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Kevin Hebblethwaite

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Enhancing the Client Experience - Tough Questions You May Want to Ask Sooner than Later

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, May 02, 2018 @ 03:45 PM

Ask the Tough Questions Your clients need you to be successful. Think about it – would the alternative be a great experience for them? Relationships in the professional services industry are interesting animals that need specific care and feeding to fully develop. It’s not easy, and I certainly don’t claim to have it all figured out. However, you can be certain that your client relationships are getting stronger when asking hard questions doesn’t seem so nerve-racking. So, when the relationship IS there, you can ask almost anything. Here are a few questions that come to mind – and please paraphrase if using them in client discussions.

Are you REALLY ready to commit funding for professional help?

Mama always said, “Don’t talk about your money,” and per Kenny Rogers, “You never count your money while you’re sittin’ at the table.” While money is a very sensitive topic, we know from economics class, that business transactions involve the exchange of goods or services for compensation. Without the compensation part, it’s no longer a business transaction. In that context, we must recognize both the sensitivity AND the importance of money in our client relationships. We can treat it carefully, but we certainly can’t shove it under a mattress. Sorry, Mama.

Some potential clients truly aren’t ready to pay for your help. And that’s OK! Regardless of the reason, you can still give those prospects a wonderful experience. Getting to know your firm and helping them understand the value you bring with your paid expertise offers the chance to keep in touch for future initiatives/challenges/projects.

When the timing and value equation IS a match, keeping your client projects and relationships in good financial health is imperative for all parties involved. The client has expectations about your service delivery and outcomes, and your firm has expectations about meeting its cost obligations and returns on the owners’ equity. Getting that value equation right will reward your clients AND your firm.

How can we best serve you in conjunction with your internal resources?

Part of the mystique of developing business in professional services is finding the right match between the client’s ongoing business challenges and “how much” of your expertise to throw at them. We’ve all been in those situations where the outcome felt like we did too little/too much. Most professionals in their area of practice, of course, are pretty good at assessing whether clients have [no/some/significant] internal expertise of their own. Whatever the case, we can’t just assume no expertise, or worse, stop the pursuit because they seem to have more experts than we do.

Figuring out where and how your firm’s knowledge and capabilities fit in is crucial! You’ll find the need to address this balance in all kinds of professional disciplines – the built environment, accounting, legal, information technology, and many more. One example might be when your client must manage the replacement of a key employee whose role is involved in your area of expertise.

Your engagement with this client might be more focused and short-term, but if you are able to strategically line up a handful of clients who consider you “first call” for that situation, the experience can be very rewarding. Some clients choose to not maintain a certain expertise on payroll. The outside professional may desire an expanding scope, but he or she should still proceed cautiously to make sure there is clarity with the client’s reasoning and expectations of our delivery. As you’ve heard many times, seek to understand before needing to be understood.

What outcomes from our work would cause you to laud us among your closest peers?

This question is more common, and maybe even more uncomfortable, but very important. The professional’s best client development tools are the references, referrals, and introductions from other extremely satisfied clients. While it’s helpful to promote the “50 times we’ve done that before on other projects,” it’s preferable to have a solid group of existing clients who will happily describe HOW you did it for them.

Having cheerleaders for your awesomeness are indispensable. Yet, professionals often struggle with the challenging work of developing a process to nurture, catalogue and leverage them. Starting with the important questions will help. Remember, your clients are also motivated to see successful outcomes from your work together.

Ask, Ask Away

You can probably come up with other important questions that you wish had been asked earlier in certain client relationships. Like with most skills, practice makes perfect. Think of several of your best existing clients and seek their input on how to address the tough topics in new relationships. They’ll likely be honored to help, and you’ll be making that relationship even stronger.

Conferences and Events

Topics: Client Relationships

No More Excuses – iAccess, You Access, We ALL Access

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

Business Development Now that I have your attention, I must admit I totally hijacked that title from my good friend and fellow Full Sailor Rana Blair. In January, she presented a webinar on using Deltek Vision’s iAccess features to enhance the project management function of your firm. It was such a big hit, that we decided to continue the conversation in February. We’ll shift the focus to iAccess’ capabilities for enhancing client/contact management, tracking your pipeline of new work, and preparing for Vision’s future.

I’m convinced Rana was right. We’re at a point where there truly are NO MORE EXCUSES. Now is the time for all good client-facing associates in professional services firms to have immediate access to critical client information. If you don’t, no big deal, your competition will figure it out for you.

