According to business writer Robert Shaw in his 1991 book, Computer Aided Marketing & Selling, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is “a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.”

But how is it that overall, the rank and file haven’t fully embraced CRM systems?

According to Mike Williams, VP of Operations at Point N Time Software, “it mostly comes down to one thing—CRM systems are complex and often hard to use. Many times, they’re little more than a bureaucratic tool.” I happen to agree with him.

Mike Williams, VP of Operations at Point N Time Software
Mike Williams, VP of Operations at Point N Time Software

Point N Time Software is the maker of an app called Meeting Mapper, recently selected by Salesforce for their Mobile App Showcase at Dreamforce ‘13. In an interview last month, I asked Williams why companies would choose to incorporate an app like this with their CRM system, particularly when they are already difficult to use, and because it would mean also having to learn how to use the app as well as continuing to struggle with the CRM system.

“As you say, a CRM system is far from simple,” says Williams. “First of all, the challenges of a complex system require sufficient training in order for those who use it to comprehend and deal with the system effectively. One of the ways an intuitive app can help is that it encourages the user to outline the meetings (e.g. goals and objectives), document meeting attendees and document the important information that comes from the meeting. Then you can back into any  mistakes from this point.

“You also have to consider the initial issue of the expensive costs incurred with the implementation of a CRM system. Then, the additional expense that comes from the computer hardware, software and personnel that is needed to maintain it can also cause a certain amount of negativity within a company. Beyond that, the issues are considerable:

  1. Companies often have inadequate focus on objectives.
  2. Even when CRM systems have been implemented, hard times often cause companies to lose sight of goals.
  3. Insufficient resources as a result of initial exorbitant costs usually result in organizations tightening budgets for the next phase.
  4. Failure to utilize necessary resources on hand can result in system failure.
  5. Inappropriate metrics can cause issues with a CRM system. Specific goals require specific metrics. Choosing the wrong methods of measurement can cause a system to work inadequately.”

Many companies have found that combining a CRM system with an effective sales meeting app allows for the full value of a CRM system by populating it with data that counts. “The data entered into CRM systems like Salesforce via a powerful app allows companies to reduce the cost of their sales pursuits,” says Williams. “This is accomplished by using the data to mentor more junior sales reps and to coach all sales reps.  By using an intuitive app and the sales intelligence it provides, it becomes readily apparent which deals to kill, thus saving money on deals that will never close.”

Tips for Choosing the Best Sales Meeting App

Considering all the issues, I asked Mike Williams to give me some solid tips as to how best to make use of a CRM system and how to choose the best accompanying app:

  1. Companies need to keep in mind that the business needs are the most important.
  2. Problems arise when companies gain needed technology only to discover it doesn’t solve their main problems. A company should always analyze their business problems first and then find the appropriate CRM solution, not the other way around.
  3. A company should never forget that a CRM system is based on the customer— employees must never lose customer focus.  It’s essential for companies to make consistent efforts to focus their team on the customer; first, last and always.
  4. CRM systems usually give off slow returns. Companies have to be patient and not lose sight of their goals when results aren’t immediate. So long as a company stays focused on their strategy and follows through with the entire process, they’ll be making solid use of their system and can reap great financial rewards as a result.
  5. Whatever app a company chooses, always make sure it works for all platforms—iPads, phones, computers, etc. Make certain it’s an intuitive app for planning, running and concluding successful business meetings. The best of them will be built by sales pros for sales pros.
  6. Sales meeting apps should be used in a way that allows users and managers to gain insights into their sales pursuits.
  7. The data entered should be actionable. For example, the roles and stances of each individual in every meeting should be easily defined.  Based on data like this, sales tactics and strategies can be formed.
  8. Apps should provide an easy to use interface. For example, when using our system with Salesforce, it allows data to be automatically populated in the appropriate objects.
  9. I think it’s fair to say that the typical sales rep that has an average of 10 sales meetings a week. A well-designed app will save them multiple hours a week in data entry alone.
  10. Focus on the people you are meeting, not your gadgets!

Think Before You Buy

From my years of working with sales reps, account managers and the systems we all used, I know for a fact that the best applications have the potential to transform the way businesses operate for all users, customers and employees. But there are a few questions worth asking yourself before you take the dive into buying an app to use with your CRM system:

  1. Does the app bring people together by offering real and relevant business value?
  2. Does it provide options for collaboration?
  3. Does it allow for connections between every facet of your business?
  4. Does it prompt people to engage?
  5. Does it intuitively compliment your CRM system with appropriate functionality?

These and other points like those made by Mike Williams should all be kept in mind before moving forward with plans to take the next step. I can’t begin to describe how bad my own experiences have been when owners refused to think things through and wound up with expensive systems in place that just didn’t meet the needs of anyone involved. It’s the sort of thing that causes endless frustration for those who are forced to try and “make the system work.”

You can’t make something work that isn’t right for your business. And the best way to know what’s right is to ask questions, know your companies needs from all perspectives and make everyone on your team a part of the selection process. That sort of collaboration will pay dividends when it comes to system implementation.

Have you done your CRM/Sales App homework? If not, perhaps you should start today…