Intelenex Cloud Deployment Methodology

With Oracle Fusion Applications comes a new set of capabilities which require a new way of delivering enterprise software. Oracle Fusion Applications are unique in terms of being available in the cloud, but also being very comprehensive in terms of breadth of functionality, and present some unique challenges in terms of deployment methodologies.

Agile vs Waterfall Methodologies

The delivery methodologies that grew up around the original cloud applications leveraged their ease of deployment; they were typically less structured, less regimented. Projects were smaller and faster and they flew under the banner of “Agile.” Meanwhile, traditional On Premise enterprise application deployments leveraged a more structured approach, or what the industry refers to as “Waterfall”. One of the forces driving Waterfall was the complexity of the functionality required to support broad ERP, HR, Supply Chain and other processes.

Now, with Fusion Applications we see a combination of these – the ease of configuration of a cloud application with a massive span of functionality. Along with this, Fusion apps are part of an integrated suite, with best of breed modules. Fusion projects now can span across processes, and are able to be delivered in the cloud, rapidly. Historically, cross-process projects have been hampered with the technical challenges of integration between systems.

To alleviate these challenges, Oracle has built capabilities and functionality into Fusion to allow for efficiencies in deployment across the fsmenterprise:

  • Functional Setup Manager: Within Fusion comes packaged a new application called the Functional Setup Manager (FSM). FSM is a one-stop shop for all implementation activities from planning to deployment, and allows the establishment of project plans with configuration tasks which can be assigned to members of a project team. FSM is consistent across Fusion Applications and forms the basis of building templated accelerate and industry focused implementations. 
  • Templated Configurations: Fusion applications allow for the creation of templated configurations at a number of layers; user, organization, workflow, and so on. We are able to create industry, sub industry, or process specific templates, and copy and paste these into a virgin environment.
  • Flexibility: Middleware, data management, and business intelligence are pervasive across the applications. This gives consulting firms like Intelenex a lot of flexibility with managing our bench; as one skillset will spread across more projects, thereby saving time and costs. The same advantage is conferred to our customers; one individual can do a lot more, and not be limited to one narrow area like CRM or HCM

Intelenex Hybrid Fusion Methodology

As Fusion shares elements of both On Premise and Cloud based software, Intelenex has developed a hybrid deployment approach between Waterfall and Agile, which allows for the flexibility of the cloud, but can scale to enterprise sized deployments.

Highlights

Requirements and Design:
Intelenex documents requirements and design at the appropriate level. If there is a process that is subject to compliance or is otherwise mission critical, we’ll spend more time on documentation than in a traditional Agile project, but much less than waterfall. This is where flexibility is critical.

Scope Management: 
Our customers typically like to understand exactly what they are going to get, by when, and how much it will cost. One of the issues with a pure agile approach is around scope management–customers can end up with more than they wanted, or not enough. They can spend more than they budgeted, or end up with only 80% of what they wanted. Our methodology has controls in place which allow us to manage these issues.

Change Management, Training and Enablement
Fusion apps are built to be managed by business users. Oracle is releasing significant new functionality on a quarterly basis, and the customer must be prepared to manage the application and its evolution once we’re gone. We help our customers come up with an ongoing governance plan, for this very reason. In the cloud applications world, this is frequently overlooked.

OBIEE Express Start Implementation Package

Oracle BI Applications are built on the Oracle BI Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), which enables organizations to realize the value of a packaged BI Application, such as rapid deployment, lower TCO, and built-in best practices, while also being able to easily extend those solutions to meet their specific needs, or build completely custom BI applications—all on one common BI foundation.OBIEE_dashboard

Now Intelenex has developed a foundation OBIEE Implementation Package  which includes a full suite of ERP analytics…for just $80K!

Package includes:

  • Over 40 fully developed and tested production ready reports
  • Fully integrated solution of 31 customized subject areas
  • Plug In areas for Finance, Operations, and Service for integration of your existing legacy data
  • Easy path forward for additional customizations – most work can be accomplished within the same week it is requested
  • A clean upgrade path for the base OBIEE and BI Applications in the future

Rapid OBIEE Project Development Methodology enables a complete solution deployment using a combination of the standard Oracle BI Applications combined with our exclusive Intelenex OBIEE Express Start Package that delivers a customized Real Time Oracle E-Business Suite Integration that covers Finance, Procurement, Supply and Service business focused solutions.

