Ask any sales or account management professional if they went into the field to spend a bulk of their time inputting data into their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, and I would wager a bet that the answer would be a resounding “No”. Look to any job description or posting for this type of position and you will likely find that CRM experience is desired, however, this skill falls somewhere near the bottom. While an important requirement in this day and age, the main goal of a sales representative or relationship manager is to drive business and ensure client satisfaction, not to sit alone at one’s desk entering data for hours on end.
As a relationship manager in the financial services industry for over a decade, I have witnessed numerous advancements in technologies and have seen how when applied properly, we are able to obtain and utilize client data and information in amazing ways. I have also seen reluctance and confusion on how to use them effectively as well as an overabundance of data which can take hours to sort through.
Theoretically, technology is meant to save time and ease the burden of a manual process. It is meant to be a tool to aid us and simplify our lives so that we are able to focus on more important things. For relationship managers, our focus is client satisfaction, growth, and retention. We are there to serve and advocate on behalf of our clients while balancing the goals and objectives of the firm at which we work. In my experience, it is the connection and collaboration with others that I truly find exciting and gratifying. Business decisions are still made by people and building and sustaining solid relationships take communication, trust, and a lot of time. I believe it is the personal and professional relationships forged and maintained over the years that perpetuate on-going success for a company.
In the world of sales and relationship management, our go-to technology is the all-important CRM. This software houses all of our client and prospect information and history. However, the data saved in the system are dependent on individuals. Each person may utilize the system differently, which can result in missing or inaccurate information. This in turn can skew the key performance indicators (KPIs) that management looks to when reviewing and setting goals for the sales and relationship management teams.
Just as each individual team member tracks their client interactions differently, so does each company. It is important to assess which KPIs are relevant and beneficial to your company and your team based on specific roles and job requirements within the sales team.
CRM software often seems to be paradoxical when it comes to time-savings. Each call, meeting, new contact, or email needs some sort of manual intervention to be saved to the CRM. While metrics obtained systematically can be useful for forecasting and goal-setting, external factors have an obvious impact to potential sales and existing accounts, so again, more time is spent updating information should something change.
Admittedly, there are shortcuts that can be used for various tasks, but not everyone has the knowledge or training to use these, so valuable time can often be lost copy and pasting or re-writing notes, for example. With all the data that can potentially be input, it is no wonder we are often lost in a sea of information searching for that needed kernel, hoping that you or one of your colleagues had the forethought to save that email or those notes to the account history.
Instead of spending time on an endless search for information possibly saved in your CRM, we need to recognize what is hurting or helping our tracking methods and reporting processes. We need to identify which tasks are sucking our time away from our clients and prospects. It is then we can make the necessary adjustments.
Not every company has the internal resources to make these improvements. There is a booming field of CRM applications and add-ons, developers and administrators, specifically trained to do this kind of work. This seems to be proof enough that CRM software often needs to be adapted.
Specific to sales and relationship management, I would suggest finding ways to make it as easy and efficient as possible for your team – you want them talking to your clients and prospects, not bogged down by time-consuming data entry.
- Determine and communicate what information should be saved to your system
- Make sure everyone is trained properly on how to use the system and corresponding mobile apps
- Ask for employee feedback and suggestions
- Be responsive and willing to invest in improvements
- Consider bringing in outside experts to help streamline your current CRM
And remember, you hired these professionals to be the face of your company, to grow your business, and to serve your clients. Allow this be the main focus of sales and relationship management and use the technology to track their success.
Elisabeth Axelrod is an experienced relationship management professional working in the financial services industry for over sixteen years, focused on strengthening and growing her connections within each institution and supporting their unique business needs and initiatives. She finds the challenge of developing strategies and identifying solutions for her clients deeply rewarding. You can follow her: www.linkedin.com/in/elisabeth-axelrod