Data quality in Dynamics CRM and its importance to forecasts

In today’s market, a customer relationship management (CRM) system is an invaluable asset to any business. As the name implies, CRM helps a business to manage relationships with its customers by facilitating the storage of relevant information and data, such as contact details, past transactions and sales opportunities in an easy-to-access format. The benefits are endless: for example, information can be shared instantly across the business with any employees who have contact with the same customers and data regarding spending habits can be analysed and used to design sales strategies tailored specifically to customers. CRM can also play a huge part in forecasting sales, performance and even staffing needs.

Forecasts play a key role in planning your business. Elements such as previous sales estimates and proceeds, sales team performance, and industry trends are considered while predicting monthly or quarterly sales targets. This is where software such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM excels. Businesses may have their own CRM systems, but these generally don’t use big data in their forecasting calculations. Big data is a term used to describe large volumes
of fast moving data that standard procedures of data storing are not designed to analyse. Big data is generally information gathered from social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook or analytics (e.g. clicks). By analysing information like customer experience and patterns from these sites, CRM systems can highlight trends that could have a huge impact on your brand, and you can react accordingly.

Because Microsoft Dynamics CRM uses big data as well as your company data, forecasting is more accurate. Additionally, by offering businesses powerful tools capable of identifying sales opportunities, as well as analysing how customers respond to products, this can greatly enhance the success of marketing strategies and cut costs for companies. Because of the massive amount of information CRM gathers, you can shape customer experiences for increased engagement and revenue, it is a great way to understand consumer behaviour by allowing you to see things from their perspective.

The effectiveness of all of this, however, is also dependent on the quality of the data stored within the system. Say you have a sales team out on the street meeting new customers, generating new leads and creating new sales opportunities – basically, gathering a wealth of useful information. They’re probably committing all of it to memory or writing it down in notepads. Not only could this information be forgotten or lost, it would be awkward and time-consuming to share across the rest of the business. For effective CRM, this information needs to be entered quickly, accurately and completely into the system. In this respect, the more you put into CRM, the more you get out!

Measuring Sales Velocity in Dynamics CRM

CRM systems are fairly good at giving an overall picture or ‘snapshot’ of deals, and what deals  are expected to close within a given timeframe, for example within the next week, month etc. However, what they aren’t so good at telling you is just how fast deals are moving through the process, this is known as the ‘velocity.’ Velocity simply means how quickly you close a deal.  By using the sales velocity you can figure out your ‘pipeline velocity’ and gage whether or not this is increasing or decreasing, this is called ‘acceleration.’ The good news is, if you are using Dynamics CRM, this can be easily measured and the data is probably already there – just waiting for you to unravel it!

If you are using CRM for your sales process, you would typically be using the Opportunity record to represent potential sales in the pipeline. An opportunity is created, it gets pushed through the steps of the sales process, and then this sale will eventually close. If successful, the sales are closed as ‘won’ and if unsuccessful the sales are closed as ‘lost.’ Regardless of whether sales were successful every sales opportunity has a ‘Created On’ date field and every closed opportunity (whether won or lost) has an ‘Actual Close Date Field.’ If the opportunity was ‘won,’ it will have an ‘Actual Revenue Field’ filled with an estimate revenue by default. Using this data, you can calculate sales pipeline velocity and measure how this is increasing or decreasing over time.

This can be difficult the first few times you do it, and also relies on exporting data into Excel. If your goal is to access this information within Dynamics CRM, you may run into some issues. Before we start solving these issues however, it’s important to remember that although pipeline velocity matters, it isn’t the be all and end all. Changes in pipeline velocity are important for analysis but always look at the bigger picture too – for example larger deals will naturally take longer to close. Your revenue per sales day could be rocketing, but your pipeline velocity decreasing, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case. Essentially, don’t beat yourself up about it, and take everything into account when analysing velocity, not just the figures themselves.

How to measure sales velocity within Dynamics CRM

So, you can export data to Excel, but there must be an easier way, right? Well if you know how, kind of. Excel analysis simply requires you to insert figures into calculated fields, but how would you go about doing this in Dynamics CRM?

Firstly, you could add a custom field ‘Sales Days’ to the opportunity entity, but the problem comes when attempting to enter values into this field. Sure, you could write code to subtract the value of the ‘Created On’ field from ‘Actual Close Date Field’ where there is a won opportunity. However, if you do this you will only be able to analyse the velocity of your closed deals. Since velocity is particularly useful for analysing deals that are currently open and that you can act upon, this analysis is incomplete or in effect, useless.

