Are you using Territory Management functions in your CRM?


In my experience, one of the least adopted tools among customers deployed CRM for Salesforce automation is Territory management.

Though Sales planning tools were not that mature few years ago, the kind of features that you see in today’s version of popular CRM software for Territory management is quite compelling as it removes a lot of overheads in managing record ownership and data visibility control.

Even some of the Organizations where CRM is extensively deployed globally uses rudimentary methods to assign territories in the CRM where the Accounts & Opportunities are hardbound to the Sales Users leading to a nightmare when there are people movements or major & minor territory realignments in reassigning the records back to the new team and ensuring the visibility is managed right up the hierarchy

Territory management, on the contrary, decouples the hard link between Sales team and Accounts / Opportunities in CRM, thereby even if the Sales person leaves the Organization, the data integrity is maintained the moment you associate the new person to the territory and re-run the assignment rules

While the above is one of the advantages from a data management standpoint, recent updates to the popular CRM tools includes advanced planning capabilities as part of territory management making it compelling. To name a few

  • Ability to automate the assignment of the right sales person to the right territory in a large organization by running rule based assignments than doing it manually
  • Tools to review gaps in territory assignment like uncovered regions, regions that are overlapping, regions that are unbalanced (revenue potential among territories is skewed etc)
  • Link quota to territories and compare the performance of one territory versus other
  • Bulk reassignments of users to records during 1 time yearly planning activity and real-time runs to manage minor / major realignments etc

I see the above as a poorly utilized function in many CRM deployments and would recommend customers using CRM to review closely the latest features available in their CRM on Sales Planning / Territory management and plan to leverage one of the important features in Salesforce automation.

Switching to a Mac, My experience


The first computer operating system that I used was MSDOS during my college days and after that, it was only Windows, Windows and Windows. A month and a half ago decided to take a stab at Mac notebook and a recent driver to this switch was the poor-quality Windows Lenovo laptop I own that went through frequent breakdowns both hardware and software.

Though in general, I know Mac is a better product for personal use, I was sceptical about using one machine for both Business and Personal purpose as I am not sure about the support Mac extends to some of the products (common) that I use in Windows world. I hope this blog would be of interest to those who are contemplating on switching to Mac world.

Before getting into that, let me tell you how this beautiful piece of machine made my professional life easy in general.

·     First and foremost, it is always ON. You open the laptop, you click the “Power” button you are ready and all applications respond instantaneously without any lag. I work with my team early morning hours over web conference and it used to take at least a 10 – 15 minutes of my time in Windows to get on to a call as it takes its own time to boot / wake-up and the applications take a lot of time to respond, unlike Mac. I tell you it’s frustrating at 5 AM J

·     It’s also brilliant in handling back to back mixed meetings, one face to face and one over the web. I can never make it on-time in the windows world as it never responds when I need it. Now I am quite confident to schedule and manage back to back meetings without any hesitations, all I need a couple of minutes to be on my Mac.

·     Second, it’s charging capacity is fantastic. If my laptop is fully charged, I don’t need to carry around my charger to office/client meetings. The battery life is good enough for 8 to 10 hours and it is big relief / great peace of mind when compared to my old Lenovo that doesn’t hold the charge for more than an hour or two. Finding charging points in a client’s place, in an outdoor meeting setup etc. is a big nuisance of the past.

·     Third, it gels perfectly with my Apple ecosystem and the most important one is iPhone. My iPhone is always connected to my Mac when both are on the same Wi-Fi network and it means I can handle my voice calls, messages, hear voice mails all right in the Mac without running around to locate my iPhone. This is a big productivity booster

·     The Last one is it is plug and play. It just detects and connects to the right audio/video accessories for a meeting without juggling around

As far as Business applications are concerned, this is how it works for me now.

·     As an Organization, we live and breathe CLOUD. So, to deal with our customer deliverables, I don’t need anything other than a web browser so this is not an issue at all, unlike my other friends who might need some special software to access environments that might be supported only in Windows. Our internal systems including HRMS, email are all 100% cloud based so this part is no brainer.

·     The second most import set of apps is Microsoft office apps. The same office 360 license can be reassigned and reused in Mac and there is no need for any special licensing for Microsoft office apps to work on a Mac. More importantly, my personal take is office apps work better in Mac than in Windows :). The difference in UX is very minimal to Nil between Windows and Mac.

·     The third one is Chrome. Chrome has become part and parcel for my web access by laptop, desktop, mobile or tablet. Chrome is 100% complete in Mac and you don’t miss anything from access to bookmarks across your devices to Chrome apps.

·     Over and beyond the above, I got most of the other apps in Apple Mac App store including but not limited to Skype, Dropbox, Google Drive etc.

