Podcast (EB&Flow)

Choosing a CRM For Your Business

October 14, 2021

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has become a must-have solution for most businesses. But with all the options available, how do business owners know that they have the right CRM for their goals?

In this episode of the EB & Flow podcast, Eide Bailly’s Senior Manager and Salesforce consultant Bianca West joins hosts Clinton Larson and Trina Michels to discuss why a CRM is important, how organizations can evaluate their CRM and what they need to know if they decide to implement a new solution.

“You're either green and growing, or ripe and rotting. And I think sometimes people look at a CRM implementation and think, ‘I've finally made it.’ When really, it's the beginning of additional iterations because you really want to be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today. So continuous improvement is incredibly important.”

– Bianca West, Senior Manager and Salesforce Consultant

Contact us if you have any questions about the topic of this episode or to inquire about any business challenges you are experiencing.


CRMs help businesses stay competitive and do more with less. We can help your company implement a customized CRM to improve efficiencies and profitability.

Clinton LarsonHOST

Clinton Laron
Corporate Communications Manager 
Eide Bailly

Trina MichelsCOHOST

Trina Michels
Senior Manager
Business Development | NetSuite

Eide Bailly


Bianca West
Senior Manager | Salesforce
Eide Bailly


Show Notes and Resources

The Transcript

Clinton Larson: Hello and welcome to EB & Flow, I'm your host, Clinton Larson, and joining me today as my co-host once again is Trina Michaels, a senior manager at Eide Bailly and an ERP guru, as we like to say. Welcome to the podcast.

Trina Michels: Thank you, Clinton. I'm excited to be here. It's always fun doing this with you.

Clinton Larson: And joining me today as our guest is Bianca West, who is a senior manager at Eide Bailly and works in our Salesforce practice. Welcome to the podcast, Bianca.

Bianca West: Thanks for having me.

Clinton Larson: And would you mind giving a brief intro about yourself, Bianca, so our listeners know a little bit about you?

Bianca West: Yeah, sure, I'd love to. So as you mentioned, I'm a senior manager here at Eide Bailly have been here about seven years. My background is in sales coaching and leadership coaching, developing training programs and high performance. And so I came over to Eide Bailly following one of my mentors over here. And it's just been a great experience. But my background is in sales, sales leadership and high performance coaching.

Clinton Larson: Great. And our topic today is customer relationship management software, or CRM. And this is one of those things that I think became really important to businesses, or they saw the importance of something like this last year. You know, as the pandemic was going and we had a totally different way of interacting with our customers and our clients. You know, those ideas of how we connect with them, how we can continue that relationship, those became a big deal.

And I think businesses now coming out of the pandemic are seeing just how important having something in place to help them in that regard is just a critical part of their business. I'm curious, Bianca, what have you seen so far coming out of the pandemic in terms of how businesses are adapting to this new way of thinking?

Bianca West: Yeah, well, it's interesting. I thought during the pandemic that things were going to slow down. Just I thought there would be lots of freezes in budgets. And I saw quite you know, there was some of that for sure. But what we actually saw was companies that had relied on popping their head in the door to see what was going on that wasn't possible anymore. So the need for a customer relationship management tool became ever more important.

And so coming out of the pandemic, I think that as budget freezes are starting to end, we've seen this just massive influx of companies that have kind of learned that it is critical to be able to manage their relationships, whether that is sales relationships, service relationships and kind of everything in between. It's just become ever more critical to prepare for any other sort of crisis that should happen, that you can't just rely on the old school way of popping heads in each other's doors to figure out what's going on.

Clinton Larson: And you brought up a good point about how this is a customer relationship management, you know, when we started. But this is really about relationships in many different areas. So let's maybe back up and start at the top here and just kind of define what is a CRM. How do you describe it to people?

Bianca West: Yeah, I think at its simplest definition, it allows businesses to manage business relationships or business to consumer relationships and all of that data that really centralizes around your customer. And so that at its simplest form is really that. It's a relationship management and it's very different from maybe ERP.

ERP tends to be very financial focused, asset focused, whereas a CRM is going to bubble all of that information around your customer to make it useful from a, hey, what is our share of wallet with this customer? What our relationships with that customer? Where have they been? Where are they going? What conversations have been had? So it's very much more customer centric.

Clinton Larson: And Trina, we had you on the podcast talking about what an ERP is and how that affects businesses or how businesses can utilize a tool like that. How do you see the ERP and CRM working together when you've been at different clients?

