Sales people tend to not like CRM systems very much. They are usually foisted on the poor folk who need to figure out how to get what they need out of them, while navigating a cumbersome and unhelpful set of behaviours and expectations. And that’s just the sales people – the CRM implementations can be poor too.
If you have to use CRM, and you’re lucky enough to be using Dynamics 365 Sales (if not, you can get a free month’s trial), then there are some handy contact management tools worthy of a few minutes’ attention. First of all, the Outlook integration for the latest D365 CRM service means if you have an email from a customer or partner, you can track it and quickly add contacts on the email to the CRM system by invoking the Dynamics add-in.
Click the Dynamics 365 icon in Outlook and you’ll see a sidebar show up on the right. The “Set Regarding” option lets you add the email to a customer record in CRM. Below that, if the contact doesn’t exist already, you’ll see the option to add it by clicking on the recipient’s name and hit the + button on the lower right.
Depending on the rules of your particular system, you’ll probably need to provide a job role and maybe some other fields, and you might not be able to associate that contact with an account yet – perhaps you’ll need to save it to Dynamics first, then make the association with the account to which the contact belongs.
If the Account field is locked when you first add the contact, then once your contact has been saved in the sidebar, click the hamburger menu icon on the top left and look under Recent to open that contact again, then you should be able to choose the account name from that view, rather than fishing about in the main CRM UI for all the other added contacts.
From within the same sidebar UI, you can fire up a more fully-featured view by opening it in a separate Dynamics window. From there you can more easily do stuff like matching the contact to one in LinkedIn, if you have Sales Navigator access; it’s a handy way of associating the two, though annoyingly it doesn’t automatically pick up the LinkedIn photo and associate it with the CRM contact.
To set a picture for your contact, click on the circular initials at the top left of the name and that lets you choose a photo – ideally, you’ll have already saved the mugshot to your machine first, though if the image is online – a company website, for example – you might be able to grab the direct URL to the photo and paste it into the Upload Image dialog.
Getting images from LinkedIn can be a little more laborious especially if you’re doing this in batches. Here’s a fairly simple technique to make it easier.
OK, so you have an image for each of your contacts – so what? Well, all the contacts you’ve just added should be visible in the Org Chart function which appears on the main toolbar of the Account. With a bit of dragging and dropping, you can quickly lay out the reporting structure for your known customer contacts.
Handles will appear on contacts as you move them around, to help manage the way the chart is displayed and keep it simple. Save the chart layout when you’re happy, and you can show your boss how diligent you’re being at managing your customer relationship. Now, who wouldn’t want that?
Evolving from personal and then group contact management software in the 1980s, CRM came of age in 1995, with Oracle refugee Tom Siebel establishing Siebel Systems as the early market leader, and eventually acquired by Oracle.
Microsoft deployed Siebel in the late 1990s, initially requiring a “fat client” installation complete with a local Sybase SQL Server on everyone’s PC, so they could sync data from the central Siebel system, then eventually moving to be browser-based. One MS sales manager coined the moniker “IIIInSIDE” – If It Isn’t In Siebel, It Doesn’t Exist – giving sales people nowhere to hide when it came to reporting pipeline of opportunities they were tracking.
Mark Benioff, another ex-Oracle exec, set up Salesforce.com in 1999 to not only establish SaaS as a viable way to deliver “line of business” systems (as part of the first Application Service Provider boom, which was largely wiped out by Dot Bomb), but to ultimately eclipse his former employer in terms of market value. Time also moves on – now that Salesforce is the big dog in the CRM world, there are lots of competitors snapping at its heels… Pega, Zoho and many more.
Not least, Microsoft – the Dynamics CRM business (now part of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement) is growing fast, and even courted the “Father of CRM” to choose D365 for his new enterprise. If you use Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 CRM as part of your job, and use Outlook on your PC for mail, calendaring and contacts, there’s a handy way of connecting the two.
Dynamics Connector for Outlook
There have been several versions of a way to link Outlook and Dynamics together; the latest, Dynamics 365 App for Outlook, will fully supplant earlier versions in October 2020. See the admin guide for more on what the connector does and how it works. The installation can be a little clunky first time, though – you’ll need to install the connector software from here, which starts by downloading and extracting the setup files to a folder on your PC.
Make sure you’re getting the right version for your copy of Office – to check, in Outlook, go to File | Office Account | About Outlook and look to see if you have 32 or 64 bit version installed.
Once you have the base version installed (a process which takes a good few minutes: you also have the option to enable offline usage, which means setting up a local database to hold the content), don’t bother starting it yet – go straight ahead and run the update to the current version (strangely, a larger download than the original install). Once that’s downloaded and installed, you’ll need to restart Outlook if it’s running.
You’ll see a new Dynamics 365 tab on the main menu, offering a variety of CRM-specific activities.
Start with an email – the Dynamics 365 app adds context-sensitive commands to the Outlook UI, so with a couple of clicks you can track an email in CRM – copying its contents into the Account record, so others can see that you sent or received it.
If you right-click on an email address in a message, calendar appointment etc, and Add to Contacts, you can then sync that with Dynamics in a couple of clicks…
… meaning there’s no excuse to not have your important contacts listed in CRM.
You can even match the contacts’ LinkedIn profiles, and create an org chart of all the listed contacts.