Commit to Using Deltek Vision as Your Corporate Contact Manager

It still boggles my mind how many Deltek Vision users don’t do this, sometimes even with the CRM module in place. One of my favorite parts of the module is the remote access to Vision CRM through iAccess. You can roll out access to critical client and contact information to anyone with a license and a data connection. While we typically refer to the CRM module as more of a marketing and BD toolset, contact information is used across the entire firm.

While iAccess screens possess many of the same fields and functions as the traditional “smart client” for Vision, you can easily arrange for custom tabs and fields to appear as well. None of this works, of course, unless you’ve done a decent job at migrating existing critical data and launched a good process for capturing additional information as it comes into your firm.

Gain Clear Insight into the Next 6 to 12 Months of New Work

Pipelines do not have to be complicated, but at a minimum, they should allow your firm to pull from existing client information and maintain a weighted list of future revenue estimates. The basic information required to do this (client, name of pursuit, estimated revenue, start date, and finish date) is typically best-known by the individuals closest to the client. iAccess can assist you by minimizing the distance between those individuals and the fields where you house the information.

If you’re already well-versed at managing Opportunities in Vision, consider iAccess as a tool in your bag to help key rainmakers maintain and update information they typically receive first. Dictating updated information about an opportunity directly into a Vision record using your iPad isn’t all that far-fetched anymore. It can also be used for basic reporting to help the same people avoid stepping on each other’s toes with large clients. Distributed pipeline information in iAccess, built on Vision’s core foundation of clients and contacts, could give your business development team a great boost.

The Future of Deltek Vision Looks Like iAccess

If you’ve not heard of Deltek for Professional Services (DPS), the “reimagined” next iteration of the Vision platform, now’s the time to start thinking about when and how your transition will take place. While thinking ahead with your software vendor’s developing capabilities in mind is always a good idea, this transition is particularly important for Vision users. Many key characteristics of DPS are already present in Vision’s iAccess screens. With iAccess in Vision 7.6, you can start getting users comfortable with the browser-neutral and device-agnostic features that will eventually be pervasive throughout the DPS platform.

Not Quite Convinced Yet About iAccess?

Feeling a little uncomfortable with all this new stuff in the Deltek environment? Join me for some more discussion on iAccess and we’ll do our best to help you get there. We believe taking advantage of these capabilities will help you get the most value from your system and allow you to enhance your clients’ experiences with your firm!

iAccess for Deltek   

Topics: Client Relationships, Building Business, Marketing, Deltek Vision

We Love Client Feedback!

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, May 31, 2017 @ 03:54 PM

VC4CFT There is no shortage of ways for professional services firms to solicit and capture client feedback. Some firms structure their initiative as a once-a-year check-in with repeat clients while others hire outside consultants to conduct third-party client satisfaction interviews. In a previous posting, we reviewed why you might want to start a feedback program. Now let’s discuss specific tools that will help with starting one.

The feedback approach we like to use at Full Sail Partners includes:

  • Several “milestone events” throughout the course of complex projects
  • Billing thresholds for clients using a la carte services

By identifying this schedule of feedback events in advance, our clients know what to expect of the process and can effectively participate. We manage our program with The Client Feedback Tool from Client Savvy (CFT).

Surely our Existing Data is Worth Something 

When we first started our program, we strategically knew that:

  • We would need to scale the volume of feedback without a proportional increase in the program’s administration time
  • In Deltek Vision, we already had a system housing key data needed for the program – contact and company names, email addresses, project records, and various other meta data
  • Both Deltek Vision and Client Feedback Tool were designed with available API interfaces 

Enter the Blackbox Vision Connector for Client Feedback Tool (VC4CFT) – a pre-built integration between Deltek Vision and CFT. This solution allows us to leverage the existing information in our database, improve consistency across the two platforms and decrease the amount of time needed to manage our routine client feedback program. 

How Does it Work? 

If you’re familiar with how Vision functions, you already know that all operational activity in the system is oriented around projects. Whether you’re completing a schematic design or purchasing paperclips, your work will eventually hit a project in Vision. Managing feedback is setup the same way and all information needed for the process of requesting client feedback is gathered in a project record. While this is typically a “Regular” project, if we’re seeking general feedback from a cross-section of our client base, we just gather those contacts together in an appropriate general project in Vision, either by creating it for that purpose or using one that already exists. 

