The Thinking Behind Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Jon Ferrara knows a thing or two about business relationships. He’s one of the pioneers of the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software industry, having founded Goldmine in 1989 and selling it in 1999 for a reported $83 million. Although he took some time off after the sale, he didn’t sit idle. He started another CRM, Nimble, with a focus on a simple, easy-to-use experience. But don’t think that simple doesn’t mean powerful. Jon is proud to have partnered recently with Microsoft; their mutual goal is to modernize sales and marketing activities using tech that powers the customer journey.

I interviewed Jon on Amazing Business Radio, and learned that he is not only a very savvy businessman, he is also a deep thinker. We started out talking straight business—mostly about CRM and Nimble— but then he brought up a few “deep thinking” ideas that gave me some insight into his personal side. Throughout the interview, I thought, “Let’s tweet that one out.” That said, I thought that sharing several “Jon-isms” in this column might get you thinking about your business relationships. Here are a few of my favorites:

Good customer service begins from the inside; employees need to be unified in their mission to enhance the customer’s journey. We’ll start with one that’s straight business. One of the keys to using a CRM is to give employees access to the customer’s record. Making that available to all employees who have contact with a customer allows them to create a personalized experience. Customers like talking to someone who is knowledgeable not only about the company’s products and services, but also about them. A good, accessible CRM program helps employees understand the customer’s buying history, read comments the customer made in the past, and much more. Obviously, there is some information that can’t be shared with every employee, but what you can share allows employees to deliver better customer experience. It’s worth repeating that customers appreciate when the representatives they talk to know who they are.

Service is the new sales. Selling is about building relationships; there’s nothing new about that. However, today’s way of selling has changed even just from a few years ago. Customer service doesn’t start after the sale is made and the customer needs help. It happens from the very beginning of the sales process. The first interaction the customer has, even if it’s looking at an advertisement, needs to create some level of confidence that causes them to take the next step. And, all the money spent on advertising and marketing to get a customer to connect with the company means nothing if when the customer does finally talk to someone, the experience is less than stellar. Start customer service from the very beginning of the sales process.

We grow by helping other people grow. This is where Jon started sharing some of his personal philosophy. But it’s still sound business advice; it reminds me of the late Zig Ziglar’s quote: “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” Help your customers achieve success and they will reciprocate by giving you their business. That’s being a partner, not a vendor. And you can do the same for your employees. Help them achieve success and they will be passionate about taking care of their customers.

Life is like a Beethoven symphony; there are high notes and there are low notes, and you must accept both. This is sage advice for both your business and personal life. We must accept that not everything that happens to us is going to be perfect. Sometimes it’s just plain bad. Other times, it’s good. When it’s good, embrace it; when it’s bad, accept it and find a way—even the smallest way—to make it better. I’ve always believed that bad days only last 24 hours.

Jon’s personal philosophy pours over into his business. His “helping other people grow” comment above ties into his belief that “we’re all on this planet to grow.” Jon says it’s in the DNA of the company. It’s the way team members treat each other and the way they treat their partners, which translates into the experience that Nimble creates for its customers. It’s all about building relationships and helping others be successful.

I often say that the goal of any and every company is to acquire and keep customers. CRMs have helped organizations do just that for years. That’s where Jon and Nimble come in. By focusing on getting new customers and keeping the old, you will find that achieving any other goal you may have somehow becomes easier. Help others grow, and they will help you—and your business—grow as well. In the end, isn’t that really what it’s all about?

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