Trina Michels: Well, when you have the ability to connect up your CRM with your ERP to be able to see the complete customer journey. So how were my interactions with my customer before they even were a customer and then how are my interactions post?

And so we have worked with many different companies connecting those two together. And it really provides a lot of power because you get a full view of the entire customer journey. Bianca, what are your thoughts on that?

Bianca West: Yeah, I would agree. And that is a big issue that I think the word digital transformation is kind of the buzzword right now. But there's many industries who adopted this early, like high tech. They're kind of always on the bleeding edge of how are they going to stay on top of their customer. But there's been some lagging industries that we've seen that are now just kind of catching that the idea of it's not just about how much we're billing our customer or doing product forecasting or those sort of things is we really need to understand our customer from the top of the funnel, meaning, hey, where did they come from?

How did we hear about them, are we spending our marketing dollars wisely? Are we converting these? Are we taking advantage of our marketing spend and converting these customers? And then like Trina said, once we win that customer, how are we servicing that customer? How are we wowing them and making sure that we retain those customers and they continue to buy more products and services from us? So, again, like she said, it's that for a full 360 view of our customer and kind of refilling back the funnel and making sure our customers are sticky and that we're thrilling them.

Clinton Larson: You brought up a good point about how there's always been tech companies and other bigger companies that are on the forefront of this kind of technology. But this is getting we're reaching a point right, where this is the type of technology that a lot of businesses are going to be expected to be using. And if they want to stay competitive. Right. Is this something where if you're not utilizing these kind of tools, are you starting to get behind or are you already behind? How much have you seen this become prevalent in businesses across different sizes and industries?

Bianca West: Yeah, it's pretty massive. I mean, it's interesting because we hear about these companies that come in and disrupt the industry and they'll take kind of an old school industry that has not really adapted to the changing face of the world. And they'll come and disrupt it. And it's typically, if you really look into it, it's because they use technology to disrupt it. I mean, we're seeing it in the logistics world. We're seeing it in manufacturing, where companies that are really tech forward are able to come in and really kind of blow away their competitors because they're understanding that it's no longer just about widgets and things like that.

They've really got to understand their customer. And if you don't have the data to understand your customer and you're not really tracking those relationships well, how can you do that? And so we are definitely seeing a lot of disruptors come in to some of these lagging industries and they're really blowing people away because they're using technology to do it.

Clinton Larson: And so let's say you want to dive in, you want to get a CRM, say you don't. It's just something you just start thinking about. What's kind of the first step in terms of how do you begin and how do you start looking at this? What should you be evaluating in your business organization in order to take a step in this direction?

Bianca West: Yeah, I mean, it's pretty far pressed for me to not have any use case for a company to not have a CRM unless you're a one man show. I really don't understand why you would not have some sort of CRM in place. I mean, it's so important to track who you're going after, whether it's from a customer standpoint, a partner standpoint, even if you're not dealing with the end consumer, you're probably dealing through partners. But there is some way you want to track performance, whether it's your own team's performance, whether it's your customers performance.

So unless you're a one man show, you should you should have a CRM. Now, there's so many CRM is on the market, it could make your head spin. And so how do you select a CRM? Well, you can look at the Gartner Magic Quadrant. I mean, there's some clear leaders out there. I'm, of course, biased to Salesforce because they are the Magic Quadrant leader. They have been for the last, I think, 13 or 14 years. They are the largest CRM out of everybody combined.

But there are some good tools out there. So I don't want to be too biased out there. One thing you want to think about is your how fast are you growing? How large is your team? How complex is your sales cycle? And do you need to integrate with other solutions? Those things will set you up for success as you look to scale. If you're growing very quickly and you want to look at something that will really help you scale, so that you're not kind of having to switch tools in in a year because you've outgrown it.

Integratability, I think is one of the number one things that you need to be in consideration of when you're selecting a CRM. Not every CRM integrates well with other solutions. So you're going to spend a lot of money and manpower trying to make your tools talk to each other. So you may as well just go to those leaders who already have solved those problems. They have open API. They can integrate really seamlessly and easily with thousands of other solutions on the market. Hopefully I didn't go too deep there.

Clinton Larson: No, that's good. And because I was thinking too, you brought up that like this is something that most businesses should already be using. And so there probably are a lot of businesses and organizations out there that are that have a system in place and they're using it. How can they tell if they have the right tool? How can they tell if they have something that's efficient, that's meeting their goals, meeting their needs?

I'm sure many businesses just get caught up in the well, it's working now, so things must be fine. So what should they be thinking about if they if they want to know, OK, my CRM is definitely the tool that's right for what my business needs to do to grow and to succeed.

