When Opportunity Knocks…

As a Group Program Manager for Microsoft CRM I spend a lot of my time thinking about features that should go into the product.  My role also gives me the chance to participate in the sales cycle for our product.  I spend a lot of time talking to our field sales representatives, channel partners, customers, and potential customers.  


Most recently I have been involved with an opportunity to sell Microsoft CRM to a large enterprise customer.  I have participated in a lot of sales opportunities, but this one has been particularly enlightening.  In most of these situations I learn a lot about where our product needs to go by talking directly to customers and partners (what problems are you trying to solve, where are the gaps in our product, etc.).  In this case, however, the insight has come from our own internal sales process (what we are doing to sell to the customer).


Some more background… I’m staring at the initial document that came out from the Account Manager to summarize the opportunity.  A few things that stick out like a sore thumb:


-          All-in-one: This document is a one-stop shop for information about this particular deal.  It lays out the sales team, the key decision makers at the company, the strategy for selling to them… everything.

-          Duplication of data: Much of this information is already in Microsoft’s CRM system, so the Account Manager has obviously taken the time to duplicate all of that information as part of the document preparation (e.g. who is the account team, who is the primary contact, what are all of the roles of the contacts at the potential customer, complete calendar of events that spans 10 months, etc.)

-          Lack of visual information: There is a ton of information, but the visual presentation of the information leaves a lot to be desired.


So… the takeaways.  More specifically, how can Microsoft CRM improve?


-          Roll it up: I think our product needs to recognize the value of rolling all of this information up into one place.  This could be in some kind of report - either SRS or preferably a Word document.  I personally have a preference for some kind of document format vs. making it an inline part of the application experience (those are harder to share with other people, not as portable, etc.).

-          Share it out: We must make sure that salespeople are not spending time preparing documents that directly duplicate information that is stored in CRM.  It should be easy to crank out this “all-in-one” document in a sharable format.  We should make sure that it is easy to share the information, even beyond users of the CRM system, and it must be able to go anywhere (e.g. take it with me on the airplane).  Furthermore, once it is in that format, wouldn’t it be great if I could edit that information and pump those changes back into Microsoft CRM.

-          Visualization of information: The document I am looking at does a really poor job of articulating the complexity of the personal relationships.  For that matter it does a poor job of laying out basic profile information.  The types of questions it does not answer: who is the Account Manager (where does she fit into the sales organization), which of the internal Microsoft salespeople know the different contacts at the potential customer (and what is the nature of the relationship, how long have they known them, etc.), what is the organizational hierarchy of the contacts for this potential customer, and many more.  There is much complexity here… it would be incredibly cool if we could visually represent some of that complexity and answer some of these questions.  I just spoke with Barry Givens, a Lead PM on my team, and he is already looking into some cool ways to visualize these complex relationships – shoot, my team is always one step ahead of me!


The more I stare at this document, the more excited I am about the potential for CRM to improve the selling process (specifically, to make people more productive and to make the complexities of personal relationships more obvious). 


Have you had similar “epiphanies” about how Microsoft CRM can help improve the selling process?  I’d love to hear them…


Jeff Kelleran

Comments (6)

  1. Dave T says:

    It’s great to hear that a) you folks realize that there is a lot of opportunity for improvement in the product (pun intended) and b) you are excited about the improvement process!

    We are now implementing Microsoft CRM 3.0, and we know first-hand about some of the limitations of the current version. But we’re charging ahead on faith that you and the rest of the MS CRM team will continue evolving the product.

    It’s nice to know that’s the case!


  2. Kirk Kennedy says:

    Ive been involved in sales & marketing for 20+ years and have served customers in the automotive and aircraft industries.  While at Honeywell, we were using a CRM system to manage multiple product platforms across multiple sales organizations, with global customers and multiple-decision makers.   I found your comments regarding the complexity of the sales process interesting and I thought Id share with you some thoughts I’ve had in this area.  I have a couple of documents for your review, so please visit this site for comments and documents:  www.kwk.fhog.org

  3. Jeff

    Thanks for your excellent post. As an ISV with more than 20 years experience in developing and distributing CRM and ERP solutions for the vertical media business, I completely agree with your ideas. More than that, we are addressing these issues already: We have a smart client named “Sales Report Manager” (SRM), creating a sales dossier consisting of all relevant data from multiple systems. It allows sales reps to file the results of every sales task in a structured way. SRM uses the CRM web services and can be even used offline. Thanks to the structured data, the sales reps feedbacks can be used to trigger workflows, update CRM customers or opportunity records. It’s also an important parameter to visualise the sales pipeline. By the way: The development of SRM is supported by Microsoft’s Media and Entertainment vertical (Dave Alstadter). As you may expect, we hit many limitations of CRM already and our wish list is growing rapidly, for instance the CRM customer and contact profiling possibilities are poor and there is nothing to support non-standard, individual project-like sales files for information workers yet. If you are interested in our CRM roadmap, feel free to send me an email.

    Best regards, Helmut


  4. vpiox1 says:

    I use CRM and have wanted for a long time to integrate it with the technology behind VisualThesaurus.com. The technology is called ThinkMap and it would work very well in this situation.

Skip to main content