This Means War!!

I walk into my kitchen where my wife is cooking bacon and exclaim heartily, “A pretty woman and a pan of bacon; what more could a guy ask for?”

My wife retorts, “I don’t know what woman you’re talking about; I’ve seen how I look today.”

I raise one hand above the other to illustrate my point, “There’s pretty down here and then there’s beautiful up here…”

My wife interrupts, smiling sweetly, “…and you said I was pretty.” Gulp.

I start sweating and stutter, “I meant that you’re always pretty, but sometimes you look even more beautiful than usual.” That’s when my wife bends over and begins digging an imaginary hole with her imaginary shovel.

I clear my throat awkwardly. “Can I have some bacon?”

Shrugging, she answers, “Well, I was going to make you a bacon sandwich, but I don’t know if I want to anymore since you said I was ugly.” And just like that, I find myself trampled in a sort of marital Tug of War; not because I’ve done anything wrong, but because watching me squirm affords my wife a malicious pleasure. Her point is to make me feel unsettled enough that I feel like I have to do some sort of chore to get out of the dog house that I don’t deserve to be in.

Business dealings can be the same sort of game. Clients often try to get something for nothing. Trying to save their company money is what makes them good business people. By listing small glitches in their project process, a client may feel entitled to the free work for which they’re asking and feel cheated if they don’t get it.

An effective PM resists being drawn into a client’s emotional attachment to these issues. Focusing on the facts presented in Change Orders and Decision Logs will save our company time, money and sanity in the end. When the war is over, the winner is the one who pulls the hardest without crossing the line. Ask yourself if a small battle is worth the work it costs to resist it. Sometimes it’s worth giving an inch to gain a foot. Sometimes it’s enough simply to avoid being trampled.

Oracle CRM On Demand vs. Oracle Fusion CRM…How Do They Compare?

When faced with the question of “what are the differences between CRM On Demand and Fusion Sales and Marketing (Fusion CRM)”, it is tempting to start making a list of all the things in CRM On Demand that we have come to use and appreciate over the last several years and twenty release cycles so you can check off which features “made it” into Fusion Sales. Making such a list, however, would not be a fair analysis of Fusion CRM. One cannot simply map CRM On Demand features to Fusion CRM features. Fusion CRM is a wholly new software application built on an entirely different framework that happens to fill the same business needs as CRM On Demand.

When a CRM On Demand customer implements their CRM application, they do so within the boundaries of what is possible within the CRM On Demand platform. Decisions were made and business processes likely modified to fit the mold required by the application. If Fusion Sales is a complete redesign of the SaaS CRM application, then CRM On Demand customers may do well to see this as an opportunity to redesign – or at least re-evaluate – their own business processes to take advantage of a new set of boundaries in the new CRM application.

In our Oracle CRM On Demand/Oracle Fusion CRM Migration Comparison Guide we have drawn some level comparisons between the two applications. Our Comparison Guide will give you a step by step account of each business function and the nuances of how each of these business functions are delivered within each application. These include:

  • Account Management
  • Contact Management
  • Campaign Management
  • Lead Management
  • Opportunity management
  • Sales Forecasting
  • Service Request Management
  • Extensibility
  • Analytics
  • Data Security and Access

View Complete Migration Comparison Guide

A Perceived Problem is Still a Problem

I greeted my wife cheerfully one morning and received a frosty glare in return.  My wife is not a morning person.

“How did you sleep?” I asked, undaunted.

She rolled over, refusing to look at me.

Uh-oh.  She wasn’t usually this grouchy.  I wondered what was amiss as I took another brave stab at conversation.  “You must be tired.”

She gave a derisive huff, but still wouldn’t speak.  The prickling of the hairs at the back of my neck warned me that this was more serious than her general morning malevolence.  Something was wrong.  I asked, “Are you upset with me, hon?”

