Categories
Bid process

The power of CRM

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. 

David Rose, with a lot of information to process https://media4.giphy.com/media/RfkkfkWXq8laiWatVI/giphy.gif?cid=4d1e4f298gojaik3cn39fvg1cu0iipa3hzfjrvrya95g7mjm&rid=giphy.gif

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)

Categories
Bid process

Talking to clients part 4: Client engagement

Whether you have won a new client through a competitive procurement or informal approach, or have a 20-year relationship, client engagement throughout the full lifecycle is vital to maintain and build on that relationship with further business wins. As the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) says, “Effectively executing on a contract is the best way to position for future business with an account or client organization. Apply account management techniques, such as regular customer contact, product demonstrations and upgrades, social marketing, and participation in relevant industry and trade events. These activities demonstrate an ongoing interest in the customer’s business and success and help position your organization for future opportunities.”

Johnny Rose’s customer engagement philosophy involved well-known social media site Tweeters https://giphy.com/gifs/schittscreek-schittscreek-pop-poptv-comedy-tv-funny-eugenelevy-danlevy-l0IyhuGIkIfxfLL0I

If you are not already carrying out account management activities with your clients, consider what you are missing out on – both in terms of nurturing a strong relationship, but also in your preparations for the next tender with them. As the BOK states “In a tough competitive market, retaining the business you have is just as difficult as winning new business”.

Your account management team could include project managers, account managers, business development managers, and even service delivery managers and front-line staff. They have daily access to your client and can seek out and gather the vital intelligence to not only improve your current performance, but also identify improvements and innovations for the next contract. You could instigate ad hoc ‘water cooler’ conversations with client representatives to discuss any frustrations, or share/discuss knowledge pieces via e-letters and social media, you can invite them to events, and engage right through to formal performance reporting, client review meetings and satisfaction surveys.

Even if you don’t have a formal function, send somebody to talk to the client.

In last year’s blog about bidding as the incumbent, we shared that complacency is the biggest reason for loss. You should put in as much effort on a tender whether you are bidding to a new client or a current client. Alongside your usual account management activities, if you have a formal client engagement function, start them talking to your client for at least six months before a planned retender. Even if you don’t have a formal function, send somebody to talk to the client. The purpose is to give the client someone more independent than their day-to-day contact, so they can be open on issues or ‘wishlist’ items, or simply bring a new way of looking of things from the client’s perspective. Feed all gathered intelligence into your bid planning, content planning and of course the final submission to show that you are listening to your client. And like the advice for interviewing for an internal position, assume the interviewer (or in our case, client) knows nothing about you. Tell them too much, rather than not enough.

Use every opportunity to learn what they think about you, what you do well, and how you can improve.

Last week’s blog talked about learning from a client debrief, win or lose. Again, the same applies for new clients or an established client in this scenario. Where you win a retender, never assume just because you have worked with the client before, you know what they are thinking, that they thought everything was fine in your submission and, it follows, your relationship. Use every opportunity to learn what they think about you, what you do well, and how you can improve.

Put yourself in the client’s shoes; would you award more work to the supplier who is consistently talking to you, investing their time, holding review meetings, sharing knowledge and interesting articles/blogs/press releases, and seeking to make improvements and add value at every stage – or the supplier that does a good job, but who you only hear from at contract renewal time?

Don’t just think won and done; client engagement should be an ongoing process – it is called an engagement ring after all!