How to Select a CRM Vendor

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There is an endless number of CRM applications, and while we at Zoho always recommend choosing Zoho CRM, we thought we’d hand off the advice on how to choose a CRM vendor to a few consultants, Jim Berkowitz, CRM technology Coach for CRM Mastery and Eric Pozil, Managing Director for CRM Northwest.

The two led a discussion on “How to Select a CRM Vendor” at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City. They broke down the decision process into five stages: discovery, evaluation, vendor interaction, selection, and negotiation. Here are their guidelines for each stage.

Stage 1: Discovery

Form a CRM selection tiger team
Review effectiveness and efficiency of current processes
Determine needed functional requirements
Document current IT infrastructure and skill sets – Where is all your knowledge and data currently?
Determine preferred CRM delivery platforms – Cloud or on premise?
Review technical and administrative resource availability – Who is going to run this thing? What can people with no experience, a little, or a lot of experience do by themselves?
“CRM is a process not a project,” said Berkowitz. This is the most common mistaken perception about CRM. It’s not the same as an accounts payable solution for which the process really doesn’t change.

Stage 2: Evaluation

What are the CRM solutions that your company should be considering? When evaluating, separate into two camps: core functionality and non-core functionality, said Berkowitz. Core is a capability that must be in the system, and should be there, but non-core are capabilities that you would like to have because they have specific value to your industry.

Develop new or updated process requirements
Development of CRM vendor long-list
Conduct CRM vendor due diligence – Understand what these packages do.
Select short-list vendors – Once you know they do everything you need them to do, look at how they work, not what they do.
Stage 3: Vendor Interaction

How do we leverage the vendor’s experience?

Develop an internal vendor scorecard tied to top CRM properties
Provide a vendor script – Break it into precise business processes such as lead assignment, execution, and customer service escalations
Create a post-RFP discovery summary and FAQ
Implementation, training, and total cost of ownership (TCO) plan – Define all tangible costs for five years and include vendor/partner add-ons
Stage 4: Selection

Survey – Have employees fill out a score card to see what it is people like.
Compare – How do you compare the results with your business priorities?
Validate – Are there any deal breakers? Do you have any global data issues? Try to find your own references, not just the ones the vendor gives you.
Stage 5: Negotiation

Best offer – Always start with this.
Ratchet user deployment – Pay for the ones you need upfront and then add when you need more add them on.
Resource/reference exchange – Think about things you can give to the vendor that isn’t money.
Street price discovery
Negotiate at C-Level

Thinking About Using Independent Contractors?

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In today’s competitive business world, many businesses are cutting expenses and saving money on payroll taxes by using independent contractors. Small businesses can be competitive and even experience growth by using contractors and keeping prices in check, however, there are criteria to consider before going this route. Be advised that the government isn’t a fan of losing employment taxes, so it is extremely important to follow the rules or find ways to work around them.

Independent contractors have a place in most companies.

When your company requires assistance from workers who can perform their duties on their own schedule without outside aid, independent contractors make the most sense. If the duty must be performed at a mandated time and in a specific place, the worker will be considered an employee by the Employment Development Department (EDD).

That is one of the first criterion the governments looks for during audits. Independent contractors must be able to perform the task at hand “independently” and without assistance from other staff members who might be on salary.

A word to the wise: Never have employees perform the same duties as contractors. The different compensation structures alone will be a red flag.

Make sure independent contractors have their own equipment.

Most small business owners think that throwing a contractor out there to perform a task is all you really need to worry about, but that is not the case. Independent contractors must have their own equipment and must lease or purchase any supplies to perform their duties. As an owner, you can’t just give them equipment or supplies or else they are technically not functioning alone. Setting up equipment leases or requiring them to buy equipment are the two most common ways to handle this EDD criterion.

Uniforms can also be tricky, but most businesses using contractors can get away with requiring uniforms as long as it is a client preference, visibility issue or even a safety concern. If it is important for your company’s branding and cohesiveness to mandate that contractors use uniforms, then make sure the contractors understand that clients demand it in order for them to feel comfortable working with an ‘outside’ professional.