So how can you extend this to include open opportunities? The easiest way to do this is with custom SQL Server Reporting Services Reports. Using this approach you can define a field using expressions such as ‘Today ()’ to return to the value of the current date and when the report is run, calculate averages of numeric fields across groups of data. So SSRS reports seem to be the solution to the problem here.

We hope there is the possibility that there are improvements to features of Dynamics CRM so that this can be made even easier – and there have been hints of such features in the ‘Big Data’ and ‘Analytics’ that look promising!

If you would like to learn more about Dynamics CRM, check out our other blogs (links here)

Improving User Adoption in Dynamics CRM

If you’ve invested a significant amount of money in implementing a CRM system, you expect to see results. The problem for many companies is that the CRM system is not used actively enough; it is not seen as an essential process and therefore many activities and ‘stages’ are completed offline. But how can you increase the number of users of Dynamics CRM and make it more relevant to your key users? These are just a few of the problems companies face, but there are ways to overcome these obstacles and implement Dynamics CRM in a more effective way within your organisation.

So what are the problems?

Before we attempt to solve the issues, it’s important to first decipher why users are not using Dynamics CRM more actively. So what issues specifically are putting users off using a CRM system? Firstly, users may find the interface challenging or difficult to learn and understand, and because of this they are unable to accomplish what they’d like to with the existing model. Another issue is that people simply may not see the system as a necessity, as current processes do not include the use of Dynamics CRM as a mandatory step. There may also be a lack of collaboration across departments, systems and other users.

So what can you do about these problems?           

Firstly, in order to encourage users to actively use Dynamics CRM, you must first make it an essential step in the process. If staff don’t need to use the system, they won’t, especially if they are reluctant to change. If steps must be performed within CRM users will begin to get used to the system and use it more effectively and willingly. In addition to this, you must offer staff support and guidance on how to correctly use the system. By doing this, everyone will feel more comfortable and it allows staff to see the benefits of correctly implementing the system into normal processes. Nothing is perfect first time, so hold regular meetings to discuss the functionality of the system and how this could be improved upon. Feedback is key; so ask users what they like/don’t like and use customisation and training to solve these issues.

Although using Dynamics CRM works for some activities, it doesn’t always work and it isn’t always necessary, so it’s important not to force every activity to be performed within CRM. Use trial and error to see what works for you and always involve current users in discussions for improvements. In addition to this, don’t be over-optimistic. You may not achieve all of your goals, but that’s okay! Be realistic and aim for improvements – any improvement should be seen as an achievement. By taking these steps and effectively collaborating across departments and between users you can make sure your investment in Dynamics CRM pays off for you, and helps your business continue to grow and succeed.

Customising sales process flows in CRM

Customising sales process flows effectively in Microsoft Dynamics CRM is fairly straight-forward, but without allowing users to go through the same stages and processes you could be using CRM ineffectively for your business. We’ve written a short piece on some simple steps to follow when customising and modifying sales process flows in CRM, so you can ensure your business reaches its maximum potential.

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM business process opens up exciting opportunities for modelling business processes, particularly in sales. This allows companies to monitor steps at each stage of the sales process, an excellent guide for sales representatives and sales management alike. Business process flows enable sales representatives to efficiently work through the process, with the ability to work through any items or checklists completed at each stage quickly and orderly. This is also helpful for sales management, and can be used as a coaching tool.

In Microsoft Dynamic CRM, the standard functionality already includes default business processes that relate specifically to the sales process. These include Lead to Opportunity Sales Process and Opportunity Sales Process, which can be personalised to suit your individual business. In order to do this effectively, create a copy of the standard process and then modify this copy.

Unsurprisingly, the Lead to Opportunity Sales Process is used to model the sales process that starts with a lead, and then moves through to the Opportunity Sales Process stage. Once the lead sales stages have been completed, the user will move on to complete the stages within the opportunity entity.

The Opportunity Sales Process is used to model the sales process that begins with the opportunity. This process then follows through the various stages of the opportunity sales process. Both Lead to Opportunity Sales Process and the Opportunity Sales Process are used in conjunction with each other, and are particularly useful to organisations that utilise lead entity in order to track prospects in CRM.

If an opportunity is for an existing account, you would normally create an opportunity for that account using the Opportunity Sales Process Flow. Most organisations modify these processes to suit their individual sales process, including modifying the stages, steps and the corresponding fields associated with each stage. When personalising these stages, be sure to modify both the Lead to Opportunity Sales Process and the Opportunity Sales Process, so the changes match each other. This will make sure that all users follow the same stages regardless of what process they are following.

These are just a few tips to make sure you use Microsoft Dynamics CRM effectively for your business. If you would like some more information about CRM business process flows, check out our other blogs (links here).