VC4CFT allows our project managers to send feedback requests in one of two ways:

  1. Anytime desired directly from the Project record in Vision
  2. As part of the batching function that seeks out eligible projects based on pre-determined rules

For example, during our implementation projects, we first like asking for feedback after we’re about 30% complete. The Connector’s workflows know to look for projects that have recently crossed that milestone based on financial records. Usually about once per month, we have the Connector lookup all the projects that apply under all the rules we’ve put in place. With quick input from the project managers, we’re able to assemble a list of surveys that can all go out at once, driven from a single point of administration. 

Hmm…How Interesting! 

As our clients provide feedback (and we thank you for it!), general information about the feedback history is returned to Vision through the Blackbox Connector. Whether looking at aggregate response rates or figuring out why that one person always opens our requests but doesn’t complete the survey (you know who you are), the most important objective is to enhance the client experience. The combination of Deltek Vision, the Client Feedback Tool and the Blackbox Connector allows us to further leverage our core client information, turn feedback strategies into scalable routine processes, and most importantly, improve the experiences our clients have while working with us.

Blackbox Connector for CFT and Vision Webinar

Topics: Project Management, Client Relationships, Deltek Vision

Preparing Sales Goals for Professional Services Firms

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 @ 10:58 AM

Sales GoalsAs the leaves change from a cool green to the burning hues of fall, you can almost hear the annual groan that emanates from marketing and business development departments everywhere as we ponder next year’s budgets. We’re feverishly cramming numbers into spreadsheets, struggling to get that final hit rate report from the ERP system, and perhaps even consulting with a local palm reader, all with the goal of accurately predicting the future - next year’s sales!

Review Your Professional Services Sales Vocabulary

Many of us in the professional services industry don’t approach our sales vocabulary as clearly as we should – or worse, it’s just that “s” word that nobody wants to talk about. Let’s quickly review some common numbers:

  1. New Backlog. The rest of the world usually calls this number sales. It generally answers the question about the measured period, such as, how much NEW billable work did we book/contract/sell? You might sell the project one year, but could deliver it over several years.
  2. Earned Revenue. This number values the work we actually did in the measured period, and is recognized as such, whether we billed for it or not. Learn more about earned value in this article.
  3. Billings. This number is the total of all the invoices your firm sent in the measured period. Again, depending on how you count the beans, this number may or may not match Earned Revenue.

It’s imperative that that we clarify exactly which thing we’re budgeting. Most professional services firms have a theoretical limit to what they can deliver, based on staff size and utilization. But is there a limit to how much new work you can sell? Hmm.  

Mix Your Sales Sauce

Here’s the point – these numbers all work together, but marketing and business development departments are usually focused on “New Backlog” when discussing sales. So, where does New Backlog come from? It comes from the strategic combination of two variables: Stuff you sell and Clients. Your job is to figure out the best mix of these combos to achieve the firm’s overall growth plans. Easy right?

Let’s have a brief look at the different ways we can combine our New Backlog variables.

Combo 1 - Sell the same stuff to existing clients

Unless you offer bread, milk or toilet paper, this combo can only take you so far. If you sell a corporate headquarters design project to ACME, Inc., when will they buy the next one? Large retail rollout programs and compliance-required assessments/surveys/reviews are good exceptions to this challenge. Watch out for “better, faster, cheaper” competitors led by well-dressed daredevils focused on Combo 4.

Combo 2 - Sell the same stuff to new clients

We should always analyze how to position our core offerings to new clients – in new markets or new geographies. Most of us claim about 80% of our New Backlog is repeat work, so that means 20% has to come from this combo and Combo 4. Leverage your highly experienced professionals who like to build new relationships.

Combo 3 - Sell new stuff to existing clients

Maybe ACME, Inc. doesn’t need a corporate headquarters designed this year, but really needs help with a facilities management system. Here’s a little secret: Your existing clients trust you and would prefer to buy new stuff from you rather than from someone they don’t know. Build internal partnerships between your key relationship managers and the technical leader(s) of the new stuff. Watch out for experienced competitors focusing heavily on Combo 2.

Combo 4 - Sell new stuff to new clients

Break out the phone books and line up the cold calls! OK, that may be excessive, but this is definitely the final frontier in selling professional services. You’re convincing people who don’t know your firm to buy stuff for which you don’t have a track record. Totally possible, but not for the faint-hearted. This combo often requires strategic hires or acquisitions, which might be the only way to beat the competition in the other combos. You could get crazy and buy a new suit, but your competition in Combo 1 knows you’re coming.

