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Management demystified: customer relationship management technologies cloud--based or locally hosted--can be effectively used by the multifamily housing industry,.

What is cloud computing and why should you care?" asked Force by Design President Micaiah Filkins, who gave a presentation on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and their application to multifamily sales at the AIM 2.0 Internet Marketing for Suppliers Conference in December in Santa Clara, Calif.

"Just because you store things on the Internet doesn't give your business value," says Filkins, who walked attendees through a start-to-finish capabilities demo of a leading cloud-based CRM system.

Whether cloud-based or hosted on desktops and local servers, CRM systems can substantially impact the effectiveness and efficiency of salespeople working in the apartment industry, Filkins said.

In addition to Salesforce.com, the product demoed during the session, CRM systems including ACT, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft CRM and even Microsoft Excel, Google Docs and e-mail marketing systems were discussed as key tools for interacting with clients and prospects and furthering the sales relationship. Among the primary strategies multifamily suppliers should look to leverage when implementing CRM technologies:

* Who are your top customers? "You'd be surprised how many organizations don't know the answer to that question" Filkins savs. CRM systems can identify and leverage sales assets to top accounts.

* How many deals do you have open in your pipeline? Salesforce.com, for example, shows current deals expected to close monthly in dollar volume and will identify who is closing the most business for your organization, among other metrics.

* Define your objectives. Sales teams should identify a metric, timeline or benefit with which to gauge the success of CRM system implementation. "'I want to increase revenue by 50 percent this year' is a great example," says Filkins.

* Be patient and gauge performance and results incrementally. "CRM systems are like any new technology," Filkins says. "It takes time to boil the ocean, and you need a lot of first downs to get to a touchdown, you need a lot of touchdowns to win the game."

* Don't skimp on training. In particular, look for on-demand training included on your platform. "If you want success, train, train, train," Filkins says. "Start at four hours as a bare minimum. Determine if your process is well documented and laid out, and use job cards that sit on the desk as a quick reference."

Ultimately, CRM systems should help all enterprises to better focus time and other resources on income-producing prospects and clients rather than frittering away hours on zero-impact leads and accounts, preventing multiple meeting cycles from shoppers who lack serious intent as they endlessly kick the tires of an organization and its offerings.

"If you are ever struggling to understand who your customers are, if you are yearning for more front-office efficiency, if you have an extended sales cycle and if you don't intuitively know the answers to those questions, you probably need a CRM," Filkins says.

FYI

For information on using CRM as a multifamily sales management tool and to download a copy of Filkin's presentation, visit www.apartmentsupplierconf.com/sessions
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Title Annotation:Customer Relationship
Publication:Units
Date:Mar 1, 2012
Words:492
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