Making the most out of your CRM

Posted by James Capps, VP, Technology, E*TRADE Advisor Services on June 20, 2019

The key to maximizing the benefits of a CRM system is nailing the rollout.

Customer relationship management systems, or CRMs, are a critical tool for independent financial advisors to keep track of their clients and prospects, monitor their sales pipeline, and perform many routine administrative tasks. A CRM system can help boost your firm’s efficiency, capabilities, and ultimately your profitability. Yet the journey to get to this ideal state can have several speedbumps. Proper implementation is essential to creating an effective CRM system.

Start with a solid plan

A successful CRM implementation requires careful upfront planning. The first step is to form an implementation team. For most firms, this consists of a project champion, an application expert, and a product manager.

  • The project champion is usually filled by the top brass. Many times, the CEO or president who has a strategic vision for the CRM’s goals and design.
  • The application expert knows all the technical aspects of the system. If someone can’t fill this role, you may need to hire an outside consultant to help with implementation.
  • The product manager handles day-to-day system administration once the system is implemented. Your product manager should possess the technical skills to manage the system, and understand your business processes and how the CRM system will integrate with them.

Get staff cooperation and buy-in

In most instances, it’s the people, not the technology that determine the ultimate success or failure of a CRM system implementation. While they may understand its benefits, some staff may rather stick with what they know. As such, it’s important to get cooperation and buy-in from staff members who will be working with the new CRM system.

This starts with involving staff early on and giving them input into the selection of the system itself. Include staff members who will use the CRM regularly in the testing and review process leading up to system selection. This will give them a greater sense of ownership and familiarity with the system, which will help ease implementation.

Make sure staff members understand why the new CRM system is being implemented and explain the practical benefits of the system in a way they can understand.

Set SMART goals for your CRM system

The implementation team should work closely with senior managers and other stakeholders to set manageable goals for the new CRM system. Focus on the easy-to-remember and aspirational acronym SMART:

  • Specific: Provide access to client and prospect contact information for the relationship management team. Make it easy for them to update this information and enable tracking of critical tasks for each contact.
  • Measurable: Provide a timely review of the firm’s key performance indicators (KPIs), tracking of financial performance, and monitoring of client satisfaction levels.
  • Achievable: Have your team identify and agree on two to three goals you believe your CRM system can help achieve. Examples of achievable goals might include client retention, cross-selling, referral tracking, onboarding, or account management.
  • Relevant: For prospecting, your CRM should provide visibility into the firm’s sales pipeline and help identify where a customer is in their lifecycle—from onboarding to ongoing account management.
  • Time-based: Resist the temptation to pursue all your CRM goals at once. Break goals down into realistic milestones, set dates for achieving each step, and review your progress regularly.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the features and functionality of a new CRM. So, start small: Concentrate on a few features and functions first—ideally, the ones that are most critical to your firm. For example, you may begin by importing contact information for all your existing accounts and uploading prospect leads to populate your sales pipeline. You could then start tracking customer issues and marketing initiatives as your staff gets more comfortable with the system.

Create an implementation plan

Once you have set SMART goals for your CRM system and decided which features and functions to focus on first, you can dig into the nitty gritty of the implementation plan. Start by documenting and clarifying each step in your business processes. For example, your sales process may look something like this:

  1. Leads are entered into the CRM system.
  2. Initial prospect meeting is scheduled and due diligence begins.
  3. Follow-up meeting with prospect is scheduled if interest is shown.
  4. Proposal is created and delivered to prospect.
  5. Proposal and other documents are signed by prospect and authorized firm representative.
  6. Prospect is entered into the CRM system as a new client.

Each business process followed by your firm should be detailed similarly so it can be incorporated into your CRM system. Your plan should also identify which specific CRM reports need to be generated, based on your goals and priorities outlined above. A wide range of reports are available with most systems, including revenue, profitability (by client and/or industry), client demographics and tiers, and sales pipeline. Carefully decide which reports you need, and which you don’t, to avoid drowning in a sea of data.

Provide solid training and support

Once the system is implemented, provide adequate training, support, and follow-up to all users. Ask for feedback on how the implementation went and whether the system is working as advertised. Be responsive in addressing any complaints or concerns they have in a timely manner.

Be prepared to provide customized and individualized training to help every user become comfortable with the system. Don’t rely on organic adoption just because the CRM system is advertised as being simple and easy to use. Sidestepping adequate training can result in frustration and inefficiency. The extra effort and cost required to implement proper training can pay off in the long run as staff members increase their productivity. As part of the training, you may want to develop a custom user guide for staff that is specific to your company’s practices and roles.

Maximize your ROI in CRM

A CRM is a big-ticket item to say the least—it will be a major investment of both your time and money. But it’s worth it: According to a study by Nucleus Research, CRM integration drove increased productivity across sales, service, and operations, and a 20 to 30 percent growth in business.  Nailing the rollout is the key to realizing its full potential.

How E*TRADE Advisor Services can help

E*TRADE Advisor Services’ Liberty platform features a built-in CRM module to store client information and track communications inside one database that integrates directly with an advisor’s book of business. Liberty also allows for built-in analytics that allow advisors to easily monitor new and closed accounts, client deposits and withdrawals, assets under management, average account size, and number of accounts.

Contact us to learn more about E*TRADE Advisor Services, and follow us on Twitter (@etrade4rias) and LinkedIn for the latest advisor insights.

This article first appeared in ThinkAdvisor.

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