MUST READ: Best answer EVER to the question, “What’s the best CRM?”

If you are interested in CRM and aren’t already reading the work of Brian Vellmure, you should be.  Brian scored a home-run with this post answering the question, “What’s the best CRM?” It’s a must read for customers, and a great perspective for vendors to adopt. Without question, this post is one of the best CRM posts I have  have read in ages.

It is accurate, realistic, and practical.  More significantly, the whole psychology & practice applies to any business app selection, not just CRM.  It should be kept at hand for customers to read, and read by the rest of us as vendors and consultants to keep our focus directed correctly.

The very best part of his approach is that it is also the way that we should approach and answer prospects any time we are asked, “What’s the best X?” for technology.

You’ve all heard the term ‘solution fit’, but let me introduce you to the term ‘Situational Leadership’, which is what Brain’s demonstrated in this post. When we’re asked to guide organizations in decision-making and selections, it isn’t about walking in the door to provide answers.  Situational Leadership means that you work to help customers figure out what are the right questions they should be asking themselves. “What are we really trying to accomplish with our customers? (our culture, our budget, our processes, our people, and our goals and objectives?)

There is no single, ‘best’ answer to anything, and this is most especially true when we’re asked to weigh the merits of one product or another for a client’s needs.  Fit is indeed determined by need and goals. Brian’s more accurate refinement of the question leads to a critical shift in perspective for those looking for an answer.  It’s not about the answers – it really is about the questions you’re asking:

“How can we get a deeper understanding of our prospects and customers, create a well crafted vision of how to listen and respond better, and enable people throughout our entire organization to execute in the most efficient. effective, and profitable way?”

Adjust your question slightly and adjust your outcome significantly.

ARE YOU HELPING YOUR CUSTOMERS ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS, OR JUST TOSSING OUT ANSWERS ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS?

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Note: This year’s CRM Idol lucky winner will also receive four hours of of free consultantion by phone with Brian, too! 

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CRM Idol: It’s a Pay-It-Forward Community. Join Now!

In a recent interview with CRM Idol 20111 semi-finalist Nimble, CEO Jon Ferrara called the contest, “a pay it forward community in which the entire SCRM ecosystem all win by nurturing the social business conversation.”  I couldn’t agree more, and I’m inviting all contestants, analysts, vendor seekers, and fans to join in on continuing the conversation this year on the CRM Idol 2012 community discussion boards. Bring your voice, share your thoughts and post your questions.

For those of you just learning about the contest, the idea for CRM Idol evolved from bad PR. Many influencers are approached frequently by companies trying to pitch their wares, but typically, the pitches are badly done and not in a way that encouraged in-depth reviews. Initially, there was talk of an Eminem/Rihanna style video along the lines of parody  ’Love the way you Lie‘ and the idea to have companies compete for face time. Charlie Isaacs quipped that it sounded a lot like American Idol, and CRM Idol evolved into the extraordinary competition and opportunity that it is today, thanks to the efforts of CRM Idol ringmaster Paul Greenberg, and the rest of the discerning judges.

This is a valuable contribution to the social business ecosystem with the joint wisdom of this élite crowd of leaders (all volunteers) like Brent LearyEsteban Kolsky, and Jesus Hoyos,  sharing the highlights and challenges of each emerging technology presented as an SCRM offering. This is going to be an adventure for contestants, but is also extremely beneficial to anyone interested in CRM and social software. To those of us close to the topic it can seem like we already know who is who on the playing field. But that couldn’t be further from reality. In the bigger picture there are still gaping holes in today’s social technologies and tons of room for new innovations to improve customer, partner, community, and employee performance. Let’s see what we learn this year.

For solution shoppers, (and this year’s contestants,) this is an opportunity to absorb wisdom and advice for any small business. You’ll learn much just by checking out the highlights from last season’s Highlights from the Focus ‘CRM Idol: In Search of the Best CRMish Programs You’ve Never Heard of Event’. This gold nugget is true for any business:

One of the key differentials between semi-finalists and the other entrants was storytelling ability. Esteban Kolsky stressed that participants should, “Know your story.” We all forget that our story is as important as our product. The companies that did really well told their story extremely well and had a product worth showing. 

Now it is your turn to weigh in: Tell us your stories. Share your CRM challenges. Ask questions. Discuss solutions. Further the social business education and conversation.

JOIN THE COMMUNITY.

Pay it forward.

My Kind of Thought Leader: An Inspirational Lesson & Perspective Gut-Check from a Japanese Survivor

This is my kind of Thought Leader who truly understands Realtionships.