Serving over Selling in Professional Services Industry

While we can’t completely avoid the annual budgeting process, we can look at it differently. You’re in the business of professionally serving others. Instead of simply looking for more projects, more offices, or more technical credentials, why not look for the best ways your firm can serve more people next year, and get paid for the value you created? Use the combinations above as a framework and correlate the targets for each to your firm’s overall strategic plan and annual business plan. Tada! Now you’ve got a growth target that everyone can embrace. Happy budgeting, and more importantly, happy serving!

Business Development

Topics: Building Business, Professional Services

Are You Using Feedback to Create a Unique Client Experience?

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 @ 11:17 AM

client-experience.pngWe all regularly receive requests for feedback. I think I received at least 10 emails last week that were seeking my participation in a survey, most of which were post-transaction requests. For example, I received surveys after purchasing a sandwich, changing the oil in my car, and getting my hair cut. While I don’t really mind feedback requests from these businesses I use regularly, I’m just not very motivated to do surveys AFTER the transaction. The sandwich was either good or bad; the oil change was either efficient or not (preferably WiFi was provided in the waiting area). There’s very little any of these businesses can do to change my client experience after it’s over. 

Delivering professional services is a different kind of “transaction.” The client experience plays out over the period of time in which we are engaged with them as service providers. From the very first phone calls and kick-off meetings, our clients are experiencing what we have to offer – below, at or above their expectations. For those of us in project management roles with direct client interaction, it behooves us to keep tabs on their perceptions, especially the up or down changes as our work progresses so that we can make adjustments quickly and effectively. 

Quantitative tools are helpful, and can help pinpoint our focus on the movement of the client’s perceptions and our subsequent responses, rather than the particular “score” itself. In this context, ask yourself whether you really know whether your services are providing less than, exactly, or much more than what was expected. 

Managing a Portfolio of Client Feedback

Managing a strategic client feedback program in professional services can get pretty intense. Keeping up with many concurrent projects, all the related people who experience your firm’s work, and the needed follow-up can be daunting without some organizational tools. You should save as much time and energy as possible for feedback analysis and follow-up. Find ways to streamline the administrative part of requesting feedback. One tactic is to use as much of your existing data as possible – you have mounds of existing contact, project, and employee data that should be used to help simplify the mechanics of the program. 

A well-designed feedback program will also leverage the nuances of each major type of project you deliver. Engagements that are 100% complete in two days will obviously have different feedback patterns, or “configurations,” than will those which last three years. Look across the landscape of your projects and mentally divide them into piles. Make a separate pile for each group of projects that could use a consistent schedule of feedback events. These events might be major project milestones, billing percentages, or simply a request frequency that makes sense, like every 90 days. Organizing your program in a way that minimizes the administrative burden of getting feedback requests out the door will go a long way. Even with a response rate of 50%, you have to send 2 to get 1 back, so get busy! 

Understand Expectations to Create a Better Client Experience

You had no idea how [great/awful] your client’s perceptions are of your firm’s work. The client, up until now, had been so [negative/positive] in their interactions with your team. The important next step is to engage with your client in an appreciative way to gain clarity on their [rising/falling] perceptions. The information you gather should help you consider adjustments that will more closely align your service delivery with the client’s expectations. 

Adjustments to align with client expectations can move in either direction. Getting direct client feedback in an organized program can help project managers carry out their primary responsibilities more effectively – if you make follow-up a priority. Sometimes a less-than-stellar piece of feedback can turn out to be a simple misunderstanding – dealing with it quickly can have much more influence on the client’s perceptions than the issue itself. Conversely, when the scores are skyrocketing and the clients are saying, “Wow, you gave us so much more than what we were expecting,” it might be time to go back and review your original scope of work. Either situation can help project managers become more effective at delivering 

Feedback is About Client Experiences / Expectations. Not about YOU! 

Professional services firms who deliver great client experiences are adept at using feedback in a regular recurring fashion. The after-the-fact “How Great Are We?” isn’t sufficient anymore. Taking a strategic approach to systematically tracking the movement of your clients’ perceptions, and diligently responding to make adjustments, will keep you in the loop for good! 

