An integrated customer relationship management (CRM) system can be invaluable in developing customer relationships, expanding those relationships and retaining clients. The benefits can easily justify the investment required — provided, of course, that employees are actually using the CRM to its full potential.
When Scott Mangelson joined accounting and business services firm Armanino in 2011, there was a small deployment of the Microsoft CRM system in place. A believer in the benefits of CRM, Mangelson became an advocate for more widespread use within the firm and started up a practice to market it to clients.
Within a year, Armanino decided to seek a software partner to help grow the CRM practice. In 2012, the firm switched from its existing data intelligence platform, which wasn’t integrated with the CRM, to one that was: InsideView. This market and sales intelligence platform aggregates a wealth of data from a wide variety of sources and integrates it with the CRM in an easy-to-use way. It worked so well with the CRM that in 2013, Microsoft bundled InsideView’s platform – which was renamed Insights, powered by InsideView — into its CRM. In 2016, Microsoft rebranded its CRM as Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement.
After a six-month trial, a survey of internal users at Armanino revealed how the new system affected their work lives. “We asked them for a before and after comparison,” says Mangelson, a partner and CRM Practice Leader at the San Ramon, California-based firm. “What we found was that our employees were spending 24 percent less time on pre-call research.”
Previously, they had to go to company websites, LinkedIn and other sources to find news announcements, press releases, financial updates, and contacts for prospective clients. Insights did all that research for them, even providing a corporate tree structure and insights on a prospect’s competition. With the click of a button, users could copy the information into the CRM, eliminating data entry.
That information made it much easier to find the right decision-makers. Previously, 60 percent of the employees surveyed said it was difficult to find the right decision-makers. With Insights, 80 percent reported that it was easy to do so.
The company went all out to encourage employees to use the CRM, and adoption increased by 50 percent. “It took some evangelizing,” Mangelson recalls. “We conducted training classes, had followups at three and six months, and then held a group session during which we walked everyone through the process of downloading their contacts from a variety of apps.”
Before using Insights, managers would ask if anyone had contacts at prospective clients, then share that information. That process is now done automatically, enabling the firm to leverage connections much more effectively.
With a successful case study based on its own experience, Armanino stepped up marketing the CRM to clients. “No other CRM has data embedded like this, so it gave us a huge advantage over the competition,” Mangelson says. His group has now implemented the CRM for several hundred clients.
Sales productivity at Armanino has increased noticeably, and “we know we have won business because of this,” he says. Use of the CRM is now mandatory for employees in sales and presales, as well as project managers — “anyone who interfaces with clients,” Mangelson explains. “We continue to market to existing clients because we have so many products we can sell them.” Executives have started using it as well, to get regular updates on prospects, clients and competitors, among other things.
In one instance, the firm learned that a client in financial trouble was considering reorganization. “We got on the phone immediately and worked out a payment schedule,” he says. “We were paid in full. We might have wound up at the bottom of a list of creditors if the system hadn’t given us that information.”
Mangelson says the firm couldn’t be happier with the combination of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Insights. “It makes the process of finding new customers and selling to them easier and more efficient,” he declares.