At this, she sat bolt upright, scowling at me with unmistakable animosity.  I gulped.  I was in trouble.  Big trouble.  I had no idea why my wife was so angry, which only intensified my apprehension.

She shot out of bed and turned to face me again before the rage spilled from her lips.  “Upset?  I’m furious!  I had a dream that you left me!  You just picked up and left!  How do you just abandon your pregnant wife and children to satisfy your own selfishness?!  I have every right to be angry at you!”  Tears welled in her eyes as she stomped away to the bathroom.

It took a moment for the absurdity of the situation to permeate my brain.  I was in real trouble because my wife had dreamed a very vivid, very fictional dream.  I wanted to tell her how silly it was to be angry at me for something that her mind had conjured up, but having survived four previous pregnancies, I knew that telling an emotionally unstable pregnant woman that her feelings were silly would likely win me permanent residence in the dog house.

Thus, I was put into a position where I had to deal with the consequences of her perceived abandonment, even though it wasn’t reality.

As Project Managers, we are often put into situations similar to the one in which I found myself with my wife.  A client may review a statement of work and expect something more than the requirements outlined.  The client may become dissatisfied, even angry because of a perceived problem brought on by misinterpretation of the work statement or unrealistic expectations.  It is up to the PM to manage both the project and the client; to carefully steer them toward accepting the reality, while respectfully dealing with the very real consequences of mistaken perceptions.

The following steps can help create a positive, successful project completion:

  • Communicate with the Client – Because it is their money on the line, it is imperative to establish a foundation of trust when meeting a client for the first time.  This is done through effective communication.  Sometimes they need reassurance that you have the knowledge to get the job done correctly.
  • Understand the Atmosphere – Understanding the client’s political and social environment is key to effective communication during a project.  Find out who is really in charge, as this may change how you must approach the project.
  • Communicate with the Project Manager – To avoid scope perception issues, requirement misinterpretations and project wish listing, constant communication between project managers is vital.
  • Stick to the Facts – Disengage your personal opinions about difficult situations.  Opinions and emotions will complicate the situation further.  Look at the problem objectively and focus on the Statement of Work.
  • Communicate with the Opposition – If the client’s project team includes someone who is opposed to the project, get to know that person and discover their reservations.  In taking the time to address their concerns, you will reassure them that implementing this project will solve the underlying issues.  Thus you can turn a potential opponent into your advocate, making end user adoption more likely.

For both the client and the Project Manager, the goal is the same:  successful project completion.  If you have established trust and communication at the outset, you will be able to diffuse difficult situations that arise before they become serious.  Whether the problems are real or perceived, the foundation of trust and communication you have built can mean the difference between your client’s cooperation and insurrection.  This method, though beneficial in a professional setting, has, most unfortunately, not proven effective in diffusing my wife.

Fusion Function Setup Manager – Key to Successful Implementations

Within Fusion comes packaged a new application called the Functional Setup Manager. This application is used to implement all Fusion application offerings. The goal of the Functional Setup Manager is to provide a mechanism for a consistent implementation process that is efficient and effective in guiding you through your implementation and ongoing maintenance of your Fusion applications.

Using Functional Setup Manager (FSM), you can more easily identify implementation requirements and plan your implementation. You use FSM to configure your applications to match your business needs. FSM provides complete visibility to setup requirements through a series of task lists. You link to the setup screens to enter setup data directly from the tasks listed in FSM. FSM provides a number of reports detailing setup content and project progress. Finally, you can export your functional setup and import those setups into another instance.

Beyond the hundreds of tasks included within Functional Setup Manager, you can create your own tasks and task lists. The system tasks and your custom tasks may then be included into an Implementation Project. Use of the Implementation Project, while technically optional, does provide some very useful benefits. With an implementation project, which contains the task lists and tasks necessary for your implementation, you are able to assign tasks to implementation consultants. These assignments may have due dates according to your implementation timeline as well. Implementation consultants are then able to mark their tasks as complete as they work through the implementation activities. Built in analytics provide real-time reports of project status.

