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The Have’s And Have Not’s: Best Practice CRM Use In IT Channels

By Ian Moyse
, Sales Director, Workbooks.com

For any organization that resells products or services, it’s important to maximize your gross margins and ensure cash flow is healthy. At the same time, you want to deliver the highest quality service possible to your customers at the lowest cost to your business, while differentiating your company in a positive manner.

Customer relationship management (CRM) done right can transform your performance and play a vital role in successful and profitable revenue generation. However, CRM has acquired a bad rap over the years as companies experienced lengthy implementations that expanded requirements for systems integration services — and costs — and saw declining end-user acceptance and use.

Marketing Spend

As a reseller, you need your marketing spend to help you find new customers, sell more to existing customers and report back to vendors for MDF activities.

You spent good money on your web site and you might also be investing in AdWords and search engine optimization. You might also get the odd lead from a vendor and trade shows that you attend.

It is essential that you make sure all leads are captured in the CRM platform and then followed up with promptly. You can automatically populate leads directly from your web site into your CRM system and capture cookies on how the visitor found you. This helps you decide when and what to invest for maximum return on future campaigns.

Don’t distribute leads by email; they will get lost amongst the hundreds of other email sales people deal with and you can’t track or report on the outcomes. Allocate them in your CRM using automatic filters and provide sales with easy-pinned dashboards/alerts, allowing them to take action.

Make The Most Of A Loss

If your sales team qualify-out, make it easy to record why in the CRM platform, so you can understand which types of leads deliver results. Provide sales managers with an automatic dashboard that lists all leads meeting certain criteria of stage, size and value that have been closed and lost so that they can review with sales, and mark them as management reviewed prior to accepting that loss. What if 10% of lost sales could be recovered through management intervention using more experience and oversight of the sales teams actions and decisions?

Know Your Existing Customers  

Ensure your CRM system has details of all customer purchases and which people where involved in the sale. In doing so, you can quickly and easily create a targeted marketing campaign when you have a complimentary product to sell, update them on product enhancements and remind them of upcoming renewals or complimentary services you offer.

Accelerate Sales Momentum

Being informed about the customer means being able to quickly relate to them in a personal way, which in turn, leads to faster responsiveness, easier and consistent understanding of the sales opportunity, and more predictable sales outcomes.

Your CRM system should underpin the process and make it easy to follow. You should be able to quickly classify deals by stage and type, and identify key people in each opportunity and the roles they play.

Use your CRM system to conduct deal reviews, making it a tool to improve sales outcomes rather than a tool just for reporting. After all, reporting is only as good as the data you can report on!

Maximizing gross margins is always key for you as a reseller. Your CRM system can and should track the gross margin of each deal, enabling sales people to know how much they might earn and leaving nothing to chance, again driving profitable behaviors and ensuring management is aware if any of these are not being followed.

It’s A Numbers Game

The best sales leaders understand that working the pipeline delivers results. Therefore, easy and ongoing visibility into key metrics is key. These metrics include:

  • How many leads convert into an opportunity?
  • How much coverage do I need in my pipeline to deliver the target?
  • What’s the gross margin going to be?
  • Which of my sales team are over or under performing? And identify reasons why!
  • Why are we losing deal(s)?
  • Which products are selling and which are not?
  • Which customers have stopped buying from us?
  • Which renewals are at risk?
  • At what stage of sales do we let ourselves down?

Answers to these questions enable sales leaders to run more effective teams. If your CRM system can’t answer these questions and more, it’s not effective and will never deliver the hoped-for impact on your business.

It Shouldn’t Stop When The Deal Is Closed

A well-implemented CRM system enables business leaders to track key metrics such as: new bookings and billings, what’s left to ship and gross margin. It enables sales people to track their orders as they are being fulfilled to make sure your customer’s expectations are being reached. In addition, a CRM system should provide the right tools for the order processing teams to make their job easy. Implementing your sales order processes inside your CRM system not only streamlines your processes and reduces costs, but it means all parts of the business have better visibility into what your customers have purchased.

Delightful Support

Your CRM platform should be at the heart of your help desk. It should make it easy for your customers to raise support calls, automatically turning emails into support cases and enabling your customers to log calls directly from your web site. It also needs tools like email templates to make life easier for your support engineers and the ability to automate common tasks, so they are more efficient.

Your CRM platform is much more valuable if it contains more that just details of support calls. Recording all your support contracts enables your support team to check if the customer has actually renewed their contract. You also can store serial numbers for warrantee information and details of any related support contract you might have with your vendor. 

Ideally, your support department wants access to customers’ purchase history, so they can see what products the customer has actually bought. Transaction history also helps them understand if they are dealing with one of your major accounts, so they can go the extra mile to delight your biggest customers.

Cash Is King

Finance departments often have no first-hand knowledge of your customer. They have not met the people paying the bills and they weren’t involved in negotiating the deal. They also don’t have visibility into any support or project issues, which would indicate why a customer isn’t making payment.

CRM systems aren’t just for sales folks. Get your finance team involved and using the CRM system to track down payment. At the very least, they can see which people at the customer were involved in the purchase and who can sign-off payment. 

Financials remain in the finance system, but a simple connection between the two is all it requires to deliver some powerful benefits to all concerned.

Love Your Vendor

Not only do your vendors expect you to make sales, but they also want visibility into your sales pipeline and forecasts on a regular basis. Being beholden to one vendor can be bad enough, but when you have multiple on your back it can become a job in itself to keep track of the information they expect and often require as part of your partnership or MDF program.

If you set your system up correctly, it should be easy to create reports for your vendors. Make sure the CRM platform has the ability to categorize opportunities orders by product vendor. Ideally, you want this at a line item level, so if you are selling multiple products to a customer you extract the relevant information without having to share all of the opportunity data with each included vendor.

Do you have special pricing on a deal? Make sure the prices are correctly reflected on the opportunity, and attach the vendor’s email authorization to the record.




Ian Moyse, Sales Director at Workbooks.com a Cloud CRM vendor, has over 25 years of experience in the IT Sector, he sits on the board of Eurocloud UK and the Governance Board of the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), was listed in top 25 of the worldwide SMB Nation 150 Channel Influencers list in both 2012 and 2013 and named by TalkinCloud as one of the global top 200 cloud channel experts in 2011.



About Alicia Fiorletta

Alicia Fiorletta is Senior Editor for Channel Marketer Report. Working closely with industry analysts and experts, Alicia reports on the latest news, technologies, case studies and trends coming to forefront in the channel marketing world. With a focus on emerging marketing strategies, including social, mobile and content for demand, Alicia hones in on new ways for organizations to market to and through their partner networks. Through her work with G3 Communications, Alicia also acts as Associate Editor for Retail TouchPoints, a digital publishing network focused on the customer-facing area of the retail industry.

View all posts by Alicia Fiorletta →

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