Consultants know that customer relationship management (CRM) is a hot topic in the IT industry.

They also know that CRM represents a delicate symmetry between the technological solutions that automate sales processes and customer service support initiatives and an organization’s forward-facing business processes.

But it’s not often easy to introduce CRM to an organization that has developed its own personalized business culture and procedures.

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PeopleSoft is the exclusive sponsor of TechRepublic’s special series on Enterprise Applications.
For more information, check out TechRepublic’s Enterprise Application Center, or visit PeopleSoft

In this interview, Scott Simmer, an independent CRM consultant based in Vancouver, Canada, offers some of his tested strategies for bridging the gap between technical and business teams and lessening the anxieties an organization might have about CRM.

CRM in 2001

Find out what three CRM experts, including Scott Simmer, have to say about CRM’s future in 2001 and beyond. Read “CRM in 2001: A bright but tight future” and learn what’s in store for CRM. To read more about enterprise applications, visit our briefing center.

TechRepublic: How do you explain the value of CRM to potential clients?
Simmer: CRM provides an organizational system in which [sales and customer service teams] can think. Even the best sales professionals don’t have an organizational system. They don’t have the mindset of, “Here’s a piece of paper, now write down your relationship with a particular contact.” They don’t know what questions to ask or how to compare their relationships [across] different accounts. I help them to understand part of what the system (CRM) is all about.
CRM goes so far beyond the technical side. With CRM you become aware of all the different business processes that it impacts. You actually see how companies treat their customers.
TechRepublic: How do you approach clients not familiar with CRM?
Simmer: I work strictly by word of mouth and referrals. Most jobs I have are instigated by a sales manager or an executive who has some kind of “pain.” That pain varies between feeling insecure about accountability of their sales team, a general lack of information on customer-support issues, or not getting sales numbers as quickly or as efficiently as they could be.
For example, on a sales force automation job, I’ll go to a client’s top representatives who think they don’t need [CRM], and I’ll call some of their contacts they have been working on in the last six months. I’ll see how deep of a relationship they actually have [with their contacts] and compare that to what they think they know and use that as an example.

TechRepublic: Are the representatives shocked by what you discover?
Simmer: Almost all the time. They hate it—and it works really well.

TechRepublic: After you demonstrate a need for CRM, what’s next?
Simmer: CRM usually starts with an executive decision. Once I get a general sense of commitment from the leadership, then the executive team sends down a message [to that effect].
Then I’ll come in and talk to the rest of the team and tell them how the methodology (behind CRM) may help them. I try to pull out what the team knows or doesn’t know about their processes, their quality assurance procedures, their customer service, and their sales management.

TechRepublic: Is this a productive way to make CRM happen?
Simmer: Nine times out of 10, it would be great if the sales team would say, “Hey, we’d really like some computer tools to help us sell more or get in control of our sales base.” But most of the time the decision comes from above them.

TechRepublic: How does a sales team usually respond to these executive decisions?
Simmer: There are different perceptions, especially in the small to midsize enterprise space. You have a lot of maverick sales reps because the team is small with large territories.
They are really in control of their own systems, and there is usually not a sales infrastructure already in place. They have developed their own culture, and now you’re asking them to change that and share information they may feel is proprietary. Especially in the brokerage industry, they guard their relationships very strongly. So there is a resistance to any kind of system that they knowingly have to give up details to.

TechRepublic: Are you able to change this mindset?
Simmer: It’s a critical part of the project, and a lot of it comes down to psychological counseling. It’s a matter of building trust, breaking down fear and anxiety, and a lot of “feel-good” computer training. A very large part of my job is to help them break down those walls so they can see the tradeoff—show them how the system works.

TechRepublic: And does it always work?
Simmer: A lot of times there’s no way you can move them. If you don’t have a buy-in from a sales team, [CRM] is not going to go anywhere. [And] the executives can’t fire their entire sales staff just because they won’t use the computer tools.

TechRepublic: Do you have a different way to make an implementation easier?
Simmer: I find that users, especially sales force users and the users of CRM solutions, are very nontechnical. The more fluent you can make them in their day-to-day work makes things run so much better. The best way to do that is to come up with the most integrated solution you can.

Scott Simmer works in the small to midsize enterprise (SME) market on five- to 50-seat CRM implementations. His specialties lie in the financial sector for brokerage houses, real-estate marketing, and the legal industry.

He formed a consulting business out of college where he resold and completed Goldmine (now FrontRange Solutions) and Maximizer implementations for three years. “I was basically the local platform solutions partner for Goldmine solutions in Vancouver,” he said. He still uses Goldmine solutions and is also experienced in SalesLogix implementations.

Calling CRM consultants

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