Once the implementation project tasks are complete and you are ready to migrate from your development instance to a production instance, it is the project that you will export and then import into production. Functional Setup Manager provides the tasks; the implementation project provides the organization for your specific implementation of Fusion applications.

At Intelenex, we are taking advantage of the Functional Setup Manager capabilities and our proven SaaS application implementation methodology to design implementation projects that meet our customers’ needs in the most efficient and complete manner possible. We are developing implementation projects that include the custom non-Fusion specific tasks from our implementation methodology and best practices. We are also including the Fusion tasks needed to implement Fusion in the cloud. By identifying the correct tasks (out of the hundreds of tasks available) and putting them in the correct order, we plot a course that results in a successful Fusion implementation every time. With each project we complete, we are able to refine our implementation project and execute on our continuous improvement strategy.

The way we see it, if you combine an award winning cloud application implementation methodology and strategy with a world class application stack, you position your implementation on the best possible path to success.

Oracle’s Fusion Cloud Strategy: Like

On June 6 Larry Ellison and Mark Hurd announced details surrounding the Oracle Public Cloud offering, highlighting Oracle’s incorporation of the cloud as integral to the Fusion Applications strategy.  The announcement was delivered in vintage Ellison, irritating some who don’t like his showmanship.  Much of the content was focused on the technical aspects of the Oracle Public Cloud: is single tenancy better than multi-tenancy; the value of industry standards; and the virtues of virtualization.  There were also announcements of various acquisitions which will support Oracle’s social media capabilities.

Social Media

Enterprise Social Media is a very trendy area today; “Social Media” may even be too large and ambiguous a subject area to capture its diverse parts.  Doug Henschen comments that Oracle is reacting late to Social Networking, which has some validity; however, Oracle’s social networking vision is an advance from what’s currently available from other vendors.  Focusing on apps that support internal collaboration, today there are enterprise social networking tools that are tightly integrated with business applications & associated processes (Chatter), and ones that span the enterprise (Jive), but none that really plug into all of your primary enterprise applications (easily).  Taking a quote that puts things succinctly from Mark Hurd’s recent InfoWeek article:

“Because businesses are run by: I’ve got a strategy. I then support that strategy with a business model. I then support that business model with processes. I then automate those processes with applications.

For enterprise social networking to be effective it must enable communication and collaboration across processes, across applications; and have capabilities that support those interactions.  Oracle Social Network promises a social networking platform that is tightly integrated with Fusion applications, and contains capabilities that are more than hash tags, posts, updates, likes, etc. (think of a Facebook/Google Wave mash-up fed by all your enterprise data).  This will allow for easier incorporation into cross departmental/cross process collaboration.  An enterprise social networking platform that is tightly integrated across processes and applications may encourage emergent business processes that break down organizational silos.

Oracle also highlighted their investments in customer facing social media applications, with the acquisition of Vitrue and Collective Intellect.  These applications I will discuss in a subsequent post.

Multi Vs. Single Tenant

 

There’s been a lot of buzz about Oracle’s decision to leverage a virtualized single tenant model for their cloud, vs. a multi-tenant model.   From what I know, Oracle architected Fusion Applications from the ground up to able to be delivered in a multi-tenant environment, but made a deliberate decision to deploy them single tenant.  The benefits of multi-tenant are well known, including hardware economy, elasticity, effort to upgrade, and rapidity of feature releases.  Multi-tenant limitations include potential concerns around security, API data allotment limitations, and some lack of control around upgrade cycles.  In general the benefits outweigh the limitations.  At the end of the day, customers purchase a cloud application because of the experience they get; including a rapid and relatively simple implementation (compared to on premise applications), reliability, usability, continuous innovation, and reduced cost of ongoing maintenance.  The multi-tenant orthodoxy believes that their architecture is essential to delivering this customer experience.  Oracle disagrees.  In our limited experience so far as a customer of Fusion CRM since V1, Oracle is right.  We’ve seen 2 major releases delivered on schedule, containing everything promised and more; and the offering is price competitive.

