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    CRM in Professional Services Organizations: Driving Return on Investment

    Conceptually speaking, leaders in professional services organizations see the potential value of a CRM system. After all, a well-implemented and connected CRM helps drive more effective sales efforts, a higher bid-to-win ratio, and quality and consistency during pursuits.

    Circulating this message, and ultimately driving excitement and user adoption, is a tougher prospect. Simply stressing the “importance of a Client Relationship Management system” only goes so far. This is especially true if folks are at or above their utilization targets (which is kind of important…). Even suggesting an hour of activity in a CRM system can be a touchy subject. I don’t have time for this and I’m successful enough already without spending time in a CRM; there aren’t enough hours in the day.

    This is a fair point—and one that needs to be heard and addressed throughout the organization. The users of CRM, even the business development folks, are often a billable resource. Time is money. A $300/hr resource spending 1 hour per week over 50 weeks translates to $15,000 in opportunity cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 20 person specialty firm or a 5,000 person global organization: time spent interacting with a CRM (or any system for that matter) translates into real dollars.

    It’s easy (and common) to leave the conversation right there, dismissing CRM as a waste of time and money even if it benefits the firm. But let’s step back a bit from the CRM specifically and ask a few other questions about the situation: How much time is spent…

    • …coordinating who should join internal meetings for a client pursuit?
    • …reviewing whitespace in a client account?
    • …reconciling the deal funnel across business units?
    • …determining the right action to take on a referral?
    • …figuring out who knows whom inside of a target account?
    • …building lists for event invitations, customer appreciation, and references?
    • …researching, collaborating, and revising RFP responses?

    I’ll pause the list there because I think you get the point. There are many areas where good time is being thrown at low-value items. Each of the questions above speak to capabilities of a well-implemented CRM. If the 1 hour a week in CRM can ease some of that pain and otherwise wasted time, the equation starts to tip in favor of CRM.

    Addressing this and spreading this message inside of the firm needs to happen not only at a management level, but for anyone who is going to be expected to contribute to CRM. Identifying the benefits and levers to pull for each person is a key element to success. Technology alone does not cut it—the people and process need to be addressed as well.

    At the same time, user maturity also needs to be considered. Not everyone will use the system the same way (nor should they). This can be the result of different roles within the organization or even folks just being more comfortable doing things the way they are used to. The latter can be dangerous, so care must be taken to identify these pockets of resistance and have a means of addressing them.

    The process is straightforward on paper, however that’s not to say it’s “easy”. If implemented properly, the benefit to both individuals as well as the organization as a whole are fantastic. When users can see the return on their own time investment at the user level, all of a sudden it becomes easier to collect the detail needed at the strategic decision making level.