Archive for September, 2009

Trying to define the perfect CRM is a lot like trying to define the perfect vacation, a perfect suit or a perfect meal…so much depends on so many qualities such as one’s goals, size and tastes.

Today’s Blog is a little different in that I have been fortunate to have been asked to take part in a joint effort to address this topic along with a group of my fellow A/E/C marketplace bloggers. (See Post Epilogue)

I will address my point of view from a perspective of working with companies in the commercial construction arena and with a background in lead generation and CRM consulting. Bear with me just a moment while I bore you with a bit of my resume that will, I believe, flavor my offering from a somewhat unique perspective.

The first 13 years of my career, I worked for a company called ‘Construction Market Data’ which became ‘Reed Construction Data’. As a company, we gathered project data by calling on architects, owners, developers, general contractors, municipalities and more. We entered the data into a proprietary database which was actually a very elaborate CRM.

At any one time, we would be tracking literally tens of thousands of project leads ranging from the time a building was nothing but a glimmer in a developer’s eye, through the various stages of design, the bidding process to finally announcing who was awarded the major sub trades.

In tracking a construction project through this timeline, we would include such key roles as the owner, the architect, the structural, mechanical, electrical engineers, bonding information, bid date and time, plan and addendum availability, size, scope, structural details, etc. In other words, a lot of data was attached to a ‘single entry’.

During my tenure at CMD/Reed, I was in charge of training every researcher and sales rep on the ‘in’s out out’s’ of how we gathered data, developed relationships with our sources, how the data was entered, stored and retrieved. Near the end of my time there, I was responsible for managing our national accounts which included pushing the data to their CRM systems and making sure they used this data to their best ability. Our accounts would range from small subcontractors to multi-billion dollar corporations paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for these leads.

Now with that painful review done, I will fast forward to today and share that I make a fair portion of my living consulting with companies on their CRM system, particularly as it relates to their sales and marketing, and have seen many companies under/over shoot the mark in their quest for the perfect CRM.

I have written about the importance of leads for building new business before and today’s topic goes hand in hand with managing past, present and future pricing opportunities. While a CRM has many, many features and benefits, I am more specifically concerned about using it to build new business.

When I am consulting with a client on how to manage their CRM, the first thing I try to get them to understand that investing in any CMR system is much like buying a Bowflex™. Buying the Bowflex™ does not get your body to look like the guy in the commercial but rather the continued and effective use of it does. In other words, buying a CRM is not a solution. How you use it is.

A CRM system is nothing more than a tool and it will be most effective when the particular needs of a company are woven into the ‘routine’ of the end user. Software is not the only part of a successful CRM system.

Whether one knows it or not, every single company in America has a current CRM system. It may be nothing more than, on the low end, index cards, filed by date for when to call a prospect/account all the way up to an enterprise wide system that integrates with accounting, production, finance, fulfillment, etc. costing several hundred thousands of dollars

To find the perfect CRM, a company needs to clearly define what it wants to accomplish by upgrading their current system. Often, a business does not even know what questions to ask and can often be mesmerized by bells and whistles that look great during the presentation though offer very little real value as far as meeting their specific goals.

When compiling one’s ‘wish list’ or even better yet, designing your ‘plan and specifications’ for your CRM consider the following, each of which could deserve an entire blog:

• Budget Reporting • Analytics Goals • Training • Expandability • Integration • Security • Success Factors • Data Storage • Implementation Plan • Marketing • Measuring ROI • Support • Data Entry Standards • Data Import • Back Office • Mobile Access • Customization • Forecasting • Pipeline Management

And more…

In short, I believe the perfect CRM system does not exist but there are some systems that are more ‘perfect’ than others. The key to finding the more perfect solution is to understand what you want from this investment.

This is a topic near and dear to my business heart and I am nowhere near a skillful enough writer to address this topic entirely in one blog. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and maybe we can carry this discussion further. In the mean time, I encourage you to read what my colleagues have to say on this subject via the links below.

In short, when it comes to investing in, and trying to find the perfect CRM, measure twice, cut once.