One major difference between Oracle and other cloud offerings lies in Oracle’s ownership of the entire stack.  Oracle owns the data center, the hardware, the application servers, the middleware, the database, the application software; almost everything needed for a cloud application.  This is unique amongst cloud app vendors, and may give Oracle an advantage.  It may give Oracle the ability to deliver elasticity, easy upgrades, and continuous innovation; with robust security and control over upgrades, and without concerns around allotments—all on a single tenant architecture.  Contrary to what many pundits are saying, I don’t believe Oracle made an about face to Single Tenant.  Oracle clearly believes that their architecture is the optimal one.  As Fusion Applications grow in adoption, time will tell who is right.

Oracle’s Cloud Strategy

Oracle’s cloud strategy strategy today includes offering a comprehensive suite of applications, a cloud database, cloud Java platform.  The problem Oracle is setting out to solve is a reduction in the amount of disparate applications to manage, integration amongst applications, and the multitude of challenges such a scenario engenders.  Salesforce.com and Workday are both great applications; but they exist in isolation, and it’s up to the owners of those applications to figure out how to make them work together.  Intelenex deals with many customers with an Oracle ERP back-end who have struggled to figure out how to make their quoting, RMA, trade, and other processes integrate between Salesforce.com and Oracle EBS.  There is tremendous business value in solving these problems for customers with a pre-integrated, best of breed application suite.

Nothing to this scale has ever been done before in enterprise software.  Discussion of Oracle’s strategy is warranted and valuable for customers to make informed purchase decisions.  For those that are distracted by Larry Ellison’s presentation style, there should be no confusion about his understanding of the cloud.  Let’s not forget that he was an early and significant investor in both Salesforce.com and NetSuite.  Oracle’s preliminary offering can be reviewed at cloud.oracle.com.

To Quote or Not To Quote

Growing up a student of the 80’s and young professional of the 90’s, I learned the enviable art of inserting movie quotes into every day conversations.  I do this all the time – with a roughly 50% success rate that my conversant knows what I am referring to.  After amusing myself, and pleading (with my eyes) for comprehension of the arcane reference, I move on – usually second guessing my decision to quote or not to quote. At some point, I may blog further about this art; for this blog posting, I am talking about a different type of quote.

Since the times of Shakespeare’s writings (well, perhaps not that far back), manufacturing companies have tackled the opportunity-to-quote-to-order process and contributed to the debate as to which solution – Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – should handle the quoting component.  Opportunities and Orders are easy. Opportunities belong in CRM, orders belong in ERP.  Quoting, however, can have a place in both applications so the question becomes “in which application should I manage quotes?”

To answer this question, several operational factors need to be considered;

  • Determine the level of information needed at each stage: Opportunities will include products and possibly services, and may be tracked at the product line/service line level. Quotes extend from this with additional product detail (possibly to the part level). Orders require the lowest product level data requirements (e.g. part numbers, SKUs, etc.).
  • Identify which groups own what functions:  Groups include Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, and the “back office” (engineering, manufacturing, finance, etc.).  The Customer Service function seems to have responsibilities across both the sales process (quote processing and order entry management) and the service process (order completion, service request/issue resolution).
  • Establish Order Status and History visibility requirements: CRM users supporting Sales need visibility into the order status for tracking and customer communications.  Sales and Marketing benefit from viewing order history for campaign execution, account development, cross-selling and up-selling.

CRM applications will generally have out of box functionality for opportunity management – which can include quote management (whether part of the opportunity business component or a separate quote business component).  Similarly, ERP will have out of the box functionality for order management – which can also include quoting.  As such, either application can be positioned through configuration to manage the quote process – manufacturers need to be clearly determined at what point the CRM opportunity/quote should be integrated to build the ERP quote/order. If CRM handles the quote, it needs to be at the appropriate level of detail that “seeds” the order record in ERP to continue the process; conversely, if ERP will handle the quote, the CRM opportunity needs to appropriately integrate to ERP to build the quote. Bi-directional integration is implied to keep CRM and ERP users informed throughout the process.

I leave you with what has not been presented in the above – the customer management process and how it is also a major factor in the opportunity-to-quote-to-order function.  I will save this for next time….which should leave you thinking to yourself – “Once I thought I was out…they pulled me back in”. 🙂

Why Hire a Consulting Firm to Deploy a CRM system? Why Not Deploy Internally?