Bianca West: Yeah, that's a really, really good question. And there's a few factors that I would point out to start, but there's probably many more that I'm not thinking of. But number one, I would say, hey, does your organization use several tools to get your job done? So not only am I going to this database to enter this data, but then I have to swivel over to this tool and then I have to swivel over to that tool and I've got to go to this Google sheet. So is that your experience, of getting your job done?

If that's the case, either we have not implemented our CRM well or we have outgrown our CRM because it's not able to handle kind of cross-functional solutions. So if you find yourself swiveling between lots of tools to do your job or your people are doing that, then it's probably time to reevaluate.

Another thing is if you're spending just a lot of money and manpower trying to keep your systems talking to each other, or you just frankly aren't able to let your systems aren't able to speak, and that's critical for your business, it's time to reevaluate because there's other tools out there that can do that very, very well.

I would also just talk about adoption. If your people are saying, yeah, you gave me a tool, but it's so counterintuitive. It's so cliquey, it's clunky. I'd rather just swivel over an Excel spreadsheet. It's easier. Time to reevaluate. Your people aren't using it because it's not user friendly. So those are the three that come top of mind are kind of, hey, I got something but A. nobody's using it or they're using it plus 10 other systems, or we just our systems can't nicely talk to each other. I think those are the three that point out to me, top of mind.

Clinton Larson: Trina, do you have anything you'd want to add?

Trina Michels: I would say the pandemic really highlighted the ability for access to your systems, no matter where you're at, and secure access to them. So if people are having to use a VPN to get in and it's incredibly slow, those sort of things, when you provide the mobility to people, not only is it going to help your efficiency, it's also going to help your retention, right, because in today's market, as we've seen in a very tight labor market, not only are your systems going to help drive the experience for your customer, it will drive the experience for your employee.

And when you have a good employee experience, as Bianca was talking about, not having to go from system to system, you also create an opportunity for people to be happier in their jobs. And so reduce your turn, reduce costs that you would have regarding turnover, even. Some things that people just don't necessarily think of at the beginning when just looking at only a CRM.

Bianca West: You know, one thing that Trina just that triggered another thought that that's such a I didn't even think about that, because you're exactly right. We had several companies coming to evaluate because they said people are working remotely now and it's just a pain to have to VPN every time. And that's a great point.

Another thing that was brought up was just overall reporting. Clinton, to your point about, hey, if they have something in place and they need to reevaluate, what are some of those indicating items? And another piece was reporting, not all CRMs are created equally and some have better reporting than others. And if you find yourself taking data from your CRM, having to export it and then do more massaging to it, and that's very time consuming. And we're just talking about CRM data, not cross platform data, but just my data from my CRM. I can't get it to report in a way that's meaningful or actionable. If you find yourself having to do that a lot, you're probably not aligned with the right CRM.

Clinton Larson: You also touched on an important part of you, said Bianca, that the digital transformation piece that we're hearing about so much these days and that your people are a huge part of that, that you cannot neglect. And I think that that leads itself into a discussion about implementation and how that works and what the best way to approach that is.

And so, Bianca, in terms of implementing a new CRM into your system, what are some of the things that are that our listeners should make sure they consider? What are some key points that they need to make sure that they don't forget?

Bianca West: Yeah, so sometimes people think they should do it all, boil the ocean, and that's actually not a best practice. So think about implementation in terms of what we call Minimum Viable Product MVP. We want to take it far enough for it to deliver value, but not so far that it will be overly disruptive to the business or be too difficult from a change management perspective. So we want to bite off enough that we can chew, something that we can deliver relatively quickly and start to see some return.

So the point I'm trying to make is let's not try to do too much up front. Let's do the most critical things to start. I've seen time and time again failed implementations where they just tried to do too much. It was overengineered. They didn't really take the user into perspective. Maybe it was designed by IT and that that will just not lead to great outcomes.

So focus on Minimum Viable Product. What's absolutely critical, get that out, get that out into the user's hands and then start to enhance from there. So that's one best practice I'd give. Another is I'm probably biased here, but work with a partner, I wouldn't try to build my own house. I don't know anything about drywall or plumbing or electricity. And not to say that it can't be done. All the instructions are typically out there.

But what a partner is going to protect you from is making decisions, kind of painting yourself into a corner because you don't understand the beginning from the end, they're going to help you make some decisions that will be make sure that you stay scalable and that you're not, again, trying to bend the software to your will, that you're using best practices as you implement. It will save tons of time, money and headache down the line when you have somebody guiding you, who's been there, been there many, many times and has seen all the pitfalls.