So, what’s the most efficient way to gather client feedback? How often do you gather feedback? Most importantly, don’t forget the all-important final question: What do you do when you get their feedback? Check out this whitepaper for answers to these questions and more.

client feedback

Topics: Client Relationships

Mine Your Own Business – Advanced Marketing Budgeting with Deltek Vision

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, Aug 05, 2015 @ 02:50 PM

advanced deltek vision crmI recently sat down with Ken Higa, Marketing Director for the Atlanta office of Perkins + Will to learn more about how he approaches budgeting for marketing in professional services. As a trained architect with an MBA, and whose other roles have included Principal and Studio Director, Ken is a very savvy budgeting guy. This article summarizes our discussions related to the historical context of marketing AE services, establishing a more integrated approach to financial management and improving the firm’s ability to track returns on its investments with the help of tools like Deltek Vision.

Hebblethwaite: What was the context behind your interest in finding a better way to budget for marketing?

Higa:  I’ve always been intrigued with the relatively short history of marketing professional services. AIA’s 1909 Principals of Practice forbid architects from doing most familiar marketing activity as another form of “advertising.” No proposals, no job signs, no free work, basically just a firm name and number in the Yellow Pages. That changed in the early 1970’s when the Justice Department sued AIA for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act because of its structured fee schedule. The legal profession also had its own battle in Arizona claiming violations of free speech. Long story short, that got the ball rolling. Things are obviously very different today, and marketing is a very complex strategic function of the successful practice.

Hebblethwaite: Our tools are much better these days too, right?

Higa: Well, yes - both for delivering our work and managing business information. These business tools allow us to plan, manage and leverage our marketing activities more effectively – no matter how big or small the firm is. Embracing those tools is essential for running a successful practice today. Young entrepreneurial designers are recognizing this.

Hebblethwaite: You went back and got your MBA. What kinds of budgeting improvements were you looking for in the roles you’ve occupied?

Higa: The typical way accounting looks at expenses just didn’t tell the whole story. Knowing how much we spent on paperclips and printer ink can’t help me plan the strategic activities that will win work. Marketing costs live in lots of buckets – computers, supplies, vendor services – and it’s hard to fully analyze the return on those individual costs. Using a more activity-based approach allows us to take a more project-focused look at how we’re spending money and time. That project approach actually makes sense to most design principals – and it’s a known methodology in systems like Deltek Vision.

Hebblethwaite: What are some good starter “projects” using this type of approach?

Higa: Start with the premise that you’ll track what you REALLY want to measure. Pursuits/Opportunities will likely be a third or more of your budget. Photography is a common one for architects – the obvious expense of the service plus tracking your staff’s coordination time. Other common examples include conference attendance and public relations. Come up with good pneumonic naming conventions – most people can remember things like “BD” for business development, and it’s easy to pull that up on your timesheet.

Hebblethwaite: Are you able to use this approach for multiple business units or studios?

Higa: Absolutely. You should cross that project list against whatever your firm’s meaningful groups are: Offices, Profit Centers, Studios, Practice Area. These marketing projects then can be used to track real time and real expense just like your revenue-generating projects. That really enables you to get good snapshots for analyzing specific marketing investments and determining their value, like the healthcare studio’s attendance at industry conferences during the past year.

Hebblethwaite: How did you go about convincing your leadership to change the budgeting approach?

Higa: They knew this process would help identify where the real value was (or wasn’t) in certain marketing activities – and educate the staff about the cost implications. They also liked taking accountability for marketing activities to the individual timesheet level. Each person can stop and think, “What marketing activity am I really doing right now?” This helps reduce the tendency for marketing to become a big bucket with a hole in the bottom. I also had to help them understand that we needed to collect data for a period of time before meaningful analysis would occur – that took about a year for us initially.

Hebblethwaite: How do you approach analyzing and sharing information that you’ve collected using activity-based budgeting?

Higa: After collecting data for a while, showing people meaningful information really wasn’t that difficult. I would regularly hear from other principals, “Wow, you know all this stuff?” It helps them realize the cost of their efforts and decisions in a non-threatening way. You have to be careful not to give people all the data all the time. Like any other important business communication, take stock of your audience and determine how they like to digest information. For some, a summary list of bullets is all you need; for others, the prettier the graphic the better. Human interpretation really helps others see meaning.

Hebblethwaite: This approach must need at least a conversational relationship with other departments. What do I do if that’s still an “opportunity” at my firm?