As Intelenex is in the business of implementing CRM systems, one would think that the question of why to use our services would be easy to answer.  This question has only been asked rarely, and partly because of the question’s infrequency, and in part because the answer seemed evident, I haven’t been prepared with an articulate response.  So why should a company choose to hire an implementation firm instead of deploying CRM themselves?

First, a little background.  Until the advent of Software as a Service CRM—products like Oracle CRM on Demand and Salesforce.com—almost all CRM deployments were conducted either by a large internal IT staff, or an external consulting firm, as deployments were typically large and complex. The first SaaS applications targeted smaller businesses, and came with a new message from software vendors: “CRM deployments can be fast, easy, and done in weeks not months, through intuitive point and click interfaces, and done by yourself.”  This message was designed to contrast with the reputation of existing CRM systems, whose complexity and failure rate were high.  And since the early SaaS applications were slim on features, there was less complexity possible for a deployment, and fewer ways for customers to get themselves in trouble.  Fast forward to today: SaaS CRM is state of the art, in some areas best of breed, and can run the sophisticated operations of large corporations.  Yet the messaging hasn’t evolved in pace with the Software.   While the applications are easier than ever to configure and deploy, successful CRM deployments depend on much more than just easy configurability of the application.

Which brings us to the first reason to support a rollout with external consultants: Methodology.  Most organizations don’t have a strong internal competency responsible for deploying software without the assistance of third parties.  While the technology itself is no longer mystifying to business users, the program management and governance required to plan, design, and sustain an application for the long term is a skill that most sales, marketing and service managers (typical purchasers of SaaS CRM) lack.  Many IT organizations—where these skills typically reside—are resource strapped, and unavailable for new projects, making them less able to take the entirety of an application deployment.

Experience is another key area.  A consulting firm should have experience with a number of different business types, and have come up with many creative solutions in the past.  They should appreciate a challenge, and offer ways of thinking outside, on top of or under the box.  Great consultants provide an external perspective, and can offer a reality check when one is needed.   Another area is experience with the application itself.  To me there is an apt analogy between these applications and video games I grew up with, IE Super Mario Brothers.  While they may be easy for the novice to start with, it takes an experienced player to know where the Secret Underwater Level is.

Likewise with a SaaS CRM application, there are always bugs, shortcuts, and idiosyncrasies.  The consultant should understand where the product has come from, what its release cycle has been, and what new features are likely to come soon.  The more experience one has with the application, the better functional recommendations one can make, the faster the configuration will go, and the more elegant the design will be.

Simple to Use-Not Easy to Replicate

And good design is the ultimate reason to use a consulting firm.  I’ve never had a client say “Can you make the CRM system really complicated to use”?  Everyone always wants simple, and we hear the phrase “out of the box” quite often.  Simplicity is the child of great design.  It can take a great deal of inventiveness to reduce a process from 5 clicks to 2, which may dramatically affect user adoption.   Great CRM consulting firms love what they do, and are constantly living and breathing CRM ideas.  They should be able to bring a depth of thought to your project that you would be unlikely to match on your own.

The ultimate answer comes down to business value.  A strong consulting firm should accelerate the time to productivity, keep the business focused on their core competencies, improve user adoption of the application, and leave a stronger internal capability for the experience.   It will inevitably cost money for the CRM application to be deployed, even if internally.  It may be in terms of time for internal employees; in the repercussions of project delays; in less than optimal user adoption; or in a lack of training on application features.  Bringing in a strong consulting firm to help deploy your CRM system should result in the faster attainment of the goals you set for your company when you determined to deploy CRM.

Focus on the Relationship with a CRM Application.

I recently read an article aimed at sales professionals that listed a number of Customer Dos and Don’ts.  The point of this article was to help you do the things that keep your customers coming back and avoid the things that drive your existing customers away. In short, it is all about the customer relationship. The Customer Relationship is also the focus of your CRM application – or so it should be. As I read this article and others on the same subject, I began thinking about how often the implementation of a CRM application becomes a task of the IT department. The IT department typically does not interact with your customers and really has no direct role in defining and maintaining a relationship with your customers.