And so, you know, that's my little plug for partners. But it's worth the money because of the thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars that will save you down the road.

Trina Michels: Bianca, I love what you say about the Minimal Viable Product. Right. Because when you think in a lifecycle of a business, how often are they purchasing a CRM or undertaking these sort of decisions? And it really lends itself to make sure that you as a business align yourself with a person like yourself, Bianca, right. Who is actually going to challenge you, I would say, of focusing more narrowly versus trying to boil the ocean.

So I just think it's some great advice for companies to keep in mind as they're evaluating this, to make sure that they're working with someone who isn't just trying to have the biggest sale and really has your best interests in mind.

Bianca West: Yeah, well said Trina. I'll just add one more thing. I think I touched on it a little bit is that make sure that your users are involved in the development of the CRM. So what I mean by that is I've seen many failed implementations in my day because IT designed the solution. And this is not to say anything negative about IT personnel. You're fantastic. You're needed.

Clinton Larson: If they're listening, we should be nice.

Bianca West: The point here is that you've got to get your users input not only from a buy in perspective, but also let's make sure that it's designed in a way that fits their workflow. Get those key. You don't want too many chefs in the kitchen, but you want to get some key stakeholders involved in that discovery to make sure that you will get the adoption you're looking for.

Otherwise, you're going to roll out a system. And I've seen it happen many times where the user says this does not fit my workflow. This is actually counterintuitive to my workday. And frankly, it's more work than it's worth it. Path of least resistance. I'm going to go over to my spreadsheet. So that's my last little piece of just be mindful to make sure you hear the voice of your key stakeholders and your key users as you're implementing.

Clinton Larson: And you two have both been involved in a lot of implementations for the solutions that you provide. And I'm curious, you know, that change management piece that you're talking about this is making sure we're focused on the right things, making sure we're not biting off more than we can chew right away. How do you help businesses or how do you help the leaders in businesses think about that in a different way. How do you help them work through that change management piece?

Because I imagine that's got to be, you know, just a critical part of making sure that, like you said, Bianca, that you don't end up with a failed implementation. You end up with the worst case scenario. So what are some of the things that you guys do to help businesses and organizations work through that?

Bianca West: Yeah, so there's a few things that we support organizations with. So one is what we call setting up a center of excellence and steering committees. So depending on the size of the organization, you know, if you're a smaller organization, this might be a couple of people. If you're a larger organization, this could be several dozen people. But really saying, OK, once we get this out into the hands of our users, this Minimum Viable Product. How do we decide what changes or enhancements we're going to make and who gets that attention, especially if it's a multi department rollout.

So that's where a steering committee can be really effective, helping them understand how to get people on board. Part of that is getting them involved in implementation. But how do we start to get users ready for it? How do we evangelize this release of new software? How do we get people excited about it and, you know, polling people getting input from our users. Hey, if sky was the limit, what would you want? What would you need?

Getting people excited and invested, but also understanding that not everybody is going to get everything. So how do we set up pathways for people to submit ideas and to make sure that we have a committee that is overseeing that and approving and kind of prioritizing those lists or those items that you want to kind of make enhancements with?

So part of that was kind of a long way of saying a few different things, a steering committee, a center of excellence, and then also making sure that we're setting up the right channels and evangelizing any new tools or processes that are being released on the software. So those are what come top of mind for me. I don't know Trina if you have anything to add.

Trina Michels: I do. As you're evaluating, I would ask the question of the company who would be helping you through the implementation, what is their methodology? And a good methodology has that change management built in, just as Bianca was saying, having those steering committee meetings, weekly status meetings, making sure that there is a good discovery process that's taking place and testing. Because you, as Bianca, touched on, the system that you've designed, you want to have a system that you design to also be a system that is incredibly usable. And so making sure that that methodology has been tried and true is incredibly important.

Clinton Larson: Awesome. So let's say you're working with someone and they are following this advice and follow these guidelines and implementation goes well. Day one, you flip the switch. How do you then evaluate what success looks like? How do you know that what you've done and the tool you've chosen, how do you know that that's a success? How do you measure that as a business or an organization?

Bianca West: Well, it depends on what the organization values, but I would say a successful implementation means people are using it. And so typically the CRM, I know Salesforce does. So this should be a best practice. They have what they call adoption dashboards. And so you can literally see by user who's logging in and track their activity on the system. And so that's one way to kind of say, hey, are people actually using it?

