Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Simple Truth about Complex Manufacturing: Tech Firms Need CRM as Much as Any Other Company-And Sometimes Even More

Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Simple Truth about Complex Manufacturing: Tech Firms Need CRM as Much as Any Other Company-And Sometimes Even More

Article excerpt

There's a long-standing (and wrong-headed) belief that CRM technology can be a cure-all for a company's operational woes. There's an equally long-standing (and equally wrongheaded) perception that high-tech manufacturers and vendors don't need CRM. Not only is the 360-degree view of customers, partners, and processes important in the technology vertical; it's made tricky by the complexity of the business models and by the roots of those misperceptions.

In the first place, every business needs CRM, even if only to manage customers' account histories and communications--CRM grew from contact management, after all. Why, then, the idea that tech businesses don't need it? "It's not as much a process vertical [as] financial services," says Tim Hickernell, senior research analyst, applications, Info-Tech Research Group. The focus is on the products themselves--and since tech salespeople are often former engineers, they're less likely to be relationship-driven.

This is a dangerous reduction of the situation. Even in the tech world, says Diane Albano, vice president of Americas operations at Progress Software, "People are still selling to people, trying to solve a problem." Progress promotes sales effectiveness of businesses across many verticals, and Albano says the key is communicating. "If you can get that message across to your team, you'll have happier customers and more motivated workers."

Using and contributing to the CRM system, remembering that business is about the customer and not the product, are basic elements that haven't become as ingrained among tech firms as they have elsewhere. Fortunately, fixing issues around adoption and technique among techies requires largely the same effort as it does in other verticals. "You must make it mandatory--it's not up for debate. But do it in a gentle, prodding way, not with yelling," Albano says. "Show how you're enabling salespeople in order to make them understand why it's necessary."

Beyond adoption, Hickernell notes where tech companies are different from others in terms of CRM. "Selecting the right CRM components is more important," he says. "Channel management and knowledge management are important considerations. There's a very complex value chain--relationships are at least B2B2C," he says, and often reflexive, where two manufacturers sell each other their products. …

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