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How Today’s Deal Professionals Use CRMs

Joe Burkhart Saratoga Investment Corp. | May 11, 2016

Today’s investment professionals are relying on technology more than ever to help manage the increasing amount of information streaming in from distinct sources.  Investment opportunities, referral sources, CIMs, limited partners, NDAs, portfolio company reports, financing sources, industry contacts – the list only continues to expand.

We recently conducted a survey of dozens of private equity professionals, investment bankers, and other business executives to better understand how they use technology to keep organized, automate mundane tasks, and hold members of their team accountable.

Major Takeaways

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About two-thirds of those surveyed use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system – one of the most common data management solutions.  Their usage is often very frequent with over 70% of those that use a CRM accessing the system multiple times throughout the day.

Salesforce was the dominant platform with about one-third of respondents confirming the usage.  Interesting was the large diversity in platforms that firms use.  Over 15 different platforms were noted in the survey including DealCloud, Microsoft CRM, SugarSync, ACT!, and Podio.

For the one-third that currently don’t use a CRM, the number one reason cited for not using a system was the lack of knowledge to make a buying decision.  Only 15% of nonusers said they didn’t believe the value exceeded the cost.

Firms spend a considerable amount of money on systems with per user per month fees ranging from $10 to $300.  The broad range had considerable correlation to CRM brand.

0416_ForumArticleCharts03And even with all of that cost, only about 60% of respondents said they were satisfied with their existing system.  User satisfaction had correlation to several factors, but most significant was the ease of the original implementation.

Regarding ease of implementation, about half of those surveyed had little difficulty while the other half had tremendous difficulty.  There was little correlation between difficulty of implementation and the brand of CRM which was an interesting result.  Instead implementation was most negatively impacted by the following three factors:

  1. Lack of technical skills required to properly implement.
  2. Staff preference for existing systems and methods.
  3. Lack of commitment and engagement from senior leadership.

0416_ForumArticleCharts05Unsurprisingly, less than 35% of those surveyed that experienced a poor CRM implementation were currently satisfied with their system post-implementation.

When participants were asked what they would change about their current system the responses were broad.  Many cited the desire for better reporting, more integration with other systems, more automation around frequent activities, and a better mobile experience.

When asked what advice they’d give those currently exploring CRM options the responses were insightful:

  • “Take your time implementing and learn functionality with a small sample size. Expect a slower learning curve. Excellent support is critical to implementation, data population, use, etc.”
  • “Take the time to really understand what you are trying to accomplish – list these things out. Then work to see if EVERYTHING can be integrated in the CRM platform. Just like finishing a project, the value of a CRM system diminishes GREATLY if you do not use it for all your firm’s processes (otherwise only partial information is captured – and sometimes no information is better than partial information).”
  • “Simple is best at first. Have a dashboard appear on senior professional’s desk. Senior professionals have to be committed. Continual training for a year – once a quarter as the team becomes more facile on the system. Add functions over time.”
  • “Spend more time than you think necessary upfront at every step with vested constituents to define user requirements and design an interface that optimizes the business process at your firm.”

Read Part 2 of this post: 7 Tips for Successful CRM Implementation >

Axial is the deal network for the middle market.

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