Charge them a small marketing fee.

Most businesses using contractors spend money marketing their services and use hourly or salaried employees to accomplish this task. Charging your contractors a small marketing fee will legitimize this support and keep this arm of the business well within the range of compliance.

Allow for refusal of work.

You might need contractors to start at 8 a.m. but never demand that they do. Those who do make it in early will get work and those who do not, will not get any work. In fact, if you wish to create a schedule, then get all contractors to provide their availability then use it to “record” the individually created schedules. If any contractors change their availability they can turn away the work without obvious repercussion, however, if they refuse any work you can refuse to use them again. Make sure they understand how this works beforehand.

Pay them by job, not by the hour and pay them fairly

Be very careful about paying hourly for their services. Set lump sum payments for each individual job and your better contractors will simply make more money and accomplish the work faster. Make sure the demands of each “call of duty” are spelled out and adhered to or work will become shabby. Eliminate contractors who cut corners to get more work or clients and your business will suffer.

Save money on taxes, but don’t aim to make more money on their efforts. Keep the savings in perspective and try not to pay less for their efforts by switching over from employee to contractor.

NOTE: Take the time to study your state’s laws carefully and eliminate all reasons to be audited. Most states are looking for extra revenue, so the more you play by the rules the more likely you will sleep easy at night if an audit does occur.

Use of CRM Applications Must Be Process-Centric

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“CRM applications are very data centric in nature, but if you’re actually going to use one you need to be process centric,” said Bill Band, VP and Principal Analyst Serving Business Process Professionals for Forrester, in our conversation at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

“While a CRM is great at collecting and storing customer information, it’s not so good at connecting business process from end to end,” said Band.

To be able to handle a case from beginning to end and deliver a great customer experience, Forrester’s clients are trying to add business process capabilities on top of their CRM systems.

While it’s key to have process, it’s often not necessary for a simple customer interaction into the CRM. Overloading the CRM with unnecessary processes is one of the key pitfalls Band sees with adding business process management.

“Business process management can help you deliver a better customer experience but you should only be focusing on things such as customer service interactions, client on-boarding, load applications, or things where there’s a lot of complexity in the business process. If you don’t have that kind of complexity, a traditional data-centric solution will work just fine,” said Band.

Case Study: Improving Sales and Data Accuracy with eSurvey and Zoho Reports

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How do you improve the sales efficiency of your workforce of around 300 sales people, who document and submit their daily sales activities on paper forms? Simple. By moving them to a paperless system, that involves smart phones, a smart data collection app (eSurvey) and a reporting service on the cloud (Zoho Reports). That’s what the farmer owned cooperative, Southern States did.

Know more about how Southern States achieved an increase in sales of 20% and data accuracy of 100%.

Become Preferred: Make Customers Want You

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“Recessions are a great time to gain market share. That’s when you grow. That’s when dissatisfaction is at its highest. You need discontent,” said Michael Vickers (@michael_vickers), Executive Director of Summit Learning Systems in his presentation “Become Preferred: Up-Level the Brand Experience” at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

In his presentation, Vickers went about trying to answer the question, “How do we become preferred in our marketplace regardless of market conditions?”

How do you make your brand experience unique and different from the competition?

While we have an endless array of copycat type companies, Vickers advises businesses to say “No” to imitation. If you do follow the imitation path, you’ll get into an endless cycle of competitive benchmarking. “You want to be considered the only ones that do what you do,” said Vickers, quoting Jerry Garcia.

It’s not about the best product. It’s about the best experience. Your goal should be to become the preferred provider of what you sell, continued Vickers. One way to constantly differentiate is to challenge your assumptions.

Identify the stress of your customers better than your competition, remove it, and then connect, Vickers said explaining that people often don’t make rational decisions, well not initially. People make their decisions first with emotion and then they back it up with logic.

