Program Recap: CRM – Best Practices and Lessons Learned

By Danielle Hilmo, BWBR Architects, Inc.

Interesting perspectives from three diverse firms. There is no “magic” system – each company needs to find what works best for them. Most important, a champion is needed to work at creating a culture of compliance, where everyone understands the value of consistent and correct usage.


HGA has 800 employees in eight offices. CRM is integrated with accounting, planning, and project management in a powerful database, with connections to third-party solutions for company intranet, digital asset management, and project sharing/data transfer. With a powerful, intelligent, and multi-faceted tool, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time.

HGA has been using Deltek Vision for 12 years and instituted a robust process for CRM 5-1/2 years ago. They track from lead to opportunity to interview, then data rolls into a project. All information is available on the company intranet, including activities surrounding the pursuit and all the internal people related to each client contact. Promo projects track costs. HGA’s business development team is largely responsible for tracking all of this.


Guaranty Commercial Title is a specialty title insurance company with 15 employees that tracked leads and opportunities manually in spreadsheets until this year. They needed a flexible, agile, and intuitive tool to match their fast-paced business. Since they implemented Salesforce in July, they are transforming their CRM process into a fast and lean mustang.

Guaranty previously tracked their best contacts for new business. Thanks to how Salesforce is set up, they are now focused on tracking the best performing accounts. The seller-doers keep information up to date.


RJM Construction has 120 corporate employees. Microsoft Dynamics is intelligent, but most of it is hidden (like a hippo underwater), so you’re not really sure how big it is and what it can do…not so user friendly. This is a legacy system for RJM, and they are now exploring other options.

RJM enters a lead for “anything they we hear about on the street,” categorized by market. More developed prospects become opportunities, and projects with active preconstruction services are “top opportunities.” Categories for contacts are key decision-maker, secondary decision-maker, and vendor.

Tracking and Metrics for Success

  • HGA tracks a lot of information, which can be sliced by market, office, or principal. A matrix documents common reasons for a win or loss. Intelligence is captured for large opportunities. Go/no-go scores are compared to the actual outcome. They even analyze the opportunity success rate depending on the consultants used. HGA gets value from how easy it is to answer common questions. If the system is not answering an often-asked question, it can be adjusted to improve the response.
  • Guaranty is small so they understand why they win or lose without tracking formally. Tracking cost is important. The new Salesforce dashboard alone has paid for itself – a “scorecard” that used to take several hours to develop is now automatic and available at the touch of a button!
  • RJM tracks the types of projects competitors do and bidders on each project, so their differentiators can be refined. It is challenging to nail down exactly why a project was lost. RJM reviews hit and capture rates quarterly, and monitors the good connections that put them in a position to win.

Train Early, Often, and in Many Ways

  • Continuous training is key to maintaining a successful CRM system.
  • People respond to different teaching/learning techniques. After initial training, one of the more effective methods is one-on-one troubleshooting: real questions asked and answered, with problems solved together.
  • Outlook integration is easy for users, but this must be paired with regularly reinforced training; otherwise the integrity of data suffers.
  • Other methods include intranet tips & tricks, webinars, small group refreshers, and encouraging constant use.
  • Strategies for getting user buy-in:
    • Show how painful the former process is compared to the promise of the new one.
    • Use peer pressure and accountability by regularly distributing performance reports to leadership.
    • Give users a “gold star” for compliance.
    • If it’s in a spreadsheet somewhere instead of in the CRM, “it doesn’t exist.”

Lessons Learned

  • Regrets: Guaranty spent too much time using their old system, and then looking for a new one that fit their industry to a tee. When RJM leadership changed suddenly, they didn’t have time to research and discover a new system to coincide with the new generation. Lianne wishes HGA standardized their CRM process sooner.
  • Don’t design the process around the tool; know what you want out of it and figure out a way to achieve that.
  • System integration not only enhances data, but can also improve relationships between the different departments within a company.
  • Beware of applying too many third-party integrations. It’s challenging to know which options may be valuable, and sometimes integration isn’t as seamless as promised.
  • Data gatekeepers are needed to avoid duplicate info and incomplete records.
  • Consider having separate database administrators for content (system customization, processes/workflow, compliance, communication) and technical (IT).

Looking Forward

  • All three panelists want more CRM and project data integration benefitting to the whole company, not just marketing.
  • Kelle wants to “run lean” – for example, be able to see information without having to call each other.
  • There is a desire for better opportunity forecasting and backlog analysis.
  • RJM is researching a new CRM system, something they can use without too much customization. Cosential and Deltek are the current frontrunners.

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Craft the Go/No-Go for Your Career

By: Danielle Hilmo, BWBR Architects, Inc. 

Cathy Hutchinson of Idibri was full of enthusiasm and ideas to help professional services marketers make good decisions that will shape their careers. The presentation was centered around five key points.

Career Go/No-Go Protocols

  1. PEOPLE – Will you be surrounded with people that are a joy to work with, or are terrible/incompetent?
  2. POSITION – Does the work fit your competencies?
  3. PRIORITY – Does the position align with your time and resources (everything in your life, not just work)?
  4. PROFIT – Is it profitable enough for you?
  5. PURPOSE – Is it aligned with your personal mission?

Cathy went through each point, with several tactics to help someone determine if a career move would fit all of the protocols. This can be applied to all kinds of changes, not just accepting a job from a new employer – strategizing for a change or increase in responsibilities at your current job, transitioning to be self-employed, getting a raise or more non-monetary benefits, excelling at the most important career and life goals instead of performing OK at a lot of things, etc.

She brought these points home with stories from personal experience and was chock-full of book recommendations to learn more about each topic. All of her basic points are covered in her article on her blog: The suggested resources are there, too. But the best part of the seminar was conversation not in the article, so let’s get to the highlights!

Diagnosing a people problem: Did you ever feel like you were playing a game with teams at work where you don’t know the rules? Do you struggle to figure out your co-workers’ motivations? Try using a matrix with three columns to guess what’s really behind their behavior. You know these people. It probably is easy to fill in these columns if you really think about it.


What if you don’t know what your dream is? Cathy suggests you think about that next step that will make you 10% happier. This approach can be much easier to wrap your mind around and plan for than making a radical life change. 

Look outside your firm/industry to find a mentor. Look for people you admire and are ahead of you in their career. Be persistent, ask those you admire out to coffee. Consider asking your employer to pay for an executive coach.

Do you feel undervalued at work? People may not understand all the things you actually do. Educate them by reporting the things you and your team have accomplished on a regular basis, along with what you learned from it and key takeaways for the future. You could also create a spreadsheet or matrix of the activities, what worked, what didn’t work, and also show tasks/initiatives that are in the pipeline.

Become more proactive than reactive. Reserve a block of time every day to focus on non-deadline creative projects. Cathy avoids checking email until 9 a.m. so she can devote the first hour of her day to this. Also find a kind of task that takes up a lot of time. Think about how you can implement a system that will make this task more efficient. Then implement it. Come up with a new task to tackle and repeat the process. Little changes can make a big difference!

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