So, what is the catch here ?. All you must do is a make the right decision to switch to a Mac (it’s not cheap and don’t waste your money in a better windows laptop) and be prepared to go through the Mac learning curve for a week or two to get comfortable with the User Experience.

Walmart.com – Makes omnichannel experience a reality


Walmart, the famous American multi-national retailer doesn’t need an introduction to anyone, but probably their app / wamart.com needs one 🙂

While everyone is still figuring out their customer journey maps to provide a true omnichannel experience, Walmart seems to be one step ahead of all, leading this space leveraging its great offline assets (physical stores) and growing online presence(walmart.com)

Omnichannel is a jargon for “Seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store” 🙂

For many of you who are not aware of Walmart’s online presence, it may be interesting to know that they stand No. 3 in e-retailing in the USA and do business worth ~$15 Billion annually.

Here are things I like about Walmart’s omnichannel experience.

  • You can place an order online / app and pick the product from one of the retail stores or get it delivered at home (basics)
  • Any product shipped to your home or picked from the store can be returned to any Walmart store and all purchase from online to offline adhere to the standard return policy of 90 days
  • You can walk-in to a store and if you like a product but don’t find your sizesimply scan the bar code in your app and look for your size in walmart.com universe to get it shipped to your home right in the store.
  • Load your credit card in your app, scan the QR code displayed in POS machine before billing starts and make the bill payment with the card stored in your mobile and do the purchase without taking your wallet to the nearby Walmart store
  • The receipt of the offline purchase (along with other online) is in your mobile for your ready reference for an exchange / refund anytime in future and no hassles of searching around for bills to exchange / refund
  • Receive store pick-up notifications on online orders as and when the status change from Ordered to “ready for pickup”
  • Find out the nearest store in your app, set the one you like as your home store and get to know all info about the store from phone number to operation timings.

It is interesting to see how great technologies are converging to make true CX a reality.

I read in a recent article that Walmart is making a huge CAPEX investments in their offline assets and intend to leverage their true omnichannel experience to beat the number 1, you all aware of…

I would call this as a “Strategy” to build sustainable competitive advantage 🙂

Image Courtesy : http://www.mytotalretail.com/

CRM – Data Enrichment and User Adoption


Are your Sales Teams seeing CRM as a BOON or BANE ? If you fall under majority, it is likely seen as BANE than a BOON 🙂

One of the CHALLENGES you typically come across in CRM ADOPTION is all about the PAIN of creating and maintaining QUALITY data. Before CRM, the only CHALLENGE for sales team was to GATHER data that helps them to SELL. The data we are talking here includes but not limited to

  • ACCOUNT INTELLIGENCE data that could be as simple as Account’s website and as involved as the as revenue / profit figures of the account in past three years
  • CONTACTS DATA (includes name, email, phone number, address etc) that helps us to connect to the right folks in the targeted account list to navigate the maze right from identifying the GATE KEEPERS to DECISION MAKERS

Now after CRM, the Sales team not only has to RESEARCH for the INSIGHTS but also has to ENTER it in CRM. It can’t sound exciting for anyone including you 🙂

So how do you convert this CHALLENGE to OPPORTUNITY? What other organizations LEADING in CRM ADOPTION do to overcome this RESISTANCE and make it as a DELIGHT?

The ANSWER lies in the PROBLEM.

Make it easy for the sales user to not only ENTER data but also RESEARCH on required data RIGHT IN the CRM to WIN BUSINESS.

Today’s world of CRM is heading that direction and they provide INTUITIVE ways to automate the RESEARCH / DATA ENTRY activities like

  • On Click a button, ENRICH the Account info right from Company’s website address to past 3 years REVENUE information
  • Search for relevant CONTACTS (includes name, email, phone number, address etc)  for the account and add them to your CRM database on click of a button etc

To make the above possible most of the CRM vendors today provide a huge business intelligence database (sourced from multiple sources including the one like LinkedIn) and integrate it tightly with CRM, of course at an additional cost.

Some of the prominent services that I have used in our custom contexts are below

So if you like to make your CRM a Boon to your sales team, provide the above that boosts not only their PRODUCTIVITY but also improves ADOPTION and helps to meet the Organization / Sales Team’s REVENUE targets 🙂

Image Courtesy : http://www.stelter.com/

CRM : Visualization and User Adoption


Is your Organization happy about its CRM adoption?.

There are exceptions than the rule, to see a CRM deployed for Sales team without any user adoption challenges. This may not be the case for “Service” side deployment. As for as Service side is concerned, if rolled out, CRM becomes bread & butter and they don’t have an option than using it 🙂

Though there are many reasons / solutions to handle user adoption challenges, one that really ticks among sales community is presenting stunning actionable visuals in the form of reports / dashboards right on their home page that helps them to perform their day to day activity.