The involvement of the Sales and Service teams is critical to a successful CRM application implementation. These are the individuals in the company that own the relationships with the customers, and if a software application is going to help manage these relationships, it makes sense that these folks are involved. It is too easy to get caught up in the technical nature of a software implementation and bogged down in discussions about which system is the customer master and how will users access the data and which integrations are required. These are certainly necessary conversations and critical to the success of the implementation, but they have little to do with the success of the customer relationship. You can, after all, successfully implement software with many integrations and complexities without positively affecting business results.

Of course, most of the sales articles and books I read do not discuss the role of software in the sales process. There are tons of writers out there who are quick with advice on how to be a great sales person, what to say, how to negotiate, and how to overcome objections.  The purpose of a CRM application is to help you organize data and implement these best practices into your sales methodologies. Using some of the key Dos and Don’ts from that article, we can identify a number of relationship tips that should be considered when designing the CRM solution.

  • Put the connection before the content.  Your customers don’t want you to sell to them; they want you to genuinely care about them. Business today requires you to take the time to build a personal connection before you start talking business. Your CRM application is the perfect spot to store and organize information about your customers to help you build this relationship. Use data that you collect on your customer to connect with them on a personal level. Don’t think that is important? Just have a look at how many companies are tied into social networks today.
  • Know your competition, but don’t badmouth them. To have a competitive advantage is to know your competitor’s weaknesses and strengths, but keep them to yourself in front of your customer. Use your CRM application to collect competitive data, but keep in mind that building yourself up at the expense of others is disrespectful and shows insecurity. You would want your competitor to show you the same respect.
  • Focus on individuals rather than companies. You are selling to the company through individuals, and those individuals are making the decision to buy or not. Collect contact information and understand their roles in the company. Use your CRM application to keep as much information about your customer contacts as possible.
  • Beware of the sales pitch. You want to avoid a sales pitch that sounds scripted and makes you sound like a hustler. Use the data at your disposal in your CRM application to have conversations with your customer rather than reciting your well-practiced elevator pitch. Take care to not let the CRM application control your exchanges with customers. The Sales Coach feature of your CRM should be used to guide, not script, conversations and next steps.
  • Engage with customers as equals. Listen and much as you talk and have a conversation that feels mutual rather than talking down to or being subservient to your customer. It is important to know who you are talking to, and what their role is, with which the CRM application can help. Use this information to frame your conversation as an equal.
  • Don’t avoid problem contacts. Your CRM application, if used effectively, can help you identify which of your contacts are ambivalent or even hostile. Be careful not to avoid these contacts, however, and attempt to go around them or over their heads. Use your data to prepare yourself to engage. Working around someone is more likely to create an enemy who will work against you from the inside. This being said, consider the next tip carefully.
  • Don’t mistake apathy for loyalty. Customers who are about to switch to another vendor will exhibit a lack of enthusiasm for you and your products. Don’t wait for quiet customers to call you. Routinely check your CRM application for a list of customers who have not been contacted or had any activity in a while and send them a note or drop in for a visit – not to sell anything necessarily, but because you have a relationship and want to see how they are.
  • Don’t ignore the little opportunities. Even if you know there is a bigger opportunity out there, put your own agenda for that big sales bonus aside and give the little deals as much attention as the big ones. You are reaping from your relationships, after all, and while that big deal looks more appealing to you, the little opportunity may be the most important thing to your customer at that moment. Ignore them when they have a small need, and you probably will not be asked to help with their big needs in the future. Your CRM application will help you track and manage all of your opportunities, but don’t let it talk you out of pursuing the small ones.

So, on a CRM Implementation, there are clearly two focus areas. The Implementation team should include a Technical Architect and a Solution Architect. The Technical Architect will focus on all the technical issues around hosting, integration, user access, and so forth. The Solution Architect should focus on the way the software will be used to positively affect your business, and should understand your customer relationships in order to best support those relationships in the design of the CRM application. In this way, a CRM application can certainly help you become a more effective sales person.

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