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CRM: Art or Science?

by David Lee
President & Founder, Vertical Marketing, Inc.,

Last month I asked you to tell me about your experiences with CRM successes and failures.

One reader said that sales is both art and science, and that CRM tools fail because they focus too much on the latter. He defines Science essentially as the management and marketing metrics portions of a CRM system. The art, in his words:

"The missing piece is that CRM fails to provide value and especially on the side of things where the sales artist needs them - how to understand and strengthen relationships, how to act on intuition, how to build trust and reputation with customers and prospects through networks and connections."

I both agree and disagree with this assessment.

I agree because the majority of CRM systems are implemented with the design purpose being to provide these metrics. This is a classic "top down" design. It is understandable because the ones making the CRM purchasing decision are typically the sales or marketing management teams, and they benefit greatly from these metrics. They therefore instruct their VAR to design the system to meet these objectives.

I disagree because modern CRM systems such as Microsoft CRM absolutely have the ability to support sales reps on the "artistic" side. The problem is not in the CRM software, but in the way that it is implemented. Management must understand that the first priority is to make the system succeed. This in turn means providing perceived value to the sales staff so that they will actually use the system. Only then can you focus on those oh-so-valuable management metrics.

Harvey Mackay, in his book, Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, focuses almost exclusively on this artistic side. There was once even ...

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About David Lee
Dr. David Lee is president and founder of Vertical Marketing, Inc., a CRM sales and consulting practice incorporated in 1987 with 5 offices world wide. Through VMI he has been involved in more than 1,000 CRM projects ranging in size from single users to thousands of users.
He has experience in all phases of the CRM life cycle including CRM baseline measurement and ROI analysis, sales process design, RFP development, system selection, system design and configuration, custom programming, Data cleaning and import, system integration, training and train-the-trainer, ongoing support, and rescuing faltering CRM projects.
Dr. Lee holds scores of CRM awards and certifications from customers, vendors and training organizations. He is personally certified on 7 CRM systems with separate certifications for specific modules and versions in many cases. He holds additional certifications and awards for countless third party applications. He is a Certified Sales Process Consultant and Certified Trainer.
Dr. Lee is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Northern Virginia and is working with the staff to develop a CRM course as a part of the MBA program. He is author of Microsoft CRM for Dummies as well as scores of articles and white papers on CRM subjects. He speaks on various CRM topics.
Prior to launching VMI, Dr. Lee held positions as a programmer/analyst, a US Army officer and as VP of Marketing for a Legal Time and Billing software company.
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