I saw the most incredible man in one news clip about about the aftermath in Japan. I wish I’d noted the town he was from, but I do recall that it was in one of the Northern-most towns worst hit by the tsunami. His entire village was devastated.

Yet, this hunched little old man was traveling from decimated home to home, digging through the debris for only one thing -> he was salvaging photographs. He held several out to the reporter like the most precious gems and said, “Look! Look at these! This one looks like little children on a kindergarten outing to a fire station. These are what we must recover. They will be treasures for someone if all else is lost.”

I could’ve dove through the tv right then & there to bow deeply before that wise old soul for his wisdom & love for his fellow man.

He GETS IT.

If I could do a single thing for the people of Japan, I’d travel around like that little wise man and spend my time collecting their real treasures for recovery. Gma’s silk kimonos. Pictures. Hand-crafted art. Great Uncle’s war medals. The human history that can’t be rebuilt or replaced.

The culture.

Some People are Just People and Some People Are Resources

I took an unexpected trip down memory lane today that lead to several insights about ideas and people I take for granted too often. One of which is the title of this article:  Some people are just people; some people are resources.

The catalyst for this thought was a tweet I received earlier today from a past-coworker at Exact Software. @Ronald_Voets shared:

“TERMS00012 is now called People. Bye bye Resource, we had a lot of fun.”

That probably sounds like cryptic mumbo-jumbo to you, but for me it felt a bit like the end of an era.  I remember when I started with Exact Software in 2000, I was confused initially to find that ‘people’ were refered to as ‘resources’ throughout all of the software products.  I remember thinking to myself, “Why don’t they just call them people?”

It wasn’t long before I got it.  The people of Exact’s own organization, and those of our partners & clients were indeed the most valuable resources each company could count on for their growth and success.  This was  demonstrated each day as we worked in, alongside of, and with other resources in Synergy, which was my first exposure to a web-based collaboration tool.  Synergy does much more than simply enable collaboration, but for me the longest-lasting impact has been a passion for and strong belief in the benefits of enterprise-wide communication and participation at all levels of an organization. 

Nine years ago, as a fledgling implementation consultant for Exact Canada, I had so much to learn.  Occasionally overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of information available to me, I quickly developed a system that I now realize set the stage for the way I approach Social Media on a daily basis.  I learned to search out and follow key ‘resources’ like Ronald.  Not just any old person who authored a help file I read, or who posted a similar question to one that I had.  I’d stalk the people who answered the questions, were innovative with technologies and designed the functionality. The efforts to surface right resources to help me excel were much easier and more succesful because of the shared information created by Synergy ‘resources’ all around the world who collaborated on ideas, issues, documents, planning, workflow – all of which was readily available and well-organized. It was an amazing career experience. 

If I had a question about an integration tool idea, not only would the Director of Innovation, Aad ‘t Hart, (a Big Kahuna way over in the Netherlands,) assess it critically and instruct on better options for functional design, he’d make a point of going over it again in person on his next visit to Canada. Then there is my very prized friend, Robert Klein, a excellent Sales Solution Architect for Exact.  Rob and I passed a demo database back and forth across the North American continent many times over a span of years, enriching it, enhancing it, then sharing it with our other co-workers and partners for their benefit, too.  We’d pull many late-nighters trouble-shooting issues, role-playing for sales demos, reviewing RFP’s and collaborating our little hearts out on all things Synergy. I’ve only actually been with Rob in the same physical place a hand-full of times in the many years we’ve worked together, yet I would recommend him as a great team-player with creative ideas. We’ll likely keep in touch for life, helping each other through brain-storming anything and everything we may encounter professionally.

These are but a few examples of Exact’s excellence in practicing what they preach, I can’t possibly name them all though I wish I could.  But each ‘resource’ shared one thing in common: A belief that enterprise-wide communication, collaboration and accessibility to the right resources does improve products, increase productivity, and build strong, enduring internal & external communities.

I didn’t really realize until tonight how much I took that for granted. Those experiences are the key influential drivers of my behaviors and actions as I traverse the web and social media communities now – almost 10 years later.  There are many millions of people who have a lot to say and put a great deal of information out there in the web-sphere.  The ones I consistently follow, communicate with, link to and read regularly are in fact carefully selected ‘resources’ that mentor, teach, create and reinforce ideas in a collaborative way, every day. These are resources who are passionate about Enterprise 2.0, Knowledge Management, growth, change and innovation.  The big brains mapping out further technologies that will enhance our future.