Higa: No question. None of this would be possible without partnerships with accounting, as well as your Deltek experts and firm leadership. One unifying goal is getting the budget in-line with your strategy and annual goals – that helps everyone. When people realize there’s both quantitative and qualitative meaning in this process, they quickly see how they can be involved and contribute. It’s really important to develop some one-on-one relationships to help move things forward. I approached our head Deltek Vision expert and showed him my ideas – he was thrilled and said, “Wow, a marketing person that understands Vision, that’s AWESOME!” Things went very smoothly after that, but someone had to make the first effort. Marketing professionals are typically good at that.

Hebblethwaite: Agreed! So what’s the big takeaway?

Higa: At the end of the day, we’re all people just trying to get our jobs done. Getting the team on the same page about mundane topics like cost analysis and budgeting really helps you focus on what’s important: the strategy you started with, understanding the facts, and making better decisions about future investments and initiatives. It’s a team sport and marketing professionals can be great coaches!

Ken Higa can be reached at Ken.Higa@perkinswill.com and Kevin Hebblethwaite can be reached at khebblethwaite@fullsailpartners.com.

 

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Topics: Accounting, Marketing, CRM, Deltek Vision

Back to the Basics of Deltek Vision CRM

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 04:15 PM
deltek vision crmDeltek Vision CRM is uniquely designed for scalability within your organization. Whether you are a novice user, or a tenured pro, Deltek Vision CRM is designed to allow you quick and easy access to the relationship data that will separate your firm from the rest of the pack! However, regardless of the capabilities of the software, the success of your firm’s rollout is affected heavily by your past experiences with services management platforms, the firm’s overall culture and philosophies of client management, and your users’ level of buy-in. Maximizing the value that the system brings to your firm requires careful planning and strong commitments to the implementation. 

Initially, you really need to have your act together regarding the overall objectives for improving the firm’s information management. It requires a core group of people to roll up their sleeves and connect the dots between business process and software tools. Once you have these important objectives defined, you can move forward with tailoring the system to support them.

In this discussion, we’ll focus on the following basic elements of handling critical information: collection, accessibility, management and lifecycle.

Collection

One of the most important, and obvious, things we must do with any successful information system is, oddly enough, collect information. When you consider all the data in your miscellaneous spreadsheets, business card piles, Outlook shared folders and “head knowledge” that you DON’T currently have in Vision, the task can be a little overwhelming. Develop capture processes that are efficient, consistent, and make the best use of the people resources you have available. Find any way possible to help unify your team around the belief that Vision is the firm’s single source of truth for the information it’s designed to collect.

Accessibility

It regularly boggles my mind that some users of an information tool as powerful as Deltek Vision take ten minutes or more to get logged in. There are plenty of reasons – I forgot my ID/password, lost the shortcut, can’t remember the URL, have to be at the office for it to work, and so on. Make Vision more accessible by:

  • Creating Start Menu or Desktop shortcuts with Vision’s URL
  • Using the Microsoft Office Desktop Integration utility (included with Deltek Vision CRM license
  • Getting mobile with Touch CRM – Vision contact information literally at your fingertips!

As you gather tips and tricks from your power users, build internal training content and SHARE them. Do whatever you can to make “hard to get in” an unacceptable excuse for staying OUT of Vision. 

Management

Once you’ve paved the path into Vision, teach users how to quickly navigate, find what they’re looking for, and simplify the presentation of information that’s most critical. Mastering the art of searching in Vision is VERY important. The good news is that once you’ve figured it out, you can leverage the skill in any area. Remember that Standard Searches lookup records based on Vision’s basic individual fields. Advanced Searches allow you to construct multi-layered “AND/OR” parameters, search based on custom fields AND (Boolean pun intended) search across info centers! Help your users practice stating their searches out loud before building them in Vision. For those searches you seem to do over again every other week, set them up as Global Favorites. This will make your efforts to find all projects in the states of Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota, for which William Apple was Principal-in-Charge, the fee was greater than $100,000, and whose Long Name started with the letter Z, much more efficient. 

After creating a team of Search Gurus around your office, you can then help each become “Master of His/Her Dashboard.” Again, state out loud what lists, reports, or resources would be awesome to have available each time you log-in to Vision. Figure out which of these items can be displayed on Vision’s dashboard (unique to each Vision user account), choose some cool border colors, and off you go! 

