Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are a hot topic of discussion among AEC executives, seller-doers, and marketers. There are five common questions that commonly come up when discussing CRMs and this post will provide answers to each of them.
Which CRM Should I Use?
The short answer is it’s not the CRM it’s more about where the data currently exists and the internal processes in place. Many firms will go down the path of creating a requirements document and trying to find the right CRM software. However, a better approach is to first look at the firm and its data. Which department has what data? Are there silos? Are there reasons some data is harder to track down than other types of data? For example, the accounting department may have project numbers for all the projects completed, but the marketing department has a separate numbering system and naming convention for the same data in the marketing drives. If an executive decides to buy an integrative CRM solution that can connect with the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or financial system the firm uses, this won’t really matter if there is not a standard numbering and naming convention for the project data accounting and marketing use. It would serve the firm better to create an internal team or hire a consultant to review the data for the firm and map out the processes a firm currently follows and how once the CRM is implemented, documentation on how the processes will change.
Do We Really Need a CRM?
If your AEC firm is between 3-5 people, you may not need a CRM yet. However, as a small firm, one of the best things a firm at this size can do, is to begin organizing their data for the day when they grow large enough to need a CRM. Microsoft Outlook, Excel, or Google spreadsheets are perfectly acceptable ways to organize data at this early stage of a firm’s growth. Once a firm grows beyond 5 people, a simple CRM solution with a good mobile app and email plugin would be a good way to go. When a firm is at this stage of growth, typically everyone is a seller-doer. So, a solution that offers multiple ways to enter data as easily as possible is a great way to go. Insightly, Pipedrive, and Tiny+ offer great solutions for firms at this stage.
Are We Ready to Implement a CRM?
Many firms jump into implementing a CRM before they are truly ready to do so. Implementing a CRM solution takes quite a bit of time and resources to ensure the process goes smoothly and training is rolled out in a way that maximizes a return on the initial investment made. However, many firms skip the necessary steps to ensure success during their implementation by not having clean data to work with from the start and not having clear documentation of their internal processes to support the CRM once it’s implemented. The best way to implement a CRM solution is to reduce the amount of data a firm intends to bring in from the very start. Company data should be consistent and scrubbed for consistency: Able Contracting, Inc. should not have any other variations: Able Contracting or Able Cont. should be changed to the same version otherwise it’s possible to have multiple duplicates once the data is imported into the system. Contacts should be scrubbed in the same way or Samantha Davis and Sam Davis will be brought in as two different contacts even though they are the same person.
Another factor to consider before implementation is the process used to capture and modify contacts and companies. Is one person going to enter all the companies and contacts? Is everyone responsible for modifying existing companies and contacts? Is there a naming convention for companies and contacts? Are all company and contact addresses to be spelled out completely or will the firm use abbreviations? All these things seem tiny, but when you multiply every variable of a company or name, you can see how duplicates happen. And when your data isn’t clean and there are a ton of duplicates, system users start to doubt the integrity of the information. When users start to doubt the integrity of the system, they stop using the CRM and that is exactly what you don’t want to happen! Make sure you clean your data first!
What Data Do We Need to Bring into Our CRM?
If the steps above to clean your data prior to implementing a CRM seem impossible due to the current state of your data, you may want to consider starting from scratch, to begin with. Nowadays, many CRMs offer plugins with Gmail and Outlook, so contacts can be added easily with a few clicks. In addition, many of these plugins have duplicate checking built-in, so you can make sure that your users only add new contacts and companies to your CRM (and no duplicates).
If your CRM features a module for completed projects, you may want to consider only bringing in the last five years. Most proposals in the AEC industry request projects that have been completed within the last five years.
Do We Need to Change CRMs?
After reading the responses to a couple of the questions above, you may realize why your firm is now at a point where you may need to change CRMs. Perhaps when your firm first implemented a CRM, the onboarding team tried to bring in too much data, or employees were not careful when they created new data and a lot of duplicates were created. There are many reasons why your current CRM may not be working anymore but many of these reasons go back to messy data and a lack of process. If your firm doesn’t take care of these two issues prior to changing CRMs, your firm will find itself back in the same predicament.
A CRM is a powerful tool that can help many organizations leverage the power of their relationships to win new projects and maintain strong client partnerships. To best utilize a CRM at your firm, start with clean data and a great process so that your executives, marketers, and seller-doers have a head start on your competition.