, we will cover how a CRM can be used to optimize your small business, and we’ll cover one of the most challenging topics when it comes to CRM in any organization—usage.

While CRM implies a tool for the sales team, when properly implemented, a CRM can be used as a single point of reference throughout the organization. However, at its base, a CRM is only as effective as how it’s being used and the data quality inputted. When it comes to CRMs, the expression that I like to refer to the most is “garbage in, garbage out,” and a CRM is pretty much useless without the various teams using it properly. Before we get into the mechanics and usefulness of a CRM, we need to first talk about usage.

When it comes to CRM implementation, especially when first being implemented into an organization, usage is typically the biggest hurdle. Most people see it as an additional step to their already busy and packed daily schedules as they are not aware of the downstream effects of a system like a CRM. The first step to usage is to implement a system that measures the team utilizing the reporting capabilities of the system and keeping the mindset of “what gets measured, gets done”. This means that essentially every team connected to the CRM needs to have some type of measurement: sales – pipeline and connections, marketing – lead counts, customer service – call resolution count, etc.

However, it doesn’t stop there; management needs to adapt a policy of then tracking these metrics on a consistent basis and using them for corporate reporting & meetings (not Excel Spreadsheets). Too many times, we see leadership defaulting to Excel spreadsheets, emails, or a piece of paper for tracking details, and this will frustrate employees. The question of why take the time to input information into a system that is not even being used by management always gets asked. Furthermore, another fix to ensure usage of a CRM is to directly tie compensation to stats and usage. As an example, no sales rep should ever receive commission if an opportunity is not in the system and doesn’t have proper documentation. Similarly, if your Customer Service team has a call resolution quota attached to their bonus, this information should be pulled via the CRM and not by other methods like Excel. At the end of the day, to ensure proper CRM usage throughout the organization, it truly does need a top down approach reflecting on the actions of management in what gets measured, gets done. As a tip, we have a habit of pulling up our CRM reporting in meetings and forcing the team to talk to their stats based on the reporting in the system.

As mentioned earlier, CRM is not just for sales. A properly implemented CRM can be incorporated throughout an organization making it a single point of reference for the organizations and improving efficiencies across the board. Remember, at its base, CRM is not meant for “oversight”, it’s just a byproduct of proper usage. Below we’ll review some of the departments and use cases for proper CRM implementation.

Sales

The sales department is clearly the best use case for a CRM; however, to ensure you are getting the most out of the system, do not limit usage to just sales opportunities or contacts. Sales should be using their CRM as the sole system of record and ensuring that they are transcribing all conversations, connections, and actions in the system. This will allow sales to ensure that they have a working knowledge of all their activities within each account—and most important of all, a proper pipeline. With so many conversations happening within a sales person’s day, it is fairly easy to forget conversations that happen earlier in the morning or throughout the week. With proper usage, they can use a CRM as that system of record, which allows them to keep tabs on past conversations and actions needed. Furthermore, as other departments interact with these same accounts, the sales notes become equally important to understanding the history of an account.

Marketing

Marketing has changed over the years from being completely independent from sales, tending now to being fully integrated with sales, and in some cases, having the same leadership teams. Years ago, Sales had their CRM, and Marketing had their Marketing Automation Platform where they were two completely separate systems. However, as an example with Salesforce’s purchase of Pardot, marketing capabilities are now being built directly into CRMs. Especially with small businesses, this means that there is no need to purchase expensive marketing automation software anymore. This integration also allows sales to have a complete view of prospect and account activities leading to more efficient sales cycles.

Customer Service / Tech Support

Most organizations look to deploy separate systems for these departments, which might work for larger enterprise type organizations, but in small businesses, it is a key mistake. Small Businesses should look to take advantage of their existing CRM which may already have these capabilities out of the box. As an example, Saleforce.com has “Cases”, a complete section built out of the box for Customer Service or Tech Support. A few key advantages of using your CRM for these teams starts at simplicity, where there is no need to duplicate information across multiple systems. Not having to purchase a separate system keeps software and software management costs down as well. However, another advantage is that these teams now have access to critical sales notes to understand more about the history of an account. This leads to faster and higher quality closed calls ratios, as well as an overall better customer experience. Also, as sales is interacting with these notes, it gives them the ability to see call history which also leads to better customer experience from a sales perspective.

Product Development

Most likely, one of the most overlooked departments from a CRM perspective is Product Development. However, companies like HubSpot have fully integrated their product teams into their CRM. Why? It’s simple: within their CRM, they actively track each and every customer’s usage and apply a score to that usage. This score can then measure how active or inactive each client is; this allows for sales and support teams to take actionable steps within each account to improve customer experience as it relates to their software. The overall effect is more customer usage and happier customers. There is also another byproduct; this view gives HubSpot’s entire product team access to usage data allowing them to pivot and make changes within the software. Although this information can be pulled from the software itself, the benefit of having it tied to the CRM is that they can have visibility into the specific accounts and history, giving them a more holistic view.

Finance

Finance is another overlooked department for CRM usage. Typically, like Customer Services and Support, organizations will deploy additional financial software. However, within a Small Business, it is not necessary. Although most out-of-the-box CRMs are not built for the financial department, small customization or plugins can offer solutions. For example, FinancialForce will give most financial teams the full capabilities needed in order to do their jobs. Again, this leads to a single system of record and decreased software cost.

Executive & Leadership

Executives are hit and miss when it comes to CRM usage, however, most are unfortunately a miss. Typically, you’ll find CEOs and Leadership running around at the end of the quarter with a piece of paper or some type of Excel spreadsheet looking for “real time” updates from their teams on opportunities to close or other stats. However, with a properly motivated team, a CRM can be updated in real time along with reporting functionality displaying real time updates directly to the CRM. Some areas included, but not limited to, are total pipeline, pipeline age, average close time, average deal size, average collections outstanding, call resolution times, etc. Many executives believe there is a need for an expensive EPM system in order to obtain cross-organizational insight, however with a properly set up CRM, a Small Business can get all this information and more in one spot.

Again, it is staggering the amount of businesses that do not have a CRM, and the ones that do barely scratch the surface of functionality. With a small amount of customization, a CRM can become an extremely powerful tool to optimize the performance of a business and get everyone on the same page. Most importantly, remember that “what gets measured, gets done”; your CRM should not be a set-and-forget system. Finally, management, once your system is set up, drop the Excel spreadsheets!