Take a standard service offering and up-level it

A simple way you can “up-level” your offering is to send out a “Thank you” note which moves you out of being seen as just a transaction to that of an experience. The “Thank you” note becomes memorable and therefore you create an experience with that simple action. Even when you don’t have a deal in play or no product sold, you have to add an experience. It gives you points in a relationship for which you can cash in later, like when you screw up, said Vickers.

Vickers offered this formula for achieving preferred status:

(Expected Value + Distinctive Value) x Trust = Preferred Status

To get to preferred status, said Vickers, you need to level up through these three stages:

Loyalty – Be scared of this. Don’t want people to just be “satisfied” with your service. Loyalty can be bought.
Advocacy – Word of mouth business.
Insistence – They want you. They ask for you.
Truly understand what business you’re in. Always ask “Why” people are buying your product. Once you answer the “Why,” align yourself with it, Vickers said.

Zoho Creator: Not-so-minor enhancements – Episode #1

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Zoho Creator is one of our services that is frequently updated. Some of these are major, and get all the attention they deserve, while some are not major enough to make news, but are still significant. Here are such updates to three existing features, that were specifically asked for by our community.

Options of radio button and check-box in 3-column layout

Radio button and check-box fields are meant for fields with multiple options. They worked fine, except that when having many options, they would appear as a long list. Hereafter, it can be arranged in one, two or three columns.

Image field supports uploading of images

Image fields have been able to fetch an image from a web URL. Now, in addition to that, they are capable of locating an image on your local storage devices, and uploading it.

File upload via email attachment

Adding records to Zoho Creator forms via email, now supports uploading of files too. Just attach the files to the email which contains the record you wish to add, as explained here. It gets uploaded in the corresponding file-upload fields on the corresponding form.

Enterprise Gamification for Business, Not Just Silly Games

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Gamification in the enterprise is about solving a business problem. We’re letting ourselves be gamified and as a result business operations are happily changing thanks to disruptive technologies and new business models, said Ray Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO for Constellation Research, in his presentation, “Demystifying Enterprise Gamification” at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

Gamification in the office looks at the how, when, where, and why of work. We have lots of other motivations outside of money, said Wang. If you can tap into these other motivations, you can change behavior.

Goal of any gamification effort is to create an intention-driven economy where those that initiate the game know what you would want from an initial decision. Gamification becomes a series of processes to create incentives to change behaviors and outcomes. The shift starts with active listening to determine rewards, achievement, and broader trends, said Wang.

When do you use gamification within your business?

According to Wang, these are the most common reasons:

Encouraging collaboration among functional teams
Improving outcomes in training and learning
Fostering employee referrals
Driving onboarding success among new hires
Creating a culture of sharing and recognition
In the office environment, you want to move beyond game-oriented tactics (e.g., badge, widgets, points systems) and think about the overall business goal and individual motivation.

With your customers, use non-monetary rewards to influence behavior

Cash incentives are less effective by 33% than non-monetary incentives, said Wang. Instead, go after people’s aspirations which appear on three different levels: recognition, access, and making an impact.

Level 1: Recognition

Influence tracking
Achievement badges
Featured placement
Awards and contests
PR and media placement
Speaking slots
Virtual currencies and points
Level 2: Access

Community resources and tutorials
Virtual goods
Special groups
Key executives
New features
New products
Beta versions
Public events
Private events
Level 3: Impact – These are people who want to change the product, transform the experience, or build another service. Heck, you want to hire these people. At best it’s 1% of your customers. These are your stars, said Wang.

Raise personal and community profile
Participate in feedback surveys
Influence product direction
Drive business outcomes
Provide proof point references
Evangelize products and concepts
Non-monetary incentives come in many different ways and you can use them to motivate your employees and your customers. Half your audience wants to be recognized and known, and half wants their privacy but still want their rewards.

If you want to figure out how you can gamify your audience and employees, you must first listen to determine what it is that motivates them, said Wang.

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