CRM or customer relationship management becomes more important during times of recession. When times are good, companies can still make sales even if they don’t necessarily have a relationship with the customer; I call this type of sales “accidental sales.” They are accidental because your organization didn’t really do anything special to make these sales, other than offer the product. During the current time period your company is not going to make many accidental sales.

Most companies start off with the customer in mind. When a business is beginning, it is looking to do anything possible to fulfill a need. The organization knows that if it can just find a way to solve a problem that people have, it will be able to succeed. Most businesses never make it past this step, but those that do become successful. However, somewhere along the way many businesses forget that fulfilling needs is what they do, and they begin to start offering products.

Without further adieu, I present CRM best practices:

1- Stop Selling Products

I like to start out with this best practice because it usually jerks the reader back into the right mindset. Yes, the ultimate goal of your organization is to sell and make money; there is no denying that. However, organizations and people need to take a look inside to find out what truly motivates them. At the end of the day most individuals will realize that they receive greater satisfaction and more enjoyment out of life from helping solve another human being’s problem.

The best news for those of us who want to make money is that when we help someone else, they almost always want to give us something in return. This innate human desire to give something back is known by marketers as the law of reciprocity. Fulfill a person’s need, solve a person’s problem and they are yours.

Hopefully by now your back in the mindset that your organization doesn’t sell products it sells solutions. This notion of fulfilling needs and not selling products is not a new one, but companies need to be constantly reminded of it.

2- Always Remember Typewriters

Remember those clunky old machines that had a weird spindle on the top that had to be pushed back at the end of each sentence. Perhaps the worst thing about typewriters was the backspace function. If you made a mistake, you couldn’t just click backspace. You had to pull the paper out and white it out, or on the really fancy typewriters you could move back and hit clear and if you were really lucky then it would white out the correct letter. Always remember these machines; here’s why.

During the first half of the 20th century typewriters were all the rage. Typewriters sold like hotcakes and they became better and better. Eventually the organizations that were selling typewriters suffered from a case of marketing myopia (a common disease where businesses begin seeing their market very narrowly). You see, typewriter companies began seeing their market as people who buy typewriters. However if they had broadened their vision just a bit they would have seen that their market really consisted of people who want to communicate.

Smith Corona, Imperial Typewriters, Olivetti, and other typewriting companies were all at the cutting edge of communication technology. They saw computers starting to creep up in the 1960, 70’s, and 80’s and were in the best position to make the jump to computerized word processing. So why do we have Microsoft Word instead of Smith Corona Word? These companies did not understand their market/customers. They believed what they sold was a typewriter when what they really sold was a fulfillment of the need to communicate. If these organizations had had good CRM processes in place they might be the Microsofts’ of today.

3-Build a Relationship of Trust

This is another well-known CRM best practice that is often forgotten or misunderstood. I personally am an expert at building relationships of trust. I had to be as I traveled throughout southern Mexico asking people to stop drinking alcohol, smoking, and having sex out of wedlock. Side note: if you think selling your product is hard try getting new generation teenagers and young adults to do what I just mentioned above.

So how was I able to make this hard sale?

There are several factors but one of the most important is that I built a very strong relationship of trust. Here are a few ways to do this with your organization.

  • Tell your customers something about yourself and your organization. In my heavily-accented Spanish I used to pull out a picture of my family and show it to the people that I met. I also told them what the favorite dish was back home. From that moment on I was no longer some odd guy who could not speak Spanish very well. I became a real person to them. Tell your customers something about your business that defines you. Where was it started? What do you do for company at a company get-together? Anything that will make them see you in a more personal light.
  • Ask your customers a lot of questions. Before I could ask people to change their lives dramatically I needed to know a lot about them. Most companies can’t interact with each customer one-by-one but find a way to stay involved with your customers. Social networking is an option here as it is a good way to keep a pulse on customer sentiments.
  • Build on common beliefs with your customers. Once you have a good feeling for what your customers’ wants and needs are you can show them that you understand and are aware of them. One good example of this is in the car industry where the major vendors are starting to offer job-loss protection to those who purchase cars from them (you can return your car, if you lose your job). These car vendors are showing that they understand what their current customers are going through.

4- Follow Up With Customers

This is a CRM best practice that can really distinguish you from your competition. After you make a sale of a product or a service follow up with the customer to see how things are going. GoDaddy is excellent at this. A few months after buying a domain from them or one of their other products/services, GoDaddy has a real live person who is a native English speaker call and ask a few questions. And you know what, that person doesn’t once ask “Would you like to upgrade?” He/she asks simple follow up questions like, “How are things going with your new domain? Any questions or concerns?”. They end the conversation by letting you know you can call anytime if you have questions. I don’t agree with all of GoDaddy’s marketing methods, but this one is a pure masterpiece.

5- Brand Yourself

Hopefully if you have followed the four previous CRM best practices then you will have created a brand. Now all you need to do is name it. There is a lot of advice out there about naming conventions, but I’m one of those who believe at the end of the day the name doesn’t really matter that much as long as you know who your customers are and they know a little bit about you. If you don’t believe me then spend thousands or millions of dollars on an advertising agency so they can come up with a name for you.

There is a lot more to customer relationship management that what has been mentioned above. I plan to continue building this page and other related pages to offer more on CRM Best practices. As always feel free to add comments and resources below.

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