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Supporting Enterprise Clients with a Small Strategic Team

Highland supports several large, global CRM clients by planning with them and deploying our team strategically.

Four Highlanders stand in front of a whiteboard covered in colorful sticky notes, laughing with each other.

Highlanders collaborating in our Chicago offices | Photo by Bridgett Colling

Just because Highland is a small business doesn’t mean we exclusively work with other organizations our size. In the Highland portfolio of clients, 65% of customer relationship management platform (CRM) end-users are enterprise-size organizations, 23% are medium-sized, and 12% are small businesses.

That’s a high percentage of enterprise clients. How can Highland (with a total team of about 30 people) be a strong, long-term partner to enterprise organizations comprising thousands of team members? Because of the keys to success held by our multi-dimensional SaaS Solution team.

We tend to see a pattern with deployment options and engagement models: 

  • Small to medium-size businesses will work with us for their initial rollout, then train an internal team member to maintain their CRM. 

  • Enterprise businesses rely on our team for ongoing enhancements, cultivating long-term relationships for growth and improvement.

  • Regardless of size, nearly all our clients opt for a cloud-based CRM or process automation solution. Only a few prefer an on-premise CRM.

The six members of the Highland CRM Team in the Highland office

The Highland CRM Team

CRM Deployment & Business Process: A Tale of Two Clients

Below are two examples of how we help enterprise organizations grow their CRM systems.

Client A is a global manufacturing company. Highland partnered with them for the initial customization and rollout of their CRM. Since then, our team has assisted with onboarding additional regions, integration with their Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) and Configure Price Quote (CPQ) systems, and a rollout of SugarCRM's Sugar Market

Though a large and globally distributed company, Client A has adapted agile methodologies with frequent, ongoing enhancements to their CRM. To guide this process, we meet with them weekly and prepare a production release once or twice per month. By adding functionality that alerts field sales reps about these monthly enhancements, we drive more employee adoption. The field team knows they can provide feedback and see the changes without waiting for annual “big bang” release cycles.

Client B, a healthcare equipment sales, rental, and service company, engaged Highland for the initial configuration and rollout of their CRM. Since then, we delivered multiple integrations: a data center warehouse, a human resources system, a third-party industry dataset, commission servicing tool, and stand-alone marketing automation tool. As usage increases and sales processes evolve, we have also conducted a complete overhaul of the data hierarchy in the Accounts module (over 60,000 records), customized the Opportunities module to streamline the client’s Challenger Selling methodology, and built out the Strategic Account planning process.

We are always available for our clients. Client B then saw their CRM usage surge during COVID-19 due to two main factors: 

1.) more sales team members were working remotely and needed to collaborate 

2.) they sell, rent, and service equipment in every type of healthcare setting, who all saw their patient populations increase sharply 

We optimized the experience, making an impact for everyone suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sample long-range plan for Client B from 1Q2019 (Build Account Visibility) through 3Q2020 (Enhance Opportunities).

Sample long-range plan for Client B

Keys To Success

The keys to our success with these large CRM customers have roots in Highland’s core values: People First, Be Curious, Be Transparent, and Give a Damn.

1.) Business-savvy product owners

At each client, there are PEOPLE who know their business and their sales processes inside and out; we call them CRM Stakeholders or CRM Admins. One designated point person is in contact us many times per week and remains the key point of contact. This CRM Admin also has deep experience in the CRM, so they have a good idea of the system’s capabilities. An extended stakeholder group (or steering committee), including field sales reps, executive sponsors, and IT engineers, convenes regularly for governance and strategic planning.

A sample timeline for CRM Governance, including team roles, meeting cadence per year, per month, and every 1–2 weeks

A sample timeline for CRM Governance | Image provided by Elizabeth Mankowski

2.) Prioritization

These key stakeholders know how to prioritize the right CRM enhancements for maximum business value. They are empowered within their organization to make decisions, based on value delivered to their Sales organization. Once we receive notice of new initiatives, we plan with teams on a six to twelve month roadmap.

A six month planning timeline for Client B, which includes prep, migration, build outs, data imports, ERP integration, etc.

Client B future planning

3.) Frequent, transparent communication

With our Enterprise clients, we hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings to review priorities, demo work in progress, and confirm release dates. Most of our clients also participate in a shared Slack channel for instant messaging. And yes, we still use email too. Our SaaS Solution team also visits our Enterprise clients in person about twice per year. We love seeing our clients in their offices or facilities. We take the time to share a meal, re-cap the last few months (or year) of working together, then look forward.

Left: Beth leading an in-person CRM training. Right: The virtual Highland team, transitioning to Zoom meetings during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

4.) Continual deployment

Our deployment process includes constant refinement to reduce the risk of additional changes post-deployment. Clients trust our in-depth testing process that leads to a successful CRM deployment. We also adapt to internal IT staff needs and change management processes, whether it be obtaining a service request number for each deployment, authorizing releases, or scheduling ad-hoc releases in advance.  We use a collaborative calendar with our clients to be fully transparent and prepared for our work. To add, the benefits of continuous deployment to sales teams are obvious: changes are available frequently. No more waiting for quarterly or semi-annual releases.

Visual of Continual Deployment Releases. This client had deployments 2–4 times each month between March and June of 2020

Continual Deployment Releases

5.) The right tools

For enterprise clients, we use three CRM environments: DEV, TEST, and PROD. At any given time, these environments may be out of sync as work moves through build, test, and acceptance. Here's how we work:

  • How do we keep track of the production environment? JIRA.

  • How do we plan deployments, workflows and obtain sign-off? Confluence.

Our team reviews the JIRA board on daily stand-ups, so we can be ready for you and your daily needs.

Deployment release notes. Each note has its own link with the deployment name and corresponding notes.

Deployment (or Release) Checklists in Confluence

6). Designated Roles on our team

Each Highlander has their own area of expertise.  We have configuration experts, developers, and project analysts. We bring our individualized expertise, as well as contribute to quality assurance and overall service and support for our clients. When we say “Give a Damn,” we mean that the solution works as designed AND that we designed it to meet your specific business needs. We don't stop training. We educate ourselves constantly on new CRM best practices, processes, and improve our “soft skills” by practicing regular retrospectives, reading industry news and books, and by maintaining our certifications.

We’re Small AND We’re Mighty

With a pocketful of jangling keys to success, we feel confident to open any door: be it the home office of a global manufacturing enterprise, or a Chicago-based, family-owned custom fabrication business. So check the keys in your pocket. Which do you already have and which would you like to cultivate? Prepare your team and go after those larger clients. Be transparent and manage expectations.

Additional Insights on CRM Implementation

With a pocketful of jangling keys to success, we feel confident to open any door to CRM success: be it the home office of a global manufacturing enterprise, or a Chicago-based, family-owned custom fabrication business. 

Need to improve a current CRM or looking to create an entire new system? Our SaaS Solution team is ready to help with your CRM implementation or business process automation!

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