And, you know, there's an analogy out there that I don't know if it's true or not, but I like the analogy. It says over a half of an airplane's fuel is used just getting off the ground. And I again, I don't know if that's true, but it's a pretty good analogy for an implementation. And what that means is, hey, this has got to be a top-down effort. And so sometimes leaders think, oh, we'll just implement the CRM. It's a magic bullet. And that's just unfortunately not the case.

There does need to be a very strong support from the from the top down, basically saying we're behind this. The expectation is that you will use it. We have tied dashboards to seeing if you're using it. And it needs to be part of every conversation for the first few months and letting people know, hey, this is not optional in a supportive kind of way. But it really has to be that way because you can't just expect flipping a CRM on that will make people use it.

It's got to be, again, from the top down, communicated that this is what's expected of you. And then you've got to tie your dashboards and what everybody can see to, hey, are we using it, letting people know, hey, we're going to monitor that the usage of the system and it's not supposed to be Big Brother, but rather we've made an investment in you and in our organization and the expectation is that you'll use it. And I don't if I totally answered your question there, Clinton.

Clinton Larson: That's good, that's excellent. Trina, do you have anything to add?

Trina Michels: Bianca, that was fabulous. I think success for every organization is a little bit different. It depends on what was the pain at the beginning. And so it's important at the beginning of your project to have defined what that success looks like, because sometimes you can get to the end and say, what was that again? I can't even remember what the pain points were as I'm starting to look today as you're using it.

So I would say making sure that you're defining that in the project will help you measure your success. But from a general basis, it really is a system that people can use. And have you eliminated spreadsheets? Are people adopting in the system? If they are not adopting, finding out why they are not adopting and making adjustments to that.

I think that's another thing that I can see companies oftentimes do. I've heard the line you're either green and growing or ripe and rotting. And I think sometimes people look at an implementation and think, oh, I've made it right. Like, I've finally made it. When really it's the beginning of additional iterations because you really want to be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today. So continuous improvement, incredibly important as well.

Bianca West: I love that - green and growing or ripe and rotting. I'm going to use that, Trina, I hope you don't mind. But it's interesting you say, how do we measure success? What's interesting is that sometimes I'll talk to an organization and say, you know what are you looking to get on the other side of this? What does success look like? What is the impact you expect?

And oftentimes they don't know because they haven't been able to measure anything. And so I like what Trina's saying is, hey, you need to define that before you're going in. Otherwise you have nothing to measure it against. Now, sometimes these organizations do have some reporting and they say, oh, we want to increase lead conversion, we want to increase close with business, whatever that looks like. But oftentimes organizations have no idea because they just haven't been able to measure anything. So with that said, you've got to come up with at least something qualitative to start. And then hopefully over time we can start to make that quantitative.

Clinton Larson: I think we've pretty well established why a CRM is such a powerful tool for businesses. So I'm wondering, Bianca, can you tell us a little bit more about what the future of this space is like? What's coming next? What do you see coming down for Salesforce and other CRMs?

Bianca West: Yeah, I'll tell you what I know. I certainly am probably not the leading expert on where is this going. But what in terms of what's coming down to us from Salesforce, I mean, all of the trends point to this is only increasing and expanding. Salesforce as a company is only acquiring more and more companies. And really what we see now, the trend of the future is A.I. artificial intelligence being baked into all of your into your platform.

So now is it not only taking your data and allowing you to report on it, but now it's taking machine learning and it's that undercurrent of machine learning is now predictive and that's really where things are headed, is more predictive. Take my data and tell me what the future is going to look like. So it's really exciting having fully integrated systems. You can pretty much now almost do everything between one or two tools, but taking that data now and predicting the future. So that's pretty exciting.

So the future looks really bright. I don't see anything slowing down. In fact, Salesforce has told us that partner work is only going to grow by two to three x is their prediction. But really the future now is not just on kind of looking through the rearview mirror or what's going on today, but now data is going to be able to take us into the future in predicting whether it's from a lead to an opportunity to forecasting it's going to take us into the future. So it's really exciting.

Clinton Larson: Bright, shiny data field future. I think that's a great place to end. Thank you so much Bianca for being on the podcast today. This has been really great information and a lot of good, good stuff for people to think about. And thank you, Trina, for being a co-host again. It's been great having you on the podcast.

Trina Michels: Well, thank you, Clinton. It's been a lot of fun.

Bianca West: And thank you, Clinton and Trina, for having me on the podcast. It's been fun to do some mind sharing for a little bit. And now I'm even more convinced that CRM is where I should be. So thanks for that.