Post Epilogue

The Perfect CRM is a series of essays by industry experts on the topic of client relationship management tools. Each expert draws upon years of experience to outline their vision of the perfect CRM system. This exercise provides you with new insights into what works, what doesn’t work, and what you should consider when implementing a CRM system.

The experts include:

Ford Harding, Author of Rainmaking – 2nd Edition (http://www.hardingco.com/blog/)
Tim Klabunde, Author of the CRM Chapter in the Marketing Handbook for the Design and Construction Professional (www.Cofebuz.com)
Bernie Siben, Author of A Horse of a Different Color: Marketing in the Public Sector (http://builtenvironment.blogs.com/)
Bobby Darnell, Former Director of National Accounts at Reed Construction Data (http://buildingnewbusiness.com/)
Mel Lester, Owner of the Business Edge (http://www.blog-bizedge.biz/ )
Matt Handal, Contributing Editor of SMPS Marketer (http://www.helpeverybodyeveryday.com )

Visit these sites to read each experts take on the perfect CRM.


Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.


Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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I have a ‘malady’ that I have suffered with for many, many years. Nothing serious at all but nonetheless, something I struggle with on a monthly basis…I subscribe to more magazines than I can possibly read. I am to magazines what Imelda Marcos was to shoes. However, though I do not read each issue in its entirety, I will not let one go until I have had a chance to go through each and every page.

Why the obsession with magazines? It is more of my obsession with ideas. While I do indeed read a good portion of the articles, I will view each page, looking for some new website, blog, company, service, software, etc. that can be an advantage to me and/or my clients.

In a recent issue of a construction magazine, I noticed a clever ad that showed your ‘typical’ general contractor standing on a job site surrounded by ‘text’ mentioning all the many items he was responsible for juggling and thus begging the question, about who has time to shop for insurance.

I mention all of that to make the following point. Part of what we do is exactly that…we do the research and due diligence for some of our clients who are too busy to find out if they are actually using ‘the latest and greatest’ or getting the most bang for their buck on certain goods and services.

I am currently working with one company as they evaluate their project management system. In doing so, as I was spending some time performing my daily ‘LinkedIn’ ritual, I came across a contact for a company that had a new system that intrigued me. I checked out their website, found it promising enough to inquire for more information.

The representative for that company wrote me back and said the best way to explain the system would be to do a walk through via an online presentation. I agreed and we set up a date and time.

The next thing I know, I receive and email from someone representing the company, but not the sales person whom I had set up the demo. Their email simply read:

Good Morning Bobby. I took a look at your web site and your company isn’t a fit for what we are looking for to be part of XXXXXX XXX. Sorry for any confusion and I will be cancelling our go to meeting today.

In a word: Aamazing!

This company, who offers a project management solution, decides to do its due diligence after setting up a presentation.

I write back with:


No worries.

I was going to view your system for one of our largest clients, a retail service, construction and facilities maintenance provider.

They currently have 300 full-time employees coast to coast and do national rollouts and projects for retailers and did work in all 50 states last year.

They have been using XXXXXX and we are looking a XXXX XXXXX as an alternative. I very well may have misunderstood what your system can do.

Best of luck…

It did not take long for me to receive the following email:

Ok I didn’t know that. XXX is out today…, so I had very little information on this. Now that you mentioned your client I feel we should keep the meeting. If you want we can do it earlier too.

Sorry Charlie! If that is an example of how you manage your prospecting, I cannot imagine I would be impressed with your project management software and even if I was, I cannot imagine I would be impressed with your customer service. ‘Ready, fire, aim,’ is never a good way to do business.

Now, before you write and tell me I am cutting off my nose to spite my face, understand that if there were just three project managements systems out there, I would not be so quick to dismiss this one. But I did my due diligence before I inquired and wanted to view their system so this was not just a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction on my part.

Granted, in today’s economy those in charge of building new business may be tempted to set up as many appointments, presentations, meetings, etc. as they possibly can, but a little qualification before the appointment is, in my opinion, much better than after.


Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.


Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell@cmconl.com

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