Lifecycle

Typing information over again that already exists in a database is for people who have too much time on their hands. Once you have created a Lead named Bob Smith, who works for XYZ Company, which will soon build a New Headquarters Expansion, located in Nashville, Tennessee, wouldn’t you like Vision to simply pass this information forward through your phases of identifying, pursuing, winning and delivering the project? If so, your next “back to basics” move is to help your firm use Vision’s “Create From…” functionality. Vision can take data you already have and use it in new records in the following ways:

  • Lead > “Convert” to Contact/Client/Opportunity
  • Promotional and Regular Projects “Created from” < Opportunities
  • Project Plans “Created from” OpportunProject Plans “Created from” < Existing Promotional and Regular Projects
  • Promotional and Regular Projects “Created from” < Project Plans

Before you go cross-eyed figuring out all this movement, understand that you need to first identify and sketch out your firm’s project lifecycle before effectively using Vision’s “Create From…” functionality. Think about the following questions:

  • When do we want a prospective project to be "on the list" or counted in the sales forecast?
  • When do we want to start tracking time and expense directly associated with a pursuit?
  • When do we need to start planning and allocating staff resources to a likely project win?

Your answers will help determine points in your cycle where Vision can take much of the information already collected and continue using it in subsequent stages. This feature can be an incredible bridge-builder for interdepartmental relationships amongst the marketing, business development, accounting, and operations areas of your firm. 

It’s never too late to get Back to the Basics in your Deltek Vision CRM system. Remember that the system should support the successful business processes you’ve determined work best for your firm, not vice versa. Whether you’ve just been asked to join an internal discussion that started with “I think we need to get one of those CRM things,” or you’re a Deltek Vision CRM veteran looking to step it up a notch, revisit some of these concepts and help your firm ride into the sunset toward a more informed future.
 

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Deltek Vision CRM is uniquely designed for scalability within your organization. Whether you are a novice user, or a tenured pro, Deltek Vision CRM is designed to allow you quick and easy access to the relationship data that will separate your firm from the rest of the pack! However, regardless of the capabilities of the software, the success of your firm’s rollout is affected heavily by your past experiences with services management platforms, the firm’s overall culture and philosophies of client management, and your users’ level of buy-in. Maximizing the value that the system brings to your firm requires careful planning and strong commitments to the implementation.

Topics: Tips, CRM, Professional Services

Management of Change Series: The Role of Marketing and Change

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Thu, Nov 06, 2014 @ 08:17 AM

management of change marketingIn our Management of Change series, we have focused on a variety of perspectives including executive, financial and project management.  This week, we will take a look at change from the perspective of the marketing professional.  In most companies, marketing plays multiple roles:  it is 1) the external research department, 2) the positioner/communicator of key public messaging and 3) the business driver with the executive team. 

What’s in it for me?

Each of these roles has its own perspective on change. Let’s look at each of these “hats” worn by marketing and explore “what’s in it” for each of them.

  • First, the external researcher.  An important aspect of marketing’s job is to constantly keep abreast of the industry and the economy.  To do that, we are on a continual research and analysis quest with particular focus on the external factors that may (or may not) impact our business.  As the economic detective, we are often the first to uncover the clues to market change. 
     
  • Second, the positioner/communicator.  Once marketing has discovered even the tiniest seeds of change, our job is to react: by trumpeting the change internally with the rest of the executive team and then by responding to the change through market communications to customers, i.e. “market positioning.” 

    • Once we’ve unearthed change, we must work internally with the executive team to first determine that business changes are needed within the organization.  We then work to  carefully construct communications to help everyone understand what’s happening in the company and the impact of the change on their work – keeping things positive and accurate.
       
    • In positioning, marketers must put themselves into the very heads of their customers, both current and prospective, as well as competitors and industry analysts.  Marketing must know what’s important to each and communicate accordingly – through social media, through articles/papers, through presentations, and a variety of other mechanisms. These external communications help demonstrate that the company is well-informed and well-equipped to handle a changing environment while still providing value to customers. 
  • Third, the executive team participant.  As we’ve mentioned, we in marketing, usually in support of the executive team, are always researching the industry landscape in our quest to forecast the business’s future and position our company accordingly.  And when we determine that changes must be made, marketing’s job is to act as the jealous guardian for our customers (both current and future) and their company’s position in the industry.  

The article, “10 Principles of Change Management” describes some of marketing’s role in internal change.

