Your customers and market are changing. Prospects know today more than ever about what they want, how it should be achieved, what they are willing to pay and the risks they are willing to accept. Opportunity management has thus become a key skill, enabling you to avoid unprofitable projects while still taking on sufficient work to drive growth.

The right CRM system can play a major role in doing this effectively, allowing management clear insight into sales cycles across the company, and enabling a realistic overview of future project commitments. Without a CRM system to help manage the funnel, the pipeline overview depends on a mess of excel sheets and hours chasing account managers for information.

Disorganization kills profitability
A disorganized way of working makes it very hard to accurately identify where opportunities are lost, and to follow up with relevant sales people to ensure mistakes are not repeated. CRM allows the funnel to be fully centralized and enables rapid, flexible reporting on valuable information for decision makers.

Unfortunately, most CRM tends to fall down in relation to projects that occupy the opportunity funnel. Creating quotations for products stacked in the warehouse is easy enough, but projects are more complex beasts. They involve hours and expenses, scope and budget, milestones and risks. How do you estimate a project that is twice the size and complexity of the previous one, or for work you have never done before? How does the CRM system handle the variation?

Breaking open the silos
Many companies operate unintentional silos of information, data from sales and project management not being shared effectively. This can lead to the two disciplines seeing a differently reality within the business. Failure to get everyone working from one source of truth can lead to incomplete quotations, project delays, budget overruns and unhappy customers.

Not properly connecting information streams can be a major problem, particularly when different disciplines have different priorities. A sales executive creating a proposal is more focused on getting it done on time and within potential customer budget. He or she is unlikely to be fully focused on an in-depth explanation of the proposal for the project organization.

Inefficient communication between sales and consultants, often via huge volumes of e-mail, can see the details of the project go missing. Incomplete or inaccurate quotations can result, resulting in the project organization then having to find their way once the work starts. Rework, overruns, customer complaints and reduced billability are the results.

The right CRM can help
Many CRM systems won’t help this issue, but one that can integrate with project information will. This combined approach will allow calculations and scope to contribute to quotations. Information from previous projects could also contribute, empowering you to get a more accurate proposal out for that exciting new opportunity. Project managers can stay up to date with how the opportunity is progressing and avoid unpleasant surprises once the deal is signed. Sales people can check that they’re pushing something with a realistic chance of success.

In short, project linked CRM helps companies create the right quotations, based on previous work and properly worked scope and budget. Offers use facts as the basis, rather than best guesses. The system will also help bring capacity into play, using integrated planning to make sure sales efforts coincide with quieter periods and reduce consultant downtime.

It will also help delivery horizons to be positioned more accurately. And it works backwards to. Running projects can be compared back to the quotations to see what went according to plan and what didn’t. This can guide future work, driving quality and helping consultants to deliver on-time, on-budget.