Building on our ‘Talking to Clients’ series over the past four weeks, my focus is now turning to how you store, analyse and use the client intelligence and insight you gather to support your business development and bidding opportunities.
Imagine your most important client has predominantly worked with one account manager in your organisation since they joined. They’ve shared hundreds of telephone and email conversations, account management meetings and even partaken of the odd rugby match spectating together. Then the account manager leaves your organisation. If you don’t have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, all that client knowledge leaves with them.
I’ve been a big believer in the power of using CRM to manage client knowledge for many years and was lucky enough to implement Salesforce as our weapon of choice at a previous employer. But CRM can come in many different shapes and sizes to suit your size, needs – and of course your budget; from Salesforce or Zendesk, to budget or free systems such as Hubspot or Insightly*, or even as simple as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or shared folder on your network or in Microsoft Teams. What matters most is not the system you use, but what you record and how you use it to develop the client relationship. Anyone in your organisation should be able to pick up the reins in working with a client – or when it comes to bids and proposals time – and should be able to access the same intelligence and insight as anyone else.
Recently, a white paper** on this subject was shared with me by a colleague. While the focus is on how consulting firms should use CRM, its learnings are no less useful across all industries; whoever, and wherever, your clients are. As it says:
“A firm’s employees and client networks may be spread around the globe, but they need to collectively work toward a common goal…CRM offers an integrated and comprehensive view of each client relationship, from previous and current engagements to project management, market insight, available resources, and billing.”
Every piece of client information – emails, notes from telephone calls, meeting minutes, press releases, newsletters opened, events attended, bids and proposals submitted, contract renewal dates– should be saved into whatever you use as a CRM tool. This is the basis of your “common goal” of developing client relationships and winning more business. It is not enough, however, to merely save the information and do nothing with it. It must become intelligence. My article on WinningTheBusiness.com last year spoke of how bid tools, including CRM, are only valuable when the right resources are invested, and the right information is put into them. For CRM to be effective for your client relationships, you must engage all stakeholders and users and bring them along on the journey. This message is also evident in the white paper’s ‘five best practices for fully leveraging CRM’:
- Approach CRM as part of a strategic vision
- Engage and align leadership
- Focus on people, not just IT
- Keep it simple
- Drive impact
Encourage this sharing of knowledge through defined processes for gathering and saving insight to your system – make it simply part of the day job. Look for trends within and across clients, markets and industries, that you can take externally to your client or internally to your business development teams to encourage the as-yet unseen opportunity. The CRM tool should be the first port of call when a tender is released – what do we already know about this client, who do we know there, what have we discussed or shared with them, what feedback did we receive the last time we pitched, what is happening with other clients in their sector? The client ‘life’ should be in your CRM tool. In short, the white paper states:
“CRM builds personalized experiences, which can greatly enhance relationships and drive growth…[CRM] also enables full visibility over client relationships, which leads to informed decision making.”
It was with this full visibility of client relationships in mind that one contributor’s words jumped out of the white paper as the crux of CRM:
“Understanding those relationships is like piecing together a massive box of jumbled-up Lego [pieces] and then building something unexpected and beautiful” (Vicki Boaden, global Salesforce success lead at PwC).
If the right knowledge is being shared and analysed, who knows what new opportunities could be uncovered. And who doesn’t love playing with Lego?
* Other CRM platforms are available!
**Published by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, sponsored by Salesforce (I promise I am not on commission)