Too often, change leaders make the mistake of believing that others understand the issues, feel the need to change, and see the new direction as clearly as they do. The best change programs reinforce core messages through regular, timely advice that is both inspirational and practicable. Communications flow … from the bottom and … from the top, and are targeted to provide employees the right information at the right time and to solicit their input and feedback. Often this will require overcommunication through multiple, redundant channels. 

The change within

There’s more.  While marketing is a front-runner to internal changes, we must also be prepared to change our own processes, especially our technology.  Forbes.com calls this concept “Adaptive Marketing,” which is “a new approach marketers must take to survive the significant changes put in front of us. The premise was and is that marketing will change rapidly and radically, caused by the technologies now at marketers’ and their customers’ disposal.”  The piece goes on to describe that the “ability to implement process changes and calculate careful organizational impacts will differentiate those CMOs that say they want to change from those that know how to make change happen. As any other functional executive who has been through change management would tell marketers, technology does not solve bad processes, it just makes the problem more obvious.”

In Summary

The Management of Change is a significant reality in the lifecycle of any company.  But with the help of the marketing team’s efforts to:

1) Constantly research and discover external impact that will require responsive change

2) Champion change within the executive team and communicate change within the rest of the organization

3) Clearly position change back into the industry and to customers

4) Manage company change within marketing itself,

the company’s adaptation to new external realities and subsequent adoption of new market positions can reap many rewards. When a company demonstrates that it is on top of this constant cycle, the engendered confidence from its customer base will grow exponentially. 

 

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Topics: Building Business

Mobile CRM: A Day in the Life of a Business Developer

Posted by Kevin Hebblethwaite on Thu, May 08, 2014 @ 11:25 AM

mobile crmOften when discussing the benefits of using mobile CRM, we overlook just how powerful the tool actually is. You can literally leverage the power of a mobile CRM through every aspect of a client meeting or interaction. This is not hyperbole, but real life applicable benefits. Let’s break down the process of a meeting, and look at how technology can help you become a better professional:

On the way to meeting the client
I’m on the way to a meeting with a client and I can’t recall where their office is.

  • I pull up my Vision Touch Mobile CRM application that allows me to look up the client or the contact and by clicking right on the address I can map my directions right to the office.
  • If the address isn’t in there, I  update the information into my mobile CRM application to ensure the data is updated for upcoming marketing mailings or for other employees that might reach out to the same contact.

As I wait for the client to arrive

Just before I head into the meeting, I can also review previous meeting notes from myself or my co-workers who last visited the client.

  • I previously asked my marketing team to add client research to client notes. So to prepare for my meeting, I review this information to assist me with our discussion.
  • I review the list of past projects, and familiarize myself with similar clients that I might share with them.

Walking into this meeting I’m confident that I have a solid background and I’m more aware of where I still have gaps that need more information.  If any questions arise in the meeting, I have information right at my fingertips.

After the meeting, it’s time for action

When I’m leaving the meeting I pause to grab a cup of tea and add in any new contacts I met at the meeting.

  • Because I can access custom fields in my Vision Touch Mobile CRM, I can add more than just new names. I can include their role and add any upcoming opportunities we discussed.
  • In an effort to build more personal relationships, I fill in notes I learned about the client -- my contact loves to run, so I even add them to future marketing campaigns for a relay team we are organizing for a local industry charity event we are a sponsor of.

I take the time now to jot down my notes while they are fresh in my mind, as I know I won’t have time when I get back to the office.  So I pause now to make sure I add not only new contacts, but also notes regarding strategic information I gathered at the meeting before I forget what I heard. This information, because it’s entered in through my Mobile CRM, is sent directly to Vision and recorded for future review by me or others in my firm.

So what does this all mean?

I take my last sip while I add any reminders or follow-up activities and assign them to myself or others at the firm.  I don’t want to forget anything I promised to get back to the client on. I grab my keys and I head back to the office knowing that I’m doing what I can to move the relationship and opportunities along.

Sure, there are task lists, emails, note pads, and plenty of other ways I could keep track of these meeting notes. However, all of those are missing something that a Mobile CRM application such as Vision Touch CRM give me – the ability to not only track but also assign and share tasks and information with everyone else in my firm. With all the noise, meetings, and short amount of time I have in the day, there is no better way for me to collect these nuggets of gold from clients or the things I promised to follow up on during that meeting.

 

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Topics: New Features, CRM, Mobile