CRM and Contact Management: What to Use and When


I wrote recently about the necessity for CRM (and other enterprise applications, for that matter) to generate quantifiable value for companies. With the current economic conditions, technology buyers won't purchase a product just because it's on a Magic Quadrant somewhere. They need to know the company can derive business benefit from it.


Many companies probably don't require the functionality of a full-fledged CRM system but instead could use a contact management solution, which is generally less expensive. An eCommerce Times article written by two Aberdeen Group anaylsts provides some great advice on how to select the right solution based on your company's most common sales interaction models, as well as some hints on optimizing the value of both CRM and contact management.


Essentially, contact management works fine for situations in which a single sales person sells into into single or multiple job roles. The contact management solution helps sales people maintain accurate contact and company information and detailed notes about their conversations. For situations in which a sales person calls on multiple job roles, the solution helps illustrate the relationship between the various contacts.


CRM is generally the better choice when multiple individuals are involved on the sales end. That way, sales folks can access each other's notes so they can better coordinate their contacts with prospects. And a fuller and more integrated set of data, including customer service information, accounting and billing details and other relevant notes, can be accessed by all.


The Aberdeen analysts illustrate these points with detailed examples. They also offer tips to maximize the value of both CRM and contact management, including some interesting statistics from their research.


Among their tips for contact management: Formalize and document sales processes. While 57 percent of CRM users have done so, only 39 percent of contact management users have followed suit. Contact management users also lag CRM users in two other recommended practices, formalizing and documenting key performance indicators (28 percent vs. 64 percent) and implementing sales training and employee education programs (54 percent vs. 68 percent).


Scalability should be a key factor in evaluating contact management solutions, especially with "freeware," the analysts advise. Thirty-eight percent of users surveyed by Aberdeen say they have already outgrown their contact management solution.


For CRM users, they suggest:


  • Customize solutions to match your company's specialized business processes.


  • Create a system of record for sales interactions.


  • Create a common language for customer-related communications to avoid confusion over such terms as "qualified lead," which can mean different things to sales representatives and marketing professionals. Thirty-eight percent of Aberdeen respondents use an internal wiki to create a glossary of relevant terms.


  • Provide an outlet for sales representatives to document best practices or frequently-asked questions, information which can then be used during training sessions.


I covered several of the above points in my November post on process-oriented CRM.