I’m excited and understand the need for this change in term for Exact’s Synergy application (there’s no denying that customers will like it), but I am also very grateful indeed that I was part of that by-gone era, the one that helped me define the difference between ‘people’ – and real resources working passionately for an organization or idea.

Twitter Goddesses Ignite SM Neophyte Experiment

So, there I was, wondering along in the SM wilderness when The ThoughtElf poked me and said, “Oooh! Look!  Behold that sassy, shiny, successful Goddess over yonder. She looks like a Deep Thinker Who Digs.”

Which is how I met @MarketingVeep, Kelli Schmith – a very cool and accomplished Lady, (even though she does spell her first name wrong).  In sharing insightful posts, much humour and introductions to her Goddess soul sisters, she inadvertantly lit the fire that started a new Neophyte Social Media experiment today. Enter Brooke Green, of the Caskey Sales Leadership Coaching Team.  Brooke comes fully loaded with ammo for inspiration.

Today, she lobbed the Cherry Bomb Manifesto at me. I was quite inspired by this idea within:  “Passion is not a luxury. It’s an imperative.” Sally Hogshead (Cherry Bombs is my kind of manifesto.) I was suddenly passionate to experiment and read as many manifestos in the next hour to see what I could see.  Here’s how it went:

Experiment du jour: for the next hour I will read as many manifestos as I can and see what I gleanabout 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 1st Manifesto: Cherry Bombs: A Supplemental Kit to “Radical Careering” http://tinyurl.com/ld7tt7 (passionate read for the passionate)about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 2nd Manifesto: An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth http://tinyurl.com/6eyqr2 >Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 3rd Manifesto: YSL Manifesto http://tinyurl.com/lmpvbp > Ignored the text, profoundly distracted by the sexy shoes.about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 4th Manifesto: The GNU Manifesto http://tinyurl.com/2zzran >made me realize how little I miss Unix. Thnx MSabout 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 5th Manifesto (Literally reading my way thru Google results): LuLuLemon Manifesto: http://tinyurl.com/dgv4f6 >refreshing! a design graphicabout 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 #6: Russell_Einstein Manifesto http://tinyurl.com/dkjwx >Scientists worry about Weapons of Mass Destruction in 1955 (H bomb) deja vuabout 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 ! Finished my experiment du jour. Read 6 manifesto in an hour and gleaned: Sexy Shoes are da bomb & YSL has sexier platforms than GNU 😉about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 Another experiment du jour observation: how serendipitous that in 6 random manifestos 2 had bombs 2 were about passion & 2 had platforms?about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

 @CaskeyChick You ignited experiment -> I just did a random manifesto read with fascinating results. I feel like lobbing more CherryBombs.about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

After that adventure in Neophyte Social Media Experimentation I was so passionately excited that I told Chris Brogan he’s too sexy for his boxers. And he thanked me.

A wonderfully creative day for this fledgling Social Media student. I feel as if I’m a baby one step closer to Demi-Goddess status thanks to a nudge from Kelli (who still spells her first name wrong) & Brooke the Bomber.

Learning by example…

Hello, my name is Kelly and I’m a Social Media neophyte.

Luckily, this student has had a few serendipitous encounters with several experts willing to share their knowledge – teaching by example.  I’d like to introduce you to several of the thought-leaders that have recently mentored me (whether they knew it or not,) in sifting through mountains SM information to find the real precious jewels of education.

The first, Chris Jones, is a master collaborator.  I don’t even recall how I met Chris on Twitter, but I’m grateful that I did.  As the founder of #smchat, #e20ws, and #ecosys Chris has rallied social media innovators and leaders as active contributors in weekly twitter chats to define the principles, discuss the modes and assess outcomes of Social Media. The workshops are lively, informative and thought provocative for all – expert or newbie.

Aside from the obvious knowledge imparted, the act of using many SM tools in order to inspire collaboration like this is an education and demonstration of the power of social media in itself.  Chris helps to surface prizes on the SM treasure hunt.

Another stunning example of an expert practicing what he preaches can be found on TheJordanRules. Jordan is an accomplished Digital Strategist with an enviable client list – and the most graphically pleasing blog I have seen.  It is sharp and edgy with clean, crisp graphics. 

Even more appealing than the look of the blog, the content is consistently peppered with examples, questions and instruction that is knowledge-driven, not opinion oriented.  It is like visiting a diamond mine filled with the highest quality gems like this ‘ Review of the Importance of Social Media Management‘.

These are just two of the SM thought-leaders that I’ve been fortunate to be a student of recently.  I’d recommend both to the SM experts out there, too.