In business, the customer is king, and managing the king's interactions with your company is a quick path to success. Unfortunately, too many companies consider interaction with a customer to be at an end once the sale is made. Smart companies go the extra mile in meeting their customers' needs by managing interactions with them at each step along the way — especially after the sale.
Successful companies implement an effective customer relationship management (CRM) system. But with so many CRMs on the market, which one is the best?
Picking the Winner
Like most Americans I am a fan of the NCAA's March Madness men's college basketball championship tournament. It's a time where every office seems to be running an "illegal" betting pool, productivity experiences a steep drop-off, and every computer seems to be streaming live games.
Picking a winner in March Madness requires lots of study, analysis, and weighing of alternatives like which team has the best point guard or power forward. The process is similar when it comes to selecting a CRM for your company.
In the tourney, picks, for most people, come down to stats. Does the team I'm picking have a great record? Are the individual players' stats reliably high? What is the history of the coach in big games? These are the same kind of questions I ask when deciding on a CRM.
My CRM pick is Salesforce, for the same basic reason that I often settle on a particular NCAA tournament team: It puts up the numbers. The company itself recently delivered 24 percent revenue growth, year over year, from 2015 to 2016; it made a huge jump in total number of employees, to just over 19,000; and it has a corporate culture, run by Marc Benioff, that is second to none in Silicon Valley. A clear winner by stats alone, Salesforce is the dominating big man patrolling the paint of the CRM world.
Picking your poison
Salesforce isn't inexpensive — well, it is in the beginning. They kind of follow the drug dealer methodology, where your first hit is free. You get limited features for a low price, and then before you know it you are hocking everything you own to the local pawn broker to cover the cost of your next fix. I'm exaggerating, but Salesforce does have a LOT of products, so it's important to know what you want to accomplish.
With Salesforce, there are three clouds to choose from, as well as a fourth cloud to sum up all those other clouds. For most people, the Sales Cloud will do the trick, it's your basic CRM with as many tools to service your rolodex as you could ever want or need. This is sufficient for a basic project where you only need a run-of-the-mill sales cloud implementation.
For call centers, implementing a "voice of the customer," or servicing your rolodex while needing to track services delivered, you should hit up the Service Cloud implementation. As you get more advanced and your sales and marketing teams grow, then you may want to look at Marketing Cloud which is built for delivery of content and what is known as traditional marketing.
The Marketing Cloud offering is second to none. Keep in mind, however, that because it's the Final Four (to dip back into our March Madness metaphor) of implementations, it's not inexpensive or easy to implement.
To sum all of these items up, or give you a better view into each of the clouds along the way, you can implement the Analytics Cloud. This is one the most expensive products Salesforce offers, and it will give you incredibly detailed views into the data of your cloud. Analytics Cloud is a must for the CEO who wants to see in detail how well each member of the team is performin (or not performing).
We haven't touched on some of the greatest things with Salesforce. For one, they have a terrific marketplace of third-party vendors selling a variety of add-ons and tools that will make implementation so much easier. After implementation, you will be amazed at how useful these additional tools really are.
Salesforce also has a strong commitment to security. Its encryption for data in transit and data at rest are second to none. The host of other security features related to the product are sure to impress even the most hardened of CISOs.
One of the best aspects of implementing Salesforce is the people who sell and support it. Customer service is their watchword. They are truly great to work with and provide all the support you'll need to achieve your goals.
A great plan is nothing without great people to implement it. And selecting Salesforce as your CRM is only the first step to creating a winning team. You now need players capable of performing within the system. It's not enough for your CIO to scream that they need a CRM. It doesn't work if the new sales guy "used Salesforce" in his last job. You need a solid, reliable team who will play like champions.
You can't be the star of your team if you intend your Salesforce project to be successful. Hire people who will deliver even more than you, and then work your tail off to keep up. I suggest a very strong cloud or cloud technology person from IT as well as an old, grizzled database guru — Cloud CRM and its underlying table structure are something that are a MUST to understand.
As long as you're cherry-picking the information technology department, grab a nerdy, savant programmer to deal with the APIs, the third-party add-ins and the overall dashboard development. Your pick for this role is crucial. It is absolutely critical that the people mentioned above are dedicated to your team and goals.
For the rest of your IT needs, you can utilize other internal groups in general. In order for your Salesforce implementation to be successful, you'll need a vast, very diverse team across all business units. My advice is to pick the seasoned, been-around-the-block employees from each department. There are two reasons to do this: First, they will be very appreciative of the opportunity and give to you something they probably haven't given their normal job in a long time: focus.
The second reason is knowledge. They will have the most of this and you will need it to make your journey successful. You will also need to bring your "A-game" every day, because it's your ability to motivate, to sell and to focus large groups that will be the key to your success.
Bear in mind that Salesforce offers a robust certification program. If your employees don't have any prior experience with Salesforce, or are struggling to full grasp its intricacies, then drumming up a certification and training budget certainly bears consideration. There are 26 different Salesforce credentials (including nine just for architects), which makes it easy to zero in on exactly the type of training that you need.
Salesforce certifications are also independently verifiable — the Salesforce certification team is a leader in this vital realm. If you end up looking to bring in an outside hire and you want to be certain they're as qualified as they look on paper, you can check the veracity of their certification claims simply by clicking over to the Saleforce certification website. All you need to check a potential hire against the database of certified Salesforce professionals is a name or e-mail address.
Whichever Salesforce cloud offering you decide to use, you can rest easy knowing that you've picked the best. Add a solid team, take it slow and smooth and your success will be guaranteed.