Let me present a couple of examples here…Let us say you like to present a Quota versus Attainment report for a sales manager at the home page of CRM. An easy to do option that is commonly available in most of the CRM platforms is to present a “table widget” on the home page like below

It perfectly conveys the information that you like to share as it displays by every team member the Quota versus Attaintment details.

But if you notice in today’s world, it could potentially be lot better from UX standpoint. Few gaps to highlight on the above simple table view are below

  • It doesn’t really help me to compare one versus others visually
  • It doesn’t give me any info on where the individual stands in terms of his performance as of that date
  • Doesn’t provide any additional details to drill down more to understand what makes his quota or attainment
  • No context sensitive actions available to act on it if you notice something alarming e.g. say simply you want to call for a meeting with the underperforming sales rep.

Let us change the above to something like below

You very much see it for yourself, the difference.

It is visually appealing, helps me to compare one versus other, has visual (color) cues on where the individual stands, on mouse over provides me more information, the small circle gives you an indication on the number of Open opportunities in his pipeline and provides a “click to drill down” facility to drill down to the details

So in essence anyone embarking on an exercise to improve their CRM user adoption, better consider Visualization as a key improvement area to see a definitive improvement in adoption rate.

Kanban and CRM


Are you wondering what is the relation between Kanban and CRM? The Google definition of Kanban is below

“Japanese manufacturing system in which the supply of components is regulated through the use of a card displaying a sequence of specifications and instructions, sent along the production line.”

The word in bold and italics holds the link between Kanban and CRM.

Traditionally in CRM systems the opportunities are managed by a set of well-defined Sales Process that takes the Opportunity through a set of stages like Appointment Scheduled, Qualified to Buy, Presentation Scheduled, POC Scheduled, Decision Maker Bought In, Contract Sent, Closed / Won and Closed / Lost etc.

Basically, sales stages are a sequence of specifications & instructions like Kanban to handle the Opportunity in a structured manner to ensure high success rate. The stages are a sample representation only and can vary / can be customized depending on Organization’s Sales Process.

If you see an Opportunity as a component, then it is basically subjected to these process steps to reach to an end state as in Kanban but the way the way Opportunities is typically displayed to the end users in CRM systems is a simple list view that is used to display any other business data like Accounts, Contacts etc. A sample representation is below

If you click an Opportunity, the Opportunity is displayed in a 2 column layout presenting the Opportunity details

Recently many of the CRM providers started presenting the Opportunity list and Opportunity detail using Kanban as a Metaphor and it makes a lot of sense from a User Experience standpoint. A sample representation of a list view in Kanban way is below

As you see above it neatly displays to the users the list of Opportunities (Metaphor to Components in Kanban) under Various sales stages and provides a drag and drop option for the users to promote the Opportunities from one stage to another stage (drag and drop, Metaphor of putting through a set of instructions). Similarly, in the detailed view, the Opportunity detail is presented as below

You can set the stages as appropriate (point and click with all visual cues that tell precisely where you stand on this opportunity) and take the Opportunity to a closure and  in each stage showing fields of relevance / importance to that stage.

This is a welcoming change though the adoption of Metaphor in CRM world is a very late….There are many other applications designed to handle tasks management, agile project management etc using Kanban view in today’s app world.

Security and Usability – Always off on a tangent?


I am sure a simple google search on the above topic should return100s of articles right from issues related to infrastructure security to physical security 🙂 …I believe if designers put a little bit extra effort in treading this carefully, it can make a big difference for end users.

A recent experience that made everyone in my house go crazy is here.

It all started yesterday night at 11 PM with a sharp beep followed by a loud warning saying “Low Battery”. “Loud” meaning even if you tightly close your ears, you will still hear it ….:)

I was hearing this sound first time and after a little search around identified that it came from the “Smoke Detector”.  Obviously, it was going to run out of battery and hence this warning ….

But the sad part was this nuisance went on and on with this message “Low Battery” for the entire night beeping every minute not letting any of us sleep (except my children as they are least bothered on anything happening around)

I know as a user of the device, I have to ensure the battery is replaced otherwise I am putting the entire house under risk but a warning of this nature can’t be “killing”

Looking back, What could have been done differently without a big compromise on security in this small little device?

  • A reduced frequency of this warning (once in an hour or half an hour) so that at least we would have slept before it makes the next warning 🙂
  • Designed with a battery specification that is commonly available in house like (AA or AAA)
  • A button to reset and post reset it triggers only after a day so that it ensures I am notified but also reminds me later
  • etc

I believe we encounter these challenges in applications from CRM used in corporate settings to mobile applications that we use every day.

I believe a little bit of extra effort to design for security without compromising on usability would definitely make it a winning application

(The story went on till today evening (At some point we got used to it) as finally, I got time to go around to get a replacement battery)