It can seem difficult to imagine today, but there was a time in the not so distant past when sales teams didn’t see the value in a CRM.
At best, it was considered a glorified Rolodex. At worst, it was an arcane albatross that sales teams couldn’t even access when they were out in the field because Internet connections were spotty and the cloud was something you only noticed on a rainy day.
Such was more or less the case when Aiphone Company Limited first signed on to use the Clear C2 CRM in 2003. A Japanese-headquartered manufacturer of security devices and intercoms, Aiphone’s North American arm was introduced to Clear C2 through an existing relationship with IBM, which provided servers to Aiphone.
From resistance to rejoicing
But calling the rollout of the CRM resisted would be an understatement.
“It was difficult for people to change their mindsets. People were fighting it tooth and nail,” said Doug Niman, information technology manager at Aiphone, whose first big task after joining the company in 2003 was to implement the new CRM.
Despite the resistance, Aiphone remained convinced that it would be an incredibly valuable resource across the company, and persistence eventually paid off. “It literally took 10 years to be considered part of the culture,” said Niman. “Now, everybody is like, ‘How could we have ever done business without this?’ ”
The change in mentality wasn’t due to improved executive communication about the value of the CRM. It was simply a matter of everyone from sales to service to marketing seeing how it benefitted them. “It was the success,” recalled Niman. “There was a synergy and a workflow that started to emerge and internally Aiphone corporate just started really leveraging it.”
From software provider to business partner
In many ways, the company has needed to leverage the power of CRM. In the past, Aiphone had just one sales person in each region of North America; today it has 50 sales people across the country, all of whom use the CRM nearly constantly for precise revenue forecasting, account activity, and contact information.
Aiphone has developed such a close partnership with Clear C2 over the years that a new system called Projects was built into the C2CRM because of Aiphone’s input.
“Aiphone asked for some kind of project-based CRM because our business is what we call project-based,” Niman said. “C2 built us a project forum and now it’s part of the stock product.”
While Niman values the CRM technology and the features it provides, the close partnership the two companies have forged has provided significant additional benefits. Not only has Aiphone successfully suggested changes to the CRM that have been incorporated, Clear C2 employees have proactively come up with solutions they believed would help Aiphone.
“We’ve had conference calls over the years and they’ve pitched ideas and solutions for us and so we all feel like we have a reliable business partner,” Niman said.
And having a business partner means that the CRM will continue to evolve to meet Aiphone’s business needs. The CRM is a tool to serve Aiphone, not vice-versa.
“C2 is built for Aiphone and we don’t work around the software, the software works around us,” Niman said. “That is the main reason why it’s so successful for us. We didn’t have to twist our business to conform to the software.”