Business Development

Overcoming Common Business Development CRM Challenges

By: M. Danny Estrada, MBA, Director, Enterprise Solutions, Introhive

We are closing in on the end of another year, and it is always a good time to reflect on where we started, where we think we are now, and what we are going to do differently in the coming year to get the results we are looking for. One area where many  firms struggle is CRM. Though CRM has been around for years, it is surprising that many of the challenges remain the same: collecting data, getting marketing aligned, encouraging and facilitating adoption, and leveraging CRM to move the revenue needle. Let’s look at some of the areas where business development executives (BDEs), and those who manage them, might want to make tweaks in the coming year.

Enhancing Data Quality

Data is such a big topic, but probably the most important when it comes to using CRM successfully. Think of it as the foundation that  empowers everything else you can do with CRM. The challenges with data quality include accuracy, the opportunity cost of data entry versus using that time for sales activities, and finding ways to leverage data to create more opportunities.

For many BDEs today, one of their biggest complaints is that they do not entirely trust the data that resides in their CRM. Incorrect and missing data can make decision-making and buy-in difficult.

The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are now both AI-driven tools and other augmentation capabilities that improve the accuracy of information — technology we didn’t have a couple of years ago.

Some of those tools go a step further by automatically populating your CRM with the right contacts to alleviate time-intensive data entry. More importantly, automation instantly increases accuracy and raises the confidence of everyone using the data to increase pursuits and opportunities.

By integrating your CRM with other systems like time and billing, you can get key metrics on where opportunities lie within current clients and prospects. When utilized correctly, CRM compiles this information to illuminate key industries or practice areas where the firm can generate additional revenue, and it instantly provides a win for BDEs since it shows them where best to spend their time.

Aligning Sales and Marketing

One of the most common issues related to CRM involves how firms leverage marketing to empower business development. The key to success in this realm is dependent on marketing and business development being aligned on their initiatives as well as the definition of what makes a successful outcome.

There is often misalignment when marketing and BDEs use different systems that do not talk to each other. This creates a bottleneck and also makes it difficult for BDEs to provide feedback on targeted marketing efforts. In the best run organizations, marketing platforms are integrated with CRM, and BDEs can get information about nurturing programs and events so they can align with marketing and leverage their efforts.

When BDEs can see and understand how their clients and prospects are engaging in digital streams or attending events, it can help them refine their tactics and create a powerful strategy. More importantly, they can provide feedback on the effectiveness of these streams and help marketing direct their focus to the initiatives with the most potential for success. Many organizations have now created feedback loops within CRM that make it possible to provide insights without creating time-consuming meetings.

Growing Internal Adoption

Encouraging internal adoption is an area that presents a lot of challenges for BDEs as they look to use CRM to empower their BD initiatives. Simply stated, CRM should be focused, simple, and set up in a way that makes it easy to pursue target opportunities. Many BDEs feel like they work in a silo where others in the firm do not have access to or utilize CRM regularly.

One way to encourage CRM use is to use automation to deliver information from the CRM directly to members of the firm. When team members can automatically see what is going on within the CRM and who is being pursued, it is much easier for them to help their BDEs be successful.

Another obstacle to adoption is that many firms have a complicated sales pursuit process that makes using their CRM more complex. One solution is to simplify the pipeline and the way it needs to be updated. The effect is that professionals are much more proactive on updating information, making CRM a more valuable tool.

Automation tools that simplify pushing information into CRM through email are also helping with adoption. By eliminating manual entry, BDEs are freed up to spend more time meeting clients and pursuing engagements.

Moving the Needle

At the end of the day, the right CRM deployment should support tracking and focus on bringing new revenue streams into your firm. Simply put, CRM is the car that drives your success, but you are the driver. Like any car, it needs the right gas, and you need good directions to get you where you need to go. When a system is populated with the right information and the roadblocks are removed from your destination, you will ultimately get there faster.

As you look to the year ahead, aim to make some changes that move the needle a few steps ahead. Once you have had success driving the car, you will want to get in it more often, especially when it gets you